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House Health Care Bill Features Public Option Compromise

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled an $894 billion health care reform bill Thursday that would expand insurance coverage to as many as 36 million people. In a nod to moderates, the plan includes a public option in which rates are negotiated with doctors and hospitals. Betty Ann Bowser reports.

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  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    Flanked by fellow Democrats and with the Capitol dome as her backdrop…

    REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-Calif, speaker of the house: Good morning.

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    … House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today unveiled the long-awaited details of her party's health care reform bill.

  • NANCY PELOSI:

    Affordability to the middle class, security for our seniors, responsibility to our children. It reduces the deficit, meets President Obama's call to keep the cost under $900 billion over 10 years, and it insures 36 million more Americans — 36 million more.

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    The House bill, a retooled version of three committee proposals, would cost an estimated $894 billion over the next decade.

    It includes a government public insurance option, calls for a significant expansion of Medicaid, raising eligibility levels to 150 percent of the federal poverty level. That's about $16,000 a year for individuals. It requires nearly every American to sign up for health coverage by 2013 and mandates almost all employers offer coverage to their workers, or face financial penalties.

  • NANCY PELOSI:

    It covers 96 percent of all Americans, and it puts affordable coverage in reach for millions of uninsured and underinsured families, lowering health care costs for all of us.

  • WOMAN:

    And does this hurt at all when we flex your foot? Good.

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    The bill would create a new government-regulated insurance exchange, where people and small businesses could shop for insurance from private companies or from the government-run plan.

    Federal subsidies would be made available to help low-income people afford coverage. And, under the legislation, insurance companies would be barred from denying coverage to Americans with preexisting conditions.

    Money to pay for the overhaul would be raised through a combination of cuts in future Medicare payments to providers and a 5.4 percent income tax surcharge to be levied on the wealthiest Americans, people making $500,000 a year and couples making $1 million.

    House Republicans responded swiftly with criticism. None are expected to vote for the bill.

    Ohio's John Boehner is minority leader.