JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri's senators split over legislation overhauling the nation's health insurance system — as have the state's two leading Senate candidates.
Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill voted for the health care bill Thursday, while Republican Sen. Kit Bond voted against it. The legislation, which passed the Senate on a 60-39 party-line vote, must be reconciled with a House version before it can be sent to President Barack Obama.
McCaskill said the bill is not perfect but will "vastly improve the current realities of health care in our country" by stabilizing health care costs, making insurance more affordable and available to most Americans and by reducing the deficit over 20 years.
Bond countered that the bill fails to lower costs or improve the quality of health care. Also, it was "chock-full of political payoffs" to Democratic senators so the party could secure the 60 votes needed to stop a Republican filibuster, he said.
Bond is retiring from the Senate after next year, and the two leading candidates to replace him in the 2010 election are Republican Rep. Roy Blunt and Democratic Secretary of State Robin Carnahan.
Carnahan said she would have voted for the bill; Blunt said he would have voted against it.
Blunt denounced the bill for imposing new taxes, cutting Medicare for seniors and requiring cash-strapped states to expand their Medicaid programs to provide health care for more low-income residents. He said the legislation would lead to higher health insurance premiums in "a new system that will move inevitably into rationing and ever deeper control by a huge new government bureaucracy."
Carnahan said even more needs to be done to create competition for health insurance and keep costs down. But, she said, the legislation will provide insurance coverage to people who are now uninsured and "stop insurance companies from denying people insurance due to pre-existing conditions."