Big hurdle cleared so let the REAL bickering over healthcare reform begin

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After clearing key procedural votes already this week, the Senate is expected to pass its healthcare reform bill by a filibuster-proof margin early tomorrow morning. But there won't be much reason for reformers to catch their breath. Major differences exist between the Senate and House proposals, and they will need to be ironed out before reformers can claim victory.

Among the most contentious points is how a unified bill would be paid for – both chambers have designated provider funding cuts – and what to do about a possible public insurance option (the House bill includes one, while the Senate veered away from it in recent weeks).

Long-term care providers also will be keeping their fingers crossed, hoping various other issues get settled. They include a possible extension of a sweeping exceptions process to Medicare Part B therapy caps that is supposed to expire Jan. 1 if Congress doesn't act on it before then.