Problems of Abortion and Immigration to Be Solved Before Landmark Health Care Vote

Two unsolved issues —abortion and immigration— stand between House Democratic leaders and a landmark vote on President Barack Obama's promised remake of the nation's health care system.

And although they're confident they'll succeed, Democratic leaders have yet to nail down the votes they'll need to pass their sweeping bill. They're aiming for floor action to begin as early as Friday and finish before Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

Or, as Majority Leader Steny Hoyer put it when asked when the House would take up the health care bill, "Friday or Saturday or Monday or Tuesday."

"We want to make sure it's correct," Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters Monday, The Associated Press reports.

It was also reported, although the issues are small parts of the legislation, they have become flash points for Republicans and Democrats that could determine whether key lawmakers support the bill.

Some Democrats are concerned that the House bill would allow illegal immigrants to participate in new exchanges designed to help individuals and smaller employers buy insurance.

While those immigrants wouldn't have access to government subsidies to buy insurance, the bill leaves open the possibility that they could participate in the public health-insurance plan if they paid the premiums out of their own pockets.

It is one area where the House bill contrasts with what the White House is seeking in the health-care overhaul. President Barack Obama has pledged that the health overhaul won't apply to people who are in the U.S. illegally, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Meanwhile, economists skeptical about a U.S. government-run health-insurance plan received new evidence to support their argument that it won’t force private insurers to cut premiums.

The Congressional Budget Office says a version of the so- called public option backed by House Democrats would charge “somewhat higher” premiums than the average private insurance policy offered on a government-sponsored exchange to be set up to sell coverage to small businesses and individuals.

That counters claims by President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that the public option would charge lower premiums to “keep insurers honest.”

One reason premiums may be higher: Pelosi, seeking votes to pass a $1.055 trillion House health bill, decided against a “robust” public option, which would peg doctor reimbursements to Medicare rates to cut costs. Instead, she proposed that the public option negotiate fees it pays providers, Bloomberg reports.

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