"It doesn't matter what you do, with the insurance industry, you lose," Reid told reporters Wednesday. "You're predetermined to lose, because the rules keep changing. And the only one that determines the rules is the insurance industry. ... When you don't have a referee, and you have the person that's conducting the game setting the rules, this is what happens."
Some people want insurance companies to remove limits on lifetime coverage altogether. Such measures could open up access for many uninsured Americans, but could also boost costs because insurance companies cite these measures as a way to keep their costs down.
On Wednesday, the Senate -- on a bipartisan basis -- voted down the "Doc Fix," which would have countered a cut in payments to Medicare doctors at a cost of $245 billion over 10 years. However, many lawmakers opposing the cost created by the "Doc Fix" will ultimately vote for a shorter fix financed by spending cuts elsewhere. It is unclear when that shorter fix will be offered.
Reid said the subject of an employer mandate has taken up the most amount of time at the negotiations in his office and would be in the final bill. But he did not elaborate on how it would manifest itself in the final legislation.
"We'd spent two nights talking about that, and that's something that will be in the bill," he said.
The mandate is stronger in the health committee bill, which requires that companies with more than 25 employees would pay $750 for every uninsured employee. Under the more centrist Finance Committee bill, companies with more than 50 employees would pay $400 per worker.
The proposed measure has drawn skepticism from both liberals and conservatives.
Snowe said Wednesday she has "serious concerns" about a strict employer mandate.
"It penalizes employers not offering health insurance to their workers. ... This is not the time, you know, to be penalizing businesses across the board at a time when we're facing a precarious economic landscape," Snowe said at a committee hearing Tuesday. "I would hope that this is one issue that would not find its way in the merge legislation. We've already lost 7.2 million jobs since the onset of this recession. So I think it would move in the wrong direction."
Yet, liberal groups say the mandate doesn't go far enough even in the health committee bill, and that it would be cheaper for employers to pay the fine than pay for insurance.
As for an individual mandate, in the ABC News/Washington Post poll, 56 percent of Americans favored a law requiring all Americans to have health insurance -- and the number jumped to 71 percent, if it included financial assistance in obtaining insurance for families below a certain income line.
More than 15 percent of Americans do not have health coverage and the numbers continue to rise, according to the latest census.
While an individual mandate would not affect 85 percent of the population, which is insured, it would have a significant impact on the more than 46 million Americans who don't have any type of health coverage.
Proponents of this measure say it will encourage individual responsibility but critics claim it will put a burdensome onus on low-income individuals and households. Politically, some GOP lawmakers argue that it constitutes an additional tax and, essentially, goes against the president's promises of no additional taxes.