Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida's representative on the Senate Finance Committee, joined fellow Democrats in voting for the health care plan. Nelson called the package a "good start" and noted that it can be refined in the weeks ahead.
The legislation includes an amendment he championed that would spare some cuts under Medicare Advantage, an alternative to traditional Medicare that offers better benefits, such as vision care, but costs the government more. Nelson seeks to grandfather in an estimated 800,000 Floridians who use the plans.
Before the vote, Nelson read letters from a few of the scores of people who have written him with health care horror stories, including a 49-year-old constituent who cannot afford cancer medication.
Nelson blasted an insurance- industry-funded study, released over the weekend, that concluded families would see sharp premium increases if the Senate Finance Committee bill passes. Democrats have criticized the report as deeply misleading because it does not take into account proposed subsidies that could lower costs.
"Is it any wonder that now they see there's going to be a bite on them … they come out at the 11th hour with a report that says, 'Oh, this thing is all flawed'?" asked Nelson, a former Florida insurance commissioner.