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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Public option becomes real option in health care debate

Democratic leaders in the Senate and House have concluded that a government-run insurance plan is the cheapest way to expand health coverage, and they sought Friday to rally support for the idea, prospects for which have gone in a few short weeks from bleak to bright.

The shift in momentum is so dramatic that many lawmakers now predict that President Obama will sign a final bill that includes some form of government-sponsored insurance for people who do not receive coverage through the workplace. Even Democrats with strong reservations about expanding government’s role in the health-care system say they are reconsidering the approach in hopes of making low-cost plans broadly available.

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Pelosi still needs more votes

Speaker Nancy Pelosi stepped up the pressure on House Democrats on Friday to support her preferred version of legislation that would require the federal government to sell health insurance in competition with private insurers.

Her action came amid indications that Ms. Pelosi had not locked down the votes for the proposal, the most contentious element in a bill that would provide health insurance to more than 35 million people, at cost of nearly $900 billion over 10 years.

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Reid close to votes needed for public option

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid closed in on clinching 60 votes for a public health insurance option Friday as two key moderates signaled they wouldn’t stand in his way – clearing a path for Reid to finish work on a bill as early as Tuesday, Democratic officials said.

The moves came a day after Reid presented his idea for a public plan with a state “opt-out” to a skeptical President Barack Obama, who didn’t balk at the idea but questioned whether Reid could truly round up the votes, two sources familiar with the Oval Office meeting said.

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Obama to banks: Help small businesses

Banks should return the favor they received in their recent taxpayer-financed bailout by lending more money to small businesses, President Barack Obama said Saturday.

In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama said too many small business owners remain unable to get credit despite administration steps to jump-start lending, which was virtually frozen when the financial crisis took hold last year.

“These are the very taxpayers who stood by America’s banks in a crisis, and now it’s time for our banks to stand by creditworthy small businesses and make the loans they need to open their doors, grow their operations and create new jobs,” Obama said.

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Bank failures top 100 for year, more coming

It’s a big number that only tells part of the story. The number of banks that have failed so far this year topped 100 on Friday — hitting 106 by the end of the day — the most in nearly two decades. But the trouble in the banking system from bad loans and the recession goes even deeper.

Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of other banks remain open even though they are as weak as many that have been shuttered. Regulators are seizing banks slowly and selectively — partly to avoid inciting panic and partly because buyers for bad banks are hard to find.

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Obama’s consumer protection plan faces long fight

Take a hard look now. A new agency that consumers were promised would make bankers, credit card companies and mortgage lenders treat them fairly will never look as strong again.

Legislation to establish President Barack Obama’s proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency cleared a key hurdle this week. But it’s already been watered down from what Obama proposed and will likely become even weaker when it comes up against higher hurdles on the House floor and in the Senate. It may even die along the way.

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