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Congress Braces for Showdown Over Health-Care Reform
Date:7/17/2009

oward employees' coverage. The bill also would create a new "health insurance exchange" to offer a government-run health plan alongside private health plan options. And a new tax on higher-income individuals and families would help fund the expansion.

"I can tell you it won't be the bill that they [the House Democrats] actually attempt to mark up because they don't have the votes for it, and so they will continue to negotiate even as we move forward, sporadically, haphazardly, with the process," Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz., said in a press conference announcing a Republican alternative. "I think the reason they don't have the votes is because their bill kills health care as we know it today in America. There is an employer tax, there's all kinds of mandates."

In a statement, Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., chairman of the Blue Dog Coalition's health care task force, assailed the bill for failing to control the escalating cost of health care. While the coalition, which represents conservative and moderate Democrats, is "committed to passing health care reform," he insisted that "reform that does not meet the President's goals of substantially bringing down costs is not an option."

Shadegg and colleagues offered an alternative plan that would allow individuals to obtain health coverage on the same tax-advantaged basis that employers do. The measure seeks to make individual coverage more affordable by allowing churches, alumni associations, trade associations and other civic groups to create their own insurance pools and offer coverage to their members.

On the Senate side, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved its own version of health reform this week with a vote along party lines, while the Senate Finance Committee continues to wrangle over the details of its plan.

Linda Havlin, worldwide partner with the employee benefits consulting firm Mercer LLC in Chicago, is "firmly convinced" that something will p
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