Obama, House Dems Press for Health Care Votes

Erica Werner and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Google News, November 5, 2009

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Obama met at the White House with several Hispanic lawmakers who oppose any prohibition on the ability of illegal immigrants to use their own money to purchase health coverage in a new government-run marketplace.

“He listened to us. We listened to him,” said Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. “We made it very clear that 20 votes in the Hispanic caucus” depend on the language in the House bill. Currently, there is no prohibition in the House bill against illegal immigrants buying insurance in the exchange, but the White House backs such a ban and one exists in the Senate bill.

“I think that he got our message,” Velazquez said.

House Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., said later that she did not believe there would be any change to the House bill on immigration.

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Democratic opponents of abortion–under pressure from Catholic bishops–want stronger provisions written in the bill that no federal funds would be used to finance abortion in coverage bought in the government-run exchange.

Language being circulated by one anti-abortion Democrat, Rep. Brad Ellsworth of Indiana, seemed likely to be the basis for an agreement. Ellsworth’s language aims to strengthen stipulations already in the bill against federal money being used to pay for abortions. It would still allow people to pay for abortion coverage with their own money.

The language was still being negotiated late Thursday, but Slaughter said she expected it to be included in the bill.

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If Democrats were coalescing, so were their opponents. Thousands of conservatives rallied outside the Capitol on Thursday, chanting “Kill the bill!”

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For the first time, almost all individuals would be required to purchase insurance or pay a fine, and employers would be required to insure their employees. Insurance companies would be barred from denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions or charging much higher rates to older people.

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