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House Democrats Unveil Health Care Reform Legislation

Lawmakers aimed to keep the cost of health care reform to $1 trillion over 10 years. To pay the price of insuring nearly 50 million uninsured Americans, the proposal would impose a 5.4 percent surtax on millionaires and smaller surtaxes on households making $350,000 or more. It would also cut back on Medicare and Medicaid payments to doctors and hospitals.

The bill will also include a key component for most Democratic lawmakers — a “public option” government-run insurance plan that would compete with private insurers.

President Obama praised the bill: “This proposal controls the skyrocketing cost of health care by rooting out waste and fraud and promoting quality and accountability,” he said, according to Reuters.

But Republican leaders denounced many aspects of the legislation.

“Democrats put the federal government in charge of your personal health care decisions,” said Rep. Dave Camp, the senior Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, according to Reuters. “This will lead to longer wait times to see a doctor and more treatments being denied.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she aims to pass the legislation before Congress’ August recess, despite the resistance of some of the more conservative members of her own party to elements of the legislation.

Meanwhile, health care reform work also continued in the Senate. The Health Committee continued with public markup meetings of its bill, and Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., scheduled a Tuesday afternoon meeting with key members of his committee, including Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine.

President Obama returned from a week abroad Monday and met privately with Democratic leaders to emphasize his commitment to keeping to a quick timeline for action, despite a week that saw the timetable slip among wrangling over the best way to structure and pay for health reform.

“I just want to put everybody on notice because there was a lot of chatter during the week that I was gone,” he said after the meeting, according to the Washington Post. “Inaction is not an option.”