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Obama open to adding GOP ideas to health plan

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama said Tuesday that he was open to four new Republican proposals on health care legislation.

Obama detailed the ideas, all of which were raised at a bipartisan health care summit last week, in a letter to congressional leaders. In a nod to his 2008 presidential rival, Obama also said he had eliminated a special deal for Medicare Advantage beneficiaries in Florida and other states that were criticized at the summit by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

The proposals Obama listed are: sending investigators disguised as patients to uncover fraud and waste, expanding medical malpractice reform pilot programs, increasing payments to Medicaid providers and expanding the use of health savings accounts.

"I said throughout this process that I'd continue to draw on the best ideas from both parties, and I'm open to these proposals in that spirit," wrote Obama, who will make remarks today on a path forward for his legislation.

He rejected the GOP's preferred approach of scrapping the existing sweeping overhaul bills and starting afresh with step-by-step changes.

The Democrats' legislation would extend coverage to 30 million uninsured Americans over 10 years with a mandate for nearly everyone to buy insurance and a host of new requirements on insurers and employers. However, the package soon to reach the House will be less expensive than the one the House passed in November and will contain no government-run insurance program to compete with private insurers, making it more appealing to some moderates.

Democrats are eyeing a procedure known as "budget reconciliation" to get the legislation to Obama. Under this process, the House would pass the Senate-passed overhaul bill, and both chambers would pass a package of changes to the legislation under budget rules allowing a simple majority vote in the Senate.

Fast facts

Insurance inquiry

The scope of an investigation into health insurance rate increases expanded Tuesday as the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and its investigations subcommittee summoned the chief executives of four of the largest for-profit health insurers — WellPoint, UnitedHealth Group, Humana and Aetna — to testify March 23 about medical claims denied for individuals with pre-existing conditions.

Los Angeles Times

Obama open to adding GOP ideas to health plan 03/02/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 2, 2010 11:02pm]

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