Washington - US lawmakers appeared close to a compromise Wednesday on reforming the country's costly health-care system, a top domestic policy priority of President Barack Obama.
Democratic Party leaders in the House of Representatives hammered out a deal with a fiscally conservative faction within their own centre-left party. But the deal postpones any House vote on the health-care reforms until at least September.
The legislation, designed to rein in spiralling costs and extend insurance to about 47 million people who lack coverage, is being ironed out by five separate House and Senate committees.
The plans have sharply divided Republicans and Democrats, and the talks have at times appeared deadlocked. A bipartisan group of senators are currently thrashing out their own compromise version.
Obama originally hoped both chambers would pass their initial versions of a health reform bill before Congress' summer recess on August 10. But he grudgingly praised the apparent compromise on Wednesday.
"Those efforts are extraordinarily constructive in strengthening this legislation and bringing down its cost," Obama said Wednesday.
The conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats, who had so far opposed health reform because of its huge price tag, said they had wrung out a series of concessions from their party's leaders.
The group said its compromise would shave an additional 100 billion dollars off the plan and bring its overall cost below 1 trillion dollars.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House, said she agreed to postpone a vote on the legislation until September as part of the deal.
Health-care reform has eluded many previous administrations and has long been a hot-button topic in the United States. About 16 per cent of the country's economic output goes into health care, a far higher percentage than any other industrialized country.(dpa)