WASHINGTON — Chastened by the Democratic Senate loss in Massachusetts, President Barack Obama and congressional allies signaled Wednesday they will try to scale back his sweeping health care overhaul in an effort to at least keep parts of it alive.
A simpler, less ambitious bill emerged as an alternative only hours after the loss of the party’s crucial 60th Senate seat forced the Democrats to slow their all-out drive to pass Obama’s signature legislation and reconsider all options.
No decisions have been made, lawmakers said, but they laid out a new approach that could still include these provisions: limiting the ability of insurance companies to deny coverage to people with medical problems, allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ policies, helping small businesses and low-income people pay premiums and changing Medicare to encourage payment for quality care instead of sheer volume of services.
Obama urged lawmakers not to try to jam a bill through, but scale the proposal down to what he called “those elements of the package that people agree on.”
“We know that we need insurance reform, that the health insurance companies are taking advantage of people,” the president said in an interview with ABC News. “We know that we have to have some form of cost containment because if we don’t then our budgets are going to blow up. And we know that small businesses are going to need help.”
Another option, which called for the House to try to quickly pass the Senate version of the broader bill — bypassing the Senate problem created by the loss of the Massachusetts seat to Republican Scott Brown — appeared to be losing favor.
“That’s a bitter pill for the House to swallow,” said the No. 2 Senate Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois.