Raleigh, N.C. — U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan said Tuesday that she believes Congress will pass a health care reform bill that will be signed by President Barack Obama by the end of the year.
If she's right, the legislation would become one of the highlights for the freshman Democrat, who has faced a sour economy and ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan during her first year in Washington, D.C.
Hagan said she would support Obama's controversial "public option" plan if it wouldn't add to the federal deficit. The program, which would provide government-sponsored insurance to people with no other health coverage, has been lambasted by critics, who say it would hurt private insurers and add costs and limit access for consumers.
"How is this going to be funded and paid for? That area hasn't yet been determined, and that's what I'm anxious to see," she said. "That's what people are really concerned about right now – me being one of them."
She said she recognizes, however, that reform is necessary, and she hopes the final plan will require insurance companies to cover pre-existing illnesses and will include an emphasis on wellness and disease prevention.
"There's a projection in 2016 (that) a policy will cost $26,000 for a family of four. Our median income in North Carolina is $39,000. It's an unsustainable trajectory," she said.
Hagan's support of the pharmaceutical industry has been highlighted in television ads that have aired statewide in recent weeks.
"I didn't even know about those commercials," she said. "Some people were thinking I was running those commercials. I didn't have any knowledge about that."
Still, she said, she would welcome provisions in the health plan that would favor biotech companies.
"North Carolina is home to a lot of biotech companies. I'm very concerned about keeping those jobs in our state," she said.
This summer, Hagan traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee from a pro-military state, she said she wanted to see firsthand how Obama's strategy to focus U.S. efforts in the region was working.
"I think we're doing it right in Afghanistan," she said. "I support the president in his mission."
Regarding the economy, Hagan said she believes more new jobs are on the horizon because more stimulus money is about to be spent.
"I wake up every morning worried about people looking for jobs that can't find them," she said. "I've been talking with county officials and mayors, and they're now seeing their grants funded," she said.