Despite two key provisions being stripped from the health care legislation that's moving through the Senate, both of Minnesota's senators still support the overall bill.
Senate Democrats supported a public insurance plan and a Medicare buy-in for uninsured adults as young as 55, but both provisions appear to be dead. Nevertheless, Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken said they are both keeping their eyes on the end goal of extending health coverage to millions of people who currently don't have it.
"Instead of lamenting things that didn't get into the bill, I think it's really important to look at some of the strengths of this bill," Klobuchar told MPR's Cathy Wurzer on Wednesday. A day earlier, Senate Democrats met with President Barack Obama, who urged them to keep the health care debate in perspective as they work to try to pass a bill by Christmas.
Klobuchar said the health care bill would extend coverage to 31 million people, get rid of bans on coverage for individuals with preexisting conditions and begin to control rising health care costs.
"We have never come this far -- extending coverage to so many people and also finally admitting that we have severe problems with cost in the system," she said.
Klobuchar's view differs from that expressed by former Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean, who argued Wednesday that the health care overhaul bill taking shape in the Senate further empowers private insurers at the expense of consumer choice.
"You will be forced to buy insurance. If you don't, you'll pay a fine," Dean told ABC's Good Morning America. "It's an insurance company bailout."
Klobuchar said she believes Senate Democrats will have the votes to pass the bill by Christmas.
Franken said he also expects to support the bill as long as the latest language and analysis from the Congressional Budget Office shows the legislation will prevent Minnesota families from losing coverage or going bankrupt due to medical debt.
"We're on the verge of being able to cover millions of Americans and stop the explosion of health care costs for families," Franken said in a written statement.
If the Senate passes the bill, a conference committee would have to work out differences between the House and Senate versions.
One provision that is likely to stay is a tax on medical device companies. The industry, which has a strong presence in Minnesota, has pressured lawmakers against including the tax. Klobuchar said that while device makers are not pleased with the tax, it's been reduced from about $38 billion to about $20 billion.
"At least it's at a level that it's workable for them," she said. "They know that if this works right, they will get more customers because of the new people coming onto insurance."
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)