Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., today said he expects Senate Finance Committee Democrats to unanimously back Finance Chairman Max Baucus' health reform package, estimated to cost $829 billion over 10 years, at Tuesday's markup.
Nelson, a leading conservative Democrat on the panel, also holds out hope that it can win the support of Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, which would allow Democrats to call the measure bipartisan.
"All the Democrats will vote for it to get it out of the committee and I am very hopeful and very optimistic that Olympia will as well," Nelson said in an interview on MSNBC.
His comments came as America's Health Insurance Plans, the insurance industry group, released a study late Sunday that estimates the Finance Committee bill would add $1,700 to the cost of family health coverage and $600 for individuals by 2013.
By 2019, according the study, it would mean insurance premiums would cost $4,000 more for a family and $1,500 more for individual coverage than without the bill.
"The overall impact of [the bill's] provisions will be to increase the cost of private insurance coverage for individuals, families, and businesses above what these costs would be in the absence of reform," the study said.
Nelson questioned the veracity of the study because it was commissioned by the health insurance industry.
"You have to look at who produced the report, the insurance industry did," Nelson said. "As a matter of fact, the whole purpose of this thing is to make insurance affordable and available. And by affordable we mean that you are going to have to -- for those people who don't have insurance or those people who have a single, individual, not a group policy -- you've got to bring down the cost of that insurance that is the whole purpose of this entire healthcare reform."
Sen. John (Jay) Rockefeller, D-W.Va., another Finance Committee member, also took aim at the study.
In a statement he said "the misleading and harmful claims made today by the profit-driven insurance companies are politicking for corporate gain at its worst."
"Health insurance companies have been laughing all the way to the bank for generations while people suffer. The industry stands today as the greatest impediment to real healthcare reform," he continued.
"Their recent statements only further highlight that our focus here in Congress must be on the inclusion of a public health insurance option in the marketplace to protect families and put more money back in their wallets by creating greater competition and driving down costs," he said.
Rockefeller did not say whether he would support the bill. Baucus is counting on the votes of Rockefeller and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., but the two have yet to pledge their votes for it.
A Baucus spokesman today called the AHIP report "untrue" and "disingenuous," and the White House said it was "self-serving."
AHIP generally supports reform of the healthcare industry, but has been working behind-the-scenes to kill aspects of the proposal, such as the public option.
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., who opposes the legislation, said today on Fox News Channel "this tells me exactly what I've heard all around town-hall meetings through the summer."
"For American families who already have insurance, this will absolutely raise the cost for all of those American families who have insurance. And Americans aren't happy with that," he concluded.