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Health care issues: Why so many health care bills?

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A look at key issues in the health care debate:

THE ISSUE: Why are there so many different health care proposals being discussed on Capitol Hill, and what exactly does Obama support?

THE POLITICS: There are five bills in the Senate and House, one from each of the congressional committees with jurisdiction over health care. Of the two bills in the Senate, the one passed out of the Finance Committee has received considerable attention because it won a lone Republican vote — that of Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, a key moderate who Democrats hope will get them to the 60 votes needed for passage in the full Senate. Unlike the Senate Finance plan, the other bills would create a government-run plan to compete with private insurers — something sought mostly by liberal Democrats. The Senate Finance plan relies on nonprofit co-ops to get the uninsured covered. President Barack Obama has not formally endorsed any of the bills. Instead, he has outlined several core objectives for legislation. Those include a guarantee of insurance, regardless of pre-existing medical conditions; a guarantee of choice of doctors and health plans; the assurance of affordable, quality health care for all Americans, and curbing health care costs. Last week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., unveiled a House bill that combined the work of the three committees. The legislation would provide coverage to 96 percent of Americans and establish a government-run insurance option based on negotiated rates. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is pushing a compromise bill that would create a government-run option but allow states to opt out.

WHAT IT MEANS: Obama has been careful not to specifically endorse any of the bills. Even so, he was quick to herald the accomplishments of the Senate Finance Committee. He praised that bill for offering security to those who have insurance and affordable options for those who don’t, as well as barring denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions. The Finance Committee, he said, “has brought us significantly closer to achieving the core objectives I laid out.”

_ By Jennifer C. Kerr

© 2009 Associated Press. Displayed by permission. All rights reserved.

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