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House Democrats Unveil Health Care Outline

House Democratic chairmen released a four-page outline of their sweeping health reform legislation Tuesday, including a public insurance option opposed by many conservative Democrats.The plan unveiled by Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), and Education and Labor Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) would institute a “pay or play— system for employers, who would either have to provide health insurance for their employees or pay a tax, as they do in Massachusetts. Small businesses would be exempt.The plan also creates a national health exchange where public and private plans would compete for customers, with states having the option to opt out and create their own exchanges.All plans would face much stiffer federal regulations, including caps on out-of-pocket expenses intended to prevent bankruptcies and standard levels of benefits. And consumers with income up to 400 percent of the poverty level would be eligible for credits to help them pay for insurance.Fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats have so far come out against a public option except as a fallback in future years if the private market fails to keep costs down and improve health care access.Waxman noted that the chairmen support the Blue Dog principle that the public plan compete on a level playing field with private plans, but he rejected the idea of having a trigger that might allow for a public option years down the line. Waxman said a trigger did not have broad support in the Caucus, but he also said there isn’t enough support for a single-payer government plan, which many liberals support.Waxman said that they would be working to finish a draft bill in the coming week.

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