Senator Chris Dodd says Congress is working on passing a major health care reform bill this year, something the Obama administration also supports. But bi-partisan cooperation is still in question.
Connecticut's senior Senator says the goal is to pass a health care reform bill by August-that's when lawmakers break for a month-long recess.
In a conference call with reporters, Dodd, a member of the Senate health committee says this is the first time in 16 years that there's a strong chance a reform bill can be achieved. He says the stakes are high: health care spending takes up 16 percent of the country's gross domestic product and it's expected to double in another 10 years.
"The economics mandate that we get something done in this area or we're going to make our fiscal condition of the country almost reach a point where it would be almost impossible to reverse it."
He says there are a lot of options Congress is weighing to achieve universal health care from private plans administered by state insurance pool to a single-payer system. But Dodd stresses Americans must still be able to choose their coverage.
"This has to be an American plan, not a Canadian plan or a British plan. We're different in this country, we like choice we want to give people options so we can have the kind of diversity that people demand."
Both the Senate Health and Finance Commitee's have been holding hearings on the proposal--and leaders Senators Ted Kennedy and Max Baucus have indicated they want Republican members at the table when a final bill is drafted.
But Senate Democrats may try to sidestep GOP opposition. There's talk about using a procedural rule that would allow them to pass the bill with a simple majority instead of the 60 votes usually needed.