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Eye on Health Care Reform

Grading the Public Options That Already Exist

Nov. 9: This post has been corrected.

Getty Images Pundits and politicians from both sides of the fence have been hollering themselves blue about a potential public health care option. Instead of relying on private insurers, the government would insure people itself. The idea is that if a government-run option were offered to compete with private insurers, it could help keep pricing in check and ensure quality.

Two of the three health care reform bills in Congress have a public option. What might a public option look like in practice? One way to find out is to look at what's already out there. About a third of Americans already get health care from a publicly administered program. From celebrated programs like the VA's or the military's, to the troubled ones like the Indian Health Services, here's a snapshot of how they actually work.

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Medicare Drug Planners Now Lobbyists, With Billions at Stake

Oct. 21: This post has been corrected.

 A version of this story was co-produced with the CBS News investigative unit for CBS Evening News With Katie Couric and aired on that program on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2009.

(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Six years ago, a group of lawmakers and aides crafted Medicare Part D, the prescription drug program for seniors that has produced billions of dollars of profits for pharmaceutical companies.

Today, at least 25 of those key players are back, but this time they’re lobbyists, trying to persuade their former colleagues to protect the lucrative system during the health care reform negotiations.

The role of big players like Billy Tauzin — the former Republican representative from Louisiana who is now president of PhRMA, the drug industry’s lobbying group — has been long understood. But a ProPublica analysis shows that the drug industry’s position is also being promoted by other foot soldiers from the Part D legislative process, from committee aides to top Bush administration officials.

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Health Care Reform: Search the Competing Bills—and See What Hoops They Have to Jump Through

President Barack Obama addresses a joint session of Congress at the Capitol to urge passage of his national health care plan on Sept. 9, 2009. (Jason Reed-Pool/Getty Images)The hubbub has subsided after President Obama's health care speech, but reform's treacherous route through Congress remains the same.

Obama called for reining in the insurance industry, creating a public option to help make insurance available to everyone, and requiring everyone to have coverage. But he must still reconcile his views with proposals in the House and the Senate, which differ from one another and from what the president outlined.

For people out there who don't like to read 1,000-page bills, we have posted to our document viewer the health care reform bills being considered by Congress. So far, there is one bill in the Senate, with one more to come, and one in the House. With the documents in the viewer you can search for specific terms, or link directly to pages in the bill -- and we'll be keeping the bills up-to-date as they change. (Search the Senate bill and the House bill.)

Click below to read more about the bills -- and the steps (and senators) they'll have to make it past before they can become laws.

Health Care Reform Primer: How Might the Changes Affect You

Protesters hold signs while Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., meets with constituents to discuss health care reform at a Labor Day festival on Sept. 7, 2009 in Louisville, Colo. (John Moore/Getty Images)Much of the coverage of the health care reform process has left consumers -- and many of us here at ProPublica -- struggling to understand just how the various proposals in play would affect them.

To begin to tackle that, we partnered with American Public Media's Public Insight Network team, asking readers and listeners to complete a health care questionnaire. Hundreds of you responded, leaving us with a much clearer picture of what people across the country are actually coping with, and what people want to know. (Take a look at the Public Insight Network's interactive map of survey responses.)

Over the next few weeks, we will be profiling survey respondents, looking at how the proposed reforms will affect their situations.

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Health Care Reform Step-by-Step

Graphic: How the Health Care Bill Passed

Resources
Photo by flickr user sparkieblues http://www.flickr.com/photos/sparkieblues/3971258497/

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