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New health plan puts families 'in control'

New health plan puts families 'in control'
President Barack Obama offers a toast after making remarks at the 2010 Governors Ball for the National Governors Association at the White House Feb. 21, 2010. UPI/Ron Sachs/Pool | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama Monday revealed his new U.S. healthcare reform proposal -- a blend of House and Senate plans along with his own recommendations.

Obama's proposal, posted on WhiteHouse.gov four days before a bipartisan meeting with congressional leaders, "puts American families and small-business owners in control of their own healthcare," the White House's explanation said.

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Among other things, the White House said the proposal would set up a new competitive health insurance market to give millions Americans the same insurance choices congressional members will have.

Also, the White House said, the plan would bring greater accountability to the healthcare system by providing "common sense rules of the road" to keep premium costs down, prevent insurance industry abuses and denial of care and end denial of coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

It also includes middle-class tax cuts for healthcare, which the White House said would reduce premium costs for tens of millions of families and small-business owners. The tax breaks would provide affordable health coverage to about 31 million Americans who do not get it today, the explanation said.

The White House said the plan would reduce the deficit by $100 billion over the next 10 year by cutting government overspending and reining in waste, fraud and abuse.

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Instead of heeding Republicans' demands that healthcare reform talks begin from scratch, Obama melded the two Democratic bills that passed Congress without GOP support.

Obama's proposal would eliminate a provision included in the Senate bill that specifically benefits Nebraska, and it would provide "significant additional federal financing" for all states to expand Medicaid. It also would close the so-called doughnut hole coverage gap in the Medicare prescription drug program.

The proposal also would delay until 2018 the controversial tax on high-end healthcare policies, increasing the threshold for the excise tax on the most expensive health plans from $23,000 for a family plan to $27,500.

Obama's proposal also would create a Health Insurance Rate Authority to provide federal assistance and oversight to states in reviewing "unreasonable rate increases and other unfair practices of insurance plans."

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