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Key vote on health reform is Tuesday

WASHINGTON — A key vote on a health care proposal is scheduled for Tuesday. Here are some questions and answers about the vote and the next legislative steps:

What's the significance of the Senate Finance Committee's scheduled vote Tuesday on its health care bill?

This will be the long-awaited vote to pass the centrist version of a health care overhaul out of committee. The vote is expected to fall along party lines, except perhaps for Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, a moderate Republican.

What happens next?

Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate majority leader, will attempt — with input from the White House — to reconcile the Finance Committee bill with a more liberal bill passed earlier this year by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Provisions of the Finance bill are expected to remain largely intact because it addresses revenues and taxes in a way the other bill does not.

The goal will be to fashion a bill that can attract at least 60 votes on the Senate floor to ward off a Republican filibuster.

What is the "opt-out" public option that people are talking about as a possible compromise?

A proposal championed by Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Tom Carper, D-Del., that would allow states to decide whether they want to include a government-run insurance plan as part of the offerings on a state insurance exchange. The idea is an attempt to attract liberal supporters who believe a so-called public option must be part of a final bill and moderates who don't want to force the option on states. The provision is not currently part of the Finance bill, but could be added by Reid or through an amendment on the Senate floor.

The Congressional Budget Office says the Finance Committee bill costs $829 billion over 10 years and it will also cut the deficit. How is that possible?

The CBO estimates that the cost of expanding Medicaid and providing subsidies and tax credit to help low-income earners buy insurance will amount to $829 billion. But it estimates the bill, through a combination of an excise tax on high-end insurance policies and hundreds of billions of projected savings in Medicare, will result in the government spending less over the 10-year span. Many analysts, however, question whether all those cost savings will occur.

Key vote on health reform is Tuesday 10/11/09 [Last modified: Sunday, October 11, 2009 10:11pm]

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