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Hoyer Hopes for Bipartisan Health Reform

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Thursday he hopes to negotiate a bipartisan health care overhaul with his longtime friend, Rep. Roy Blunt (Mo.), who heads up a Republican task force on the issue.Hoyer emphasized that budget reconciliation rules sought by the House that would shortcut filibusters in the Senate was only a “fallback position.—“It is not the preferred option,— he said. “The preferred option is creating a bipartisan consensus.—Republicans, including Blunt, have ripped the idea of using reconciliation as an inappropriate way to force a broad restructuring of health care with a partisan vote.Hoyer said he has already spoken with Blunt — although not on substance — and hopes “to see if we can reach common ground. Obviously it takes two to tango. … We are reaching out.—Hoyer said that if Republicans are negotiating in good faith, it would be his preference not to use the reconciliation tool, but he added that he hoped the potential use of reconciliation would be “an incentive to the folks on the other side of the aisle.—Hoyer also said he would be spending a lot of time coordinating the health reform efforts between the various committees involved, with a goal of getting a bill through the House before the August recess. And Hoyer reiterated that House Democrats believe a public insurance option should be part of any plan for universal health care, despite strong concerns from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and private insurers that such a plan could crowd out private plans.“We believe the public option is an important alternative,— Hoyer said, adding that incentives for employers to continue offering their existing plans would be included as well. “If you’ve got something that you like, our plan is not going to make you give it up,— Hoyer said.Hoyer said that the prospect of a government plan has already forced private plans to make concessions like agreeing to insure patients despite pre-existing conditions.“If it weren’t on the table, we wouldn’t have gotten those from the insurance companies,— he said. Hoyer said that mandates for individuals and employers are also on the table, including the potential for pay-or-play fees on employers and requirements that individuals buy insurance. “I think you are going to find mandates part of the plan,— he said.

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