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U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn offers GOP’s health care prescription

BY CHRIS CASTEEL Published: May 21, 2009
WASHINGTON — Sen. Tom Coburn and other Republican lawmakers unveiled a health care reform plan Wednesday aimed at getting everyone but the elderly into a private insurance plan.

Coburn, R-Muskogee, said the government doesn’t "have a good track record” on most of the health care programs it runs, including Medicaid, the Indian Health Service and care for veterans.

The complex proposal made by Coburn and his GOP colleagues would include a major change in the way employer-provided health insurance is treated under the tax code.

It would eliminate the tax "exclusion” workers now get on their employer-provided insurance, meaning the value of the benefit would be subject to income taxes.

But Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said everyone would get a tax credit that would more than make up for the loss of the exclusion. And he said eliminating it would make the tax code more fair to the self-employed and others who purchase health insurance.

The plan would set up state "exchanges” in which private insurance companies would offer a variety of plans for sale. Even those currently on Medicaid, which provides health care for low-income people, would purchase plans through the exchanges, relieving states of rapidly rising Medicaid costs.

Coburn, R-Muskogee, said people on Medicaid would have a much larger selection of doctors and better care if they bought private insurance plans.

Senator pushes

immigration changes

Contending that U.S. borders are more secure than ever, Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer said Wednesday it’s time for the White House and Congress to overhaul immigration laws to stem the number of people coming into and living illegally in the U.S. "We can pass strong, fair, practical and effective immigration reform this year,” said Schumer, D-N.Y. President Barack Obama plans next month to meet with a small bipartisan group of Senate and House leaders to discuss immigration with the intention of beginning debate on the issue later this year, according to an administration official who requested anonymity. At a hearing on border security Wednesday, Schumer cited reports from the Customs and Border Protection officials saying that the number of people arrested as they tried to cross U.S. borders illegally has dropped.

Supreme court rumors swirl
An official says President Barack Obama has started meeting potential Supreme Court nominees. One of them is believed to be federal appeals court Judge Diane Wood. Obama is drawing closer to choosing a nominee to succeed retiring Justice David Souter. An announcement is expected this month. An official familiar with Obama’s deliberations said he has started meeting with candidates but did not say with whom. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.



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