WASHINGTON (CN) - The first major Republican effort to modify the Senate health bill failed Thursday when Arizona Sen. John McCain's amendment to restore $400 billion in Medicare cuts lost by a 59 to 41 vote. A Democrat-backed amendment to offer free mammograms, however, passed 61 to 39.
Thursday marked the first day the Senate voted on amendments, three days after debate on the bill formally began.
The amendment to largely expand preventative care for women, including free mammograms, was put forward by Maryland Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski.
It would give doctors the discretion on whether mammograms were needed, instead of leaving the decision to the United States Preventive Services Task Force, which has recommended that women begin to get mammograms at the age of 50 instead of 40.
The amendment gained the support of three Republicans: Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, Maine Sen. Susan Collins and Louisiana Sen. David Vitter.
Two Democrats, Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold and Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, voted against it. Feingold cited the amendment's price tag of $940 million over 10 years as his reason to vote against it.
A similar Republican amendment, offered by Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, was voted down by a 51 to 49 vote. Murkowski's failed amendment would have required that insurance companies not use the United States Preventive Services Task Force recommendations to deny coverage of preventative care.
Colorado Democrat Sen. Michael Bennet's amendment passed with full support. It assures Medicare recipients won't see cuts in benefits and says the bill's cost savings in Medicare be applied to lowering premiums or extending the program's lifetime.
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