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    Health Care Reform:

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    Congress and Lobbyists Are Scrutinizing Option for Public Health Care

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    Debate Grows as Health Bills Get Closer

    June 11, 2009 -- The debate over health reform is heating up in Washington, with lawmakers, interest groups, political parties, and the president all weighing in on how to cut costs and spread insurance to all Americans.

    Congressional committees are expected to unveil final versions of their health reform bills over the next two weeks. Those bills will likely deal with the toughest details yet to be worked out: whether to create a government-run or government-sponsored insurance alternative, what form that option should take, and how much it will all cost.

    Meanwhile, a new report concludes comprehensive health reform could directly help as many as 185 million Americans, either by lowering the cost of coverage they get through their employer, or expanding coverage for the estimated 46 million uninsured.

    "If coupled with broad health system reforms, the average family would save $2,314 a year by 2020," states the report by The Commonwealth Fund. It estimated a total national savings of $3 trillion by 2010 if Congress enacts sweeping health reform that includes robust preventive care and universal access to coverage.

    "An estimated 100,000 lives per year would be saved, 68 million more adults would receive recommended preventive care, and 37 million more adults and 10 million more children would receive care from physician practices," the report states.

    Public Health Care Option

    How -- or if -- Congress will achieve universal coverage is still very much an open question. Democrats have announced their intention to propose some form of government-run or government-funded insurance entity. The entity would help pool large numbers of people together, in theory cutting insurance costs and giving people more access to coverage.

    Speaking at a town hall-style event for his health reform plans in Green Bay, Wis., President Barack Obama made a strong pitch for a "public insurance option" to be part of any health reform package.

    "And the reason is not because we want a government takeover of health care. I've already said if you've got a private plan that works for you, that's great. But we want some competition. If the private insurance companies have to compete with a public option, it'll keep them honest and it'll help keep their prices down," the president said.

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