Candidates, lawmakers vow healthcare reform will occur, despite financial upheaval

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Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
The current global financial crisis will not prevent the next Congress or president from making healthcare reforms, key leaders are saying.

"The Finance Committee will move forward on comprehensive health reform early next year," said its chairman, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), whose panel has a major influence in these matters. "While some suggest that the current economic situation might thwart efforts to overhaul America's health care system, I believe the state of the U.S. economy makes the need for health-care reform even more urgent."

Baucus' Republican counterpart on the committee and a long-time nursing home watchdog, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), also says healthcare reform must be a priority.

Both major presidential candidates have not indicated they would back off their ambitious reform goals, experts noted. The independent, private group Tax Policy Center said Barack Obama's plan would cost $1.6 trillion over 10 years, while McCain's would run about $1.3 trillion over the same time period. Both plans have plenty of skeptics.

The president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, Drew Altman, predicted that the new president will have to attempt step-by-step changes, rather than widespread reforms. Current economic uncertainties mean the hurdles to reform are "much higher," he said.