The Play-by-Play on Health Care

What happens today. What happens tomorrow. Whether it happens at all.

ByABC News
September 15, 2009, 10:50 AM

Sept. 18, 2009— -- It's been nearly two weeks since lawmakers returned from recess, and more than a week since President Obama delivered his speech to the joint session of Congress, but partisanship remains strong in the heated health care debate. At the same time, Americans are divided over the president's handling of the issue, but most agree that there is need for overhaul.

Here's a rundown on what's really happening in Washington and where things stand on health care legislation.

The push for health care overhaul continues in full force in Washington.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., met with Democratic senators yesterday to make the case for his bill, which he unveiled Wednesday to a barrage of criticism, not just from Republicans but members of his own party.

On the other side of the Hill, members of a House committee this week heard both from private health insurance companies and Americans who are fighting their insurance firms.

Meanwhile, the "Gang of Six" bipartisan group has led to a "Gang of Four," which includes two Democrats, one Republican and one Independent, Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.

Hailing Baucus' plan, the bipartisan group said in a statement it wants to exploit similarities rather than differences among lawmakers.

"Despite the differences that have emerged in this health care debate, there is much that we all agree on, including insurance market reforms that bar insurance companies from discriminating against people based on their health status or denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions," the statement said. "Each of us has an obligation to put aside partisan views and to consider how health care reform addresses the needs and challenges faced by individual citizens and our economy as a whole."

Off Capitol Hill, the president continued to try and drum up support for health care reform. On Thursday, he spoke at the University of Maryland about the importance of affordable, accessible health care.

"Health care's about more than the details of a policy. It's about what kind of country you want to be," Obama said.

"I'm going to seek common ground in the weeks ahead," the president said, referring to his Republican critics. "If you come to me with a set of serious proposals, I will be there to listen. My door is always open. But know this: I will not waste time with those who've made the calculation that it's better to kill health reform than to improve our health care system."

The White House also continued to tout "Obama Care" -- the plan outlined by the president last week -- as one that would save costs in the long term and provide more Americans with insurance.

First lady Michelle Obama has also taken to rallying Americans on the issue. Today, Mrs. Obama will deliver remarks at an event featuring stories about women and families affected by the current health care system.

The list of proposals being discussed in Congress is virtually never-ending. The differences are not just between Republicans and Democrats. Even party members are divided on what they want to see in the final health care legislation. Two different versions of a health care bill are circulating in the Senate and members of the House have their own ideas about what reform should entail. Here's a breakdown of some of the proposals under discussion:

Baucus' bill, proposed after weeks of closed-door negotiations with both party members, is the latest to add fuel to the already fiery debate on health care. Despite bipartisan negotiations, committee members have yet to jump on board to Baucus' proposal, and more changes are likely to be made before they do sign.

The bill is expected to cost $856 billion over the next 10 years. It is the bill that comes closest to what Obama called for in his address to Congress last week, and was put together after weeks of closed-door meetings with a group of Republican and Democratic senators in the finance committee.

Under the plan, all Americans would be required to hold health insurance and would pay a penalty if they do not -- up to $950 for individuals and $3,800 for families.

It would also impose a 35 percent excise tax on premiums for plans costing more than $8,000 for individuals and $21,000 for families.

The plan encourages health care cooperatives, which are member-owned, non-profit companies that compete with private insurance providers.

It also bars insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, and charging people with more serious health problems higher payments, although there is flexibility to that rule.

Baucus is also suggesting a Web-based insurance exchange system, by which Americans would be able to compare and purchase their plans on the Internet.

The bill would expand Medicaid benefits, allowing more people to become eligible. Baucus' plan would make all parents, children, pregnant women and childless adults at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level eligible for Medicaid. It also includes provisions to help those with household incomes of less than $66,000 to buy insurance.

Illegal immigrants and abortions -- two points of contention for some Republicans -- would not be covered under the bill.