As part of the overhaul of the U.S. health-care system, Democrats in the House of Representatives want to make health care a right and a responsibility for all Americans.
Under the $1.5 trillion proposal, the federal government would be responsible for ensuring that all people have access to an affordable health insurance plan. Employers and individuals would have new obligations to obtain coverage or be hit with major penalties, the Associated Press reported.
The House and Senate are under pressure from the White House to pass health-care reform bills before the August recess. President Barack Obama wants legislation that would slow rising health-care costs and extend coverage to about 50 million uninsured Americans.
"There's going to be a major debate over the next three weeks," Obama said during a speech in Warren, Mich., the AP reported. "And don't be fooled by folks trying to scare you saying we can't change the health-care system. We have no choice but to change the health-care system because right now it's broken for too many Americans."
On Wednesday, the Senate health committee chaired by Sen. Edward Kennedy, (D.-Mass.), passed a bill to overhaul health care, becoming the first congressional committee to act on Obama's goal of reforming the system this year.
The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted 13-10 along party lines to pass a $600-billion measure that would expand coverage to nearly all Americans by requiring individuals to get insurance and employers to contribute to the cost, the AP reported.
Kennedy, who is being treated for brain cancer, wasn't on hand for the vote.