CRITICAL CONDITION: Health care reform by Christmas?

CRITICAL CONDITION: Health care reform by

TAMPA, FL -- In the dead of night, health care reform took another major step. Democrats sealed the 60 necessary votes, 58 Democrats and two independents, in a procedural vote to close debate and block further Republican filibuster.

Monday, President Obama called that step a victory for the American people.

"By standing up to the special interests who have prevented reform for decades and who are furiously lobbying against it now, the Senate has moved us closer to reform that will make a tremendous difference for families for seniors for businesses and for the country as a whole," the President said.

But getting the 60 votes to end debate on the amendments came after several back room deals, heavily criticized by republicans.

"It's one of the great Bernie Maddoff gimmicks that I've seen, that anybody's ever seen," said Senator John McCain, R-AZ.

Florida's seniors will make out on one of those deals. Beneficiaries of Medicare Advantage Plans in Florida will have their benefits grandfathered in thanks to a provision tailored by Senator Bill Nelson, D-FL.

He released this statement Monday saying in part "Recently, I was able to pass an amendment to the bill that excluded some 800,000 policyholders all across Florida from cuts to Medicare Advantage."

The 2000-plus page bill will extend benefits to an additional 30-million Americans and will subsidize insurance for a family of four making up to $88,000 a year, or 400 percent of the federal poverty level.

But there is no public option, and no expansion of Medicare to people over age of 55.

Three more votes are tentatively scheduled, the first Tuesday at 7am, to approve the package of amendments to the bill. Then another on Wednesday afternoon to approve the bill plus the amendments, followed by a final vote on passage at 7:00 on Christmas Eve.
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