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Will Health Care Summit Jump-start Reform?

Bipartisan Meeting Puts Reform Proposals Back in the Spotlight

Prospects for a Deal continued...

The GOP has long called for a new start -- a blank sheet of paper -- on health care reform. The House Minority Leader, John Boehner, R-Ohio, says Obama ''crippled the credibility'' of the summit by proposing ''the same massive government takeover of health care.''

The Obama proposal as a whole ''is a nonstarter for conservatives,'' Darling says, citing its federal mandates, tax increases and additional regulation. The summit "is going to be high drama,'' Darling says. But ultimately, he says, the two sides are too far apart to do anything but start over.

Meanwhile, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Tuesday shows the public evenly split on health care reform, with 43% in favor and 43% opposed. The poll, though, also found that most Americans support key provisions of the current reform plans.   

The summit will give Obama a shot at marketing his plan to Americans in a clearer way, says Bill Custer, a health insurance expert at Georgia State University.

If the meeting descends into posturing, and no reform passes this year, don't expect health care problems to disappear, experts say.

"The underlying trends are so bad for insurance coverage,'' Custer says. Unemployment is rising, COBRA coverage is expiring, small employers are less likely to offer coverage, and large employers will continue to see insurance increases greater than general inflation, Custer notes.

"All the trends that have led us to this point are not going away,'' he says. "It's likely they've gotten much worse.''

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