House cuts health care bill cost

House leaders have cut the cost of their health-care overhaul to around $871 billion over the next decade, Democratic sources said Tuesday night, and were working to line up votes for the package with the aim of bringing it before the full House early next month.

The $871 billion estimate — well under the $900 billion limit set by President Obama — is the latest of several versions scored by congressional budget analysts, according to a Democratic aide, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss private talks. The measure would include a government-run insurance plan that pays providers at rates tied to Medicare, the aide added. That so-called “robust” public option is preferred by liberals because it would save the government money and could force private insurers to lower their own reimbursement rates, driving down the cost of health care overall.

But the idea is opposed by many conservative Democrats from rural areas, where Medicare rates are well below the national average. A new insurance plan that paid such low rates would be devastating to their communities financially, these Democrats say. Instead, they argue that any public plan should negotiate rates directly with providers, as private plans do.

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