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Senate healthcare bill now relies on regulation

Los Angeles Times, December 18, 2009

When Senate Democratic leaders agreed this week to remove a public insurance plan from their massive healthcare bill, they did more than quash a liberal dream of expanding the government safety net. They effectively pinned their hopes of guaranteeing coverage to all Americans on a far more conventional prescription: government regulation. The change sprang from a compromise made to placate conservative Democrats wary of a new government program. But shorn of a "public option," the Senate healthcare bill has reverted to a long-established practice of leveraging government power to police the private sector, rather than compete with it. Despite the resistance among Republicans and conservatives to more government regulation, even the insurance industry has agreed to broad new oversight of their business in exchange for the prospect of gaining millions of new customers. The expanded regulation of insurance programs ultimately could ripple through the entire healthcare system, affecting how doctors, hospitals, and other providers care for their patients.