April 20, 2009 / 4:23 PM / 10 years ago

U.S. senators hope to have health bills by June

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The chairmen of two Senate committees drafting legislation to overhaul healthcare told President Barack Obama on Monday they were working together to have bills ready by early June.

U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy listens during a special convocation ceremony to confer upon him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts December 1, 2008. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Senator Max Baucus, who heads the Finance Committee, and Senator Edward Kennedy, who heads the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said in a letter they will ensure that compatible bills emerge from their panels.

“Our intention is for that legislation to be very similar, and to reflect a shared approach to reform, so that the measures that our two committees report can be quickly merged into a single bill for consideration on the Senate floor,” the two Democrats wrote in the letter.

Obama wants healthcare reform enacted by the end of the year. He and other supporters are looking to contain soaring costs and extend coverage to an estimated 46 million uninsured Americans.

“We must act swiftly, because the cost of inaction is too high for individuals, families, businesses, state and federal governments,” Baucus and Kennedy wrote.

“We must act to contain the growth of health care costs to ensure our economic stability; to help American businesses deal with the health care challenge; and to make sure that we are getting our money’s worth.”

On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee will host the first of three “round-table discussions” on the changes.

The meeting will focus on the quality and efficiency of delivering healthcare services in the United States and how to reduce hospital readmissions. The discussion will also focus on Medicare payments to private health plans.

Subsequent roundtables will focus on how to provide coverage for the uninsured and ways to pay for the proposals.

Obama has appointed former Clinton administration official Nancy-Ann DeParle to head a White House office on healthcare reform, but the administration has stressed they are leaving most of the work up to Congress.

Editing by Maggie Fox

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