President Obama's health care bill clears major hurdle

The chances of US president Barack Obama's health care reform initiative achieving a near-universal health care system have improved dramatically with a lone Republican senator Olympia Snowe of Maine voting with Democrats for a compromise proposal.

The Baucus bill, named after Democrat head of the Senate Finance Committee, Montana senator Max Baucus, does not include a public insurer option unlike other bills before the Congress but instead provides for a co-operative not-for-profit entity to compete with private insurers.

Although the bill will still need to go through several steps in the legislative process, senator Snowe's support to the bill offers a better chance to Obama to garner the 60 votes needed to pass the bill in the senate. It also gives him a measure of bipartisan support for what could be the signature achievement of his first term.

Obama described the bill as a critical milestone and thanked senator Snowe for her support.

"Now, this bill is not perfect and we have a lot of difficult work ahead of us," he said.

"But I do believe the work of the Senate Finance Committee has brought us significantly closer to achieving the core objectives I laid out early in September.''