Provisions in health care overhaul bill address key issues

A revised health reform bill unveiled Wednesday by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has changes that could appeal to both liberals and conservatives.

One provision allows the government to provide insurance to more people, an issue championed by liberals.

Of interest to conservatives are provisions that prevent government money from being spent on abortions and keep illegal immigrants from getting taxpayer-funded coverage.

Reid, who has high unfavorable ratings in polls and faces a re-election campaign in 2010, is walking a fine line on the issue of health care. Because his eventual Republican challenger is sure to criticize health reform legislation as an expensive government takeover of health care, Reid is under pressure to contain costs, avoid coverage for illegal immigrants and restrict the use of government money for controversial procedures.

But Reid will need support from liberal Nevadans who will want a health reform plan that guarantees coverage for as many people as possible.

"In terms of the price tag, I think that is really, really, really good news," said Michael Ginsburg, a community organizer for the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, of the bill’s $849 billion cost estimate.

President Barack Obama had said he wanted keep the cost at $900 billion or less.

Ginsburg said the decision to have a public option — a government-run insurance plan that could compete with private plans — and give states the choice to opt out appeals more to progressives than having a set of criteria that would need to be met before a public option is offered.

That’s because states will be unlikely to opt out, Ginsburg said. "No one opts out because they would be foolish to do so."

Ryan Erwin, a Republican political strategist who specializes in health care issues, said the plan Reid unveiled Wednesday will be more likely to make government health bureaucracies bigger and more intrusive than to increase access to low-cost, high-quality care.

Erwin is also a consultant to John Chachas, a potential Republican challenger to Reid.

"Senator Reid is taxing Nevadans without any tangible benefit to the average Nevadan, and all the while forcing Americans to have insurance, which may or may not be constitutional. This is just fraught with problems top to bottom," Erwin said.

The bill still has significant hurdles to clear before becoming law.

With the support of two independents, Senate Democrats have 60 seats, the precise number needed to block delaying tactics by the 40 Republicans who appear united against the bill. In the weeks ahead, Reid and his allies will seek to incorporate changes sought by Democrats and repel attempts by Republicans to kill the legislation and inflict a significant political defeat on the president.

Reid released his legislation more than a week after the House approved its version of the health care bill on a near party-line vote of 220-215.

According to estimates from the Congressional Budget Office, that House bill, with a price tag of about $1.2 trillion, would result in coverage for tens of millions of uninsured, and provide 96 percent of the eligible population with insurance.

Benjamin Spillman of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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