Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Robin Carnahan said she is both excited and concerned about legislation passed by the House that would overhaul the nation's health care system.
Carnahan, Missouri's secretary of state, has previously expressed general support for a health insurance overhaul but has shied away from taking positions on particular proposals. Though asked twice Tuesday, she declined to say directly whether she supported the House-passed bill.
"We need to provide more affordability, more access and more stability to all Americans," Carnahan said in a brief interview. "I'm a little concerned on the House bill about the affordability side. ... I know, though, that it's an important first step to get that passed out of the House."
U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination in the 2010 Senate race, voted against the legislation, which passed the Democratic-led House 220-215 Saturday night. Blunt has said the bill could increase costs for consumers, businesses and the government while imposing cuts to Medicare, the health care program for seniors and the disabled.
"It's families and patients who will suffer most under this government takeover of health care," Blunt said in a statement explaining his vote against the bill.
The legislation would require most Americans to carry insurance and provide federal subsidies to those who otherwise could not afford it. Companies with payrolls of more than $500,000 would be required to offer coverage to their employees. Both consumers and companies would be slapped with penalties if they defied the government's mandates.
Insurance industry practices such as denying coverage because of pre-existing medical conditions would be banned, and insurers would no longer be able to charge higher premiums on the basis of gender or medical history. The federal government also would offer an insurance plan as an alternative to the private marketplace.
The bill passed after being amended to ban abortion coverage _ except in cases of incest, rape or when the woman's life is in danger _ in any government-sold plan or any private insurance plan purchased by consumers receiving federal subsidies.
Blunt supported that abortion restriction.
Asked Tuesday about the abortion provision, Carnahan did not directly say she opposed it but called it a "distraction" and suggested that it doesn't belong in the legislation.
"I don't think we ought to turn what we know is a vital need, which is to reform health care in our country, into a debate over abortion," Carnahan said.