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House unveils health care overhaul

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Kai Ryssdal: Health care is a big and growing chunk of the U.S. economy. Today Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled the House of Representative’s plan to do something about that — 2,000 pages covering everything from pre-existing conditions to a public option. Marketplace’s Steve Henn reports.

NANCY PELOSI: Today we are about to deliver on the promise of making affordable quality health care available for all Americans. Laying the foundation for a brighter future.

Like the bill being developed in the Senate, the House health-care overhaul would create a government-run health-care insurance program that would compete against private insurers.

Both bills are likely to dramatically expand Medicaid. The House version extends that benefit to working poor families from coast to coast.

And both bills would require most Americans to begin buying health insurance by 2013 or pay penalties. But as the president pointed out to small business executives today…

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If you are happy with the insurance plan that you have right now. If the cost you’re paying and the benefits you’re getting are what you want them to be, then you can keep offering that same plan. Nobody will make you change it.

The final version of the Senate’s health-care overhaul hasn’t been hammered out yet, but there will be some differences. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said states should be allowed to opt out of the government’s insurance plan if they want to. And the House and Senate also have very different ideas about how to pay for all this.

KAREN DAVENPORT: They are coming from very philosophically different places.

Karen Davenport is at the Center for American Progress.

DAVENPORT: I think it’s the biggest difference. I think it is also probably the hardest difference to work out in the end.

The Senate wants to pay for the overhaul by taxing high-cost health plans. The idea is that would change patients behavior. But Davenport says that proposal is not very popular with unions, whose members would pay the price. So the House has proposed paying for its bill with a new tax on families that make more than a million dollars a year.

In Washington, I’m Steve Henn for Marketplace.

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