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Health-Care Overhaul May Advance With US House Deal, Cost Cut

|Includes: Hythiam, Inc. (HYTM)

Top Democrats in Congress quelled a rebellion by party lawmakers over legislation overhauling the US health-care system, and the measure gained momentum in both the House and Senate. White House officials and congressional leaders struck a deal with dissident Democrats who had blocked the bill in the House for weeks. In the Senate, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said his effort to reach a bipartisan accord will be boosted by new estimates lowering the cost of the plan. Plans emerging in each chamber require that all Americans get health insurance and embrace the idea of nonprofit cooperatives to help achieve that goal. Senate negotiators are leaning against requiring employers to offer coverage or pay a penalty, and the new House agreement scales back a previous mandate so only the biggest businesses face fees. Both proposals will cost less than US$1 T after more savings are found in the system, according to lawmakers. The legislators also moved closer on an issue that has held up talks: the creation of a government-run insurance program to compete with private companies such as Minnetonka, Minnesota- based UnitedHealth Group Inc. While the Senate Finance Committee may drop the idea, the latest House deal scales it back, requiring that a “public option” negotiate rates with providers instead of pegging them to Medicare, the U.S. program for the elderly. President Barack Obama has said he favors a public option.

'Disclosure: Long HYTM CLRA