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Obama puts forward last-ditch health plan


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Making a last-ditch effort to save his health care overhaul, President Barack Obama this morning put forward a nearly $1 trillion, 10-year compromise that would allow the government to deny or roll back egregious insurance premium increases that infuriated consumers. Posted this morning on the White House Web site, the plan would provide coverage to more than 31 million Americans now uninsured without adding to the federal deficit. It comes just four days before Obama's oneof- a-kind, televised health care summit with Democrats and Republicans. Even with the latest changes, it's highly uncertain such an ambitious proposal can get through Congress. Republicans are virtually all opposed, and some Democrats who last year supported sweeping health care changes are having second thoughts in an election year. After a year in pursuit of what was once his top domestic priority, Obama may have to settle for a modest fallback. Weeks ago, the president and congressional Democrats were on the verge of an historic step — a long-sought remake of the nation's health care system after a half-century of unsuccessful attempts by scores of politicians. Then Republican Scott Brown stunned Washington with an upset win in the Massachusetts Senate race, denying Democrats their 60-seat majority and reversing any political momentum. Determined to avoid facing voters empty-handed, Obama offered a fresh proposal based on Democratic-passed bills. The plan conspicuously omits a government insurance plan sought by liberals and viewed as a non-starter by conservatives and some congressional moderates. It includes Senate-passed restrictions on federal funding for abortion adamantly opposed by abortion foes as well as abortion rights supporters. The new White House plan would give the federal government the power to regulate the health insurance industry much like a public utility. The Health a n d H uma n S e r v i c e s Department — in conjunction with state authorities — would be able to deny egregious premium increases, limit them or demand rebates for consumers. Obama, who deferred to Congress on the specifics for more than a year, has finally put forward a detailed plan of his own. By and large, it follows the bill passed by Senate Democrats on Christmas Eve, with changes intended to make it acceptable to their House counterparts. I t would requi re mos t Americans to carry health insurance coverage, with federal subsidies to help many afford the premiums. Insurance companies would be barred from denying coverage to people with medical problems or charging them more.


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