The Play-by-Play on Health Care

The key criticism of the plan is that it would cost more than $1 trillion over 10 years, according to estimates by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

The bill would impose new taxes on individuals making more than $280,000 a year, and couples making more than $350,000. It would raise revenues by making cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, and hiking taxes for businesses.

Like the Senate plans, it mandates health coverage. Individuals would pay a penalty of 2.5 percent of income if they are not covered, and employers would pay a penalty of 8 percent of payroll.

It also presents the option of a health insurance exchange by which individuals and small businesses can choose their plan.

House Republican Plan:

The House GOP leadership has not provided a cost estimate of its plan, except to say it would cost less than the Democratic plan.

The plan's goals are, House Republican leaders say, to make quality health care affordable and accessible; prevent Americans from being forced into a new government-run health care plan; let Americans who like their coverage keep it; ensure that medical decisions are made by patients and their doctors rather than by the government; and improve Americans' lives through effective prevention, wellness and disease management programs.

Unlike the Democrats' bill, it does not require individuals to have health insurance and does not offer an insurance exchange mechanism.

Republicans insist that medical malpractice reform should also be a part of any health care legislation that passes Congress, although they did not specify that in their proposals.

Best-Case Scenario for Democrats:

House Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., have expressed optimism that there are enough votes to pass a health care overhaul bill. But the question is whether there will be enough votes in the Senate to garner support. In Kennedy's absence, Democrats will need the support of moderate Republicans to pass legislation, but it remains unclear whether there will be ample votes.

Democratic senators are adamant to move ahead with a health care bill.

"We'll either do a health care bill on a bipartisan basis or -- I hope we don't have to do this -- but if we can't get the 60 votes we need, then we'll have no alternative but to do reconciliation. I strongly favor a bipartisan approach," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters Tuesday.

In a news conference Wednesday, Baucus expressed confidence that the final bill will have bipartisan support.

"No Republican has offered his or her support at this moment, but I think by the time we get to final passage, in this committee, you'll find Republican support," he told reporters.

What Happens in September:

Next week, the finance committee will debate and vote on Baucus' bill, before it is presented on the Senate floor.

Sticking Points:

Public Option: Republicans have still not warmed up to the idea of a government-run insurance plan that would compete with private insurance companies. The president continues to push for a public option, but has not issued an ultimatum that he will not pass a bill that doesn't include one. Instead, White House officials say they are open to alternatives. But some Democrats say they won't sign a bill without some form of a public option.

"A public option will be in the bill that passes the House of Representatives," Pelosi told reporters Thursday.

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