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Details of Kennedy Health Bill Beginning to Emerge

After months of confidential negotiations on health care reform, details of what the overhaul might look like leaked out late Friday in the form of a draft of part of the bill being written in the Senate by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

The draft, which is now making the rounds of Washington, D.C., insiders who are closely following the health care reform negotiations on Capitol Hill and was obtained by Roll Call, concerns the issue of “coverage.—

The document reads as bill language. But Anthony Coley, a spokesman for HELP Chairman Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), characterized the leaked material as “a draft of a draft.—

“HELP Democrats are still discussing options among themselves and their Republican colleagues,— Coley said Friday evening.

Kennedy’s bill is scheduled to be merged with similar legislation being written by Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.). Both chairmen and their respective staffs have been tight-lipped about the details of their legislation in advance of this month’s scheduled bill markups.

The portion of Kennedy’s bill that emerged Friday was in the form of a 167-page document that began: “Title I — Quality, Affordable Health Care For All Americans.— The HELP Committee’s bill is expected to be more liberal than the legislation being written by Finance.

The HELP bill’s title appears to be “The American Health Choices Act.— Among the mandates the bill would legislate, according to this draft:

• Insurance companies would be prohibited from denying coverage based on a pre-existing medical condition.

• Rates charged would be allowed to vary according to “family structure, community rating area, the actuarial value of the benefit and age.—

However, rates cannot vary based on “health-status related factors, gender, class of business, claims experience, or any other factor not described in the previous [sentence].—

President Barack Obama has demanded approval of major health care reform by year’s end. Democratic leaders in the House and Senate are pushing to pass bills out of their respective chambers by August.

Republicans have been expressing increasing resistance to the kind of reform favored by Obama and most Democrats, but their votes are not necessarily needed to approve the legislation given the Democrats’ healthy majorities in the House and Senate.

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