[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/02/24/obama.poll/art.obama.speech.gi.jpg caption="If enacted, Obama's plan will constitute the biggest expansion of federal health care guarantees in 40 years."]
The Obama administration raised the stakes in the health care debate Monday, releasing a new blueprint that seeks to bridge the gap between measures passed by the Senate and House of Representatives last year.
If enacted, the president's sweeping compromise plan would constitute the biggest expansion of federal health care guarantees since the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid over four decades ago.
Among other things, it would close the Medicare prescription drug "donut hole," increase federal subsidies to help people buy insurance, and give the federal government new authority to block excessive rate hikes by health insurance companies.
It increases the threshold - relative to the Senate bill - under which a tax on high-end health insurance plans would kick in.
President Barack Obama's plan does not include a government-run public health insurance option, an idea strongly backed by liberal Democrats but fiercely opposed by both Republicans and key Democratic moderates.
It also eliminates a deeply unpopular provision in the Senate bill worked in by Sen. Ben Nelson, a Nebraska Democrat, that exempts that state from paying increased Medicaid expenses.
Administration officials claimed the measure would cut the deficit by $100 billion over the next ten years, but declined to provide a firm price tag for the plan. The bill approved by the Senate would cost an estimated $871 billion; the more expansive House plan has been estimated to cost over $1 trillion.
The release of the plan sets the stage for a critical televised health care summit with top congressional Republicans on Thursday. The White House is trying to pressure GOP leaders to present a detailed alternative proposal in advance of the meeting.
"We view this as the opening bid for the health meeting" on Thursday, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer told reporters.
"We took our best shot at bridging the differences" between the House and Senate bills. "It is our hope the Republicans will come together around (their) plan and post it on-line" before the meeting.
Obama, he claimed, will come to Thursday's meeting "with an open mind." The president's willing to back decent Republican ideas if the two sides can have an "honest, open, substantive discussion" where "both parties can get off their talking points."
Republican leaders have indicated they will attend the meeting, but have repeatedly urged Democrats to scrap the Senate and House bills completely.
"Nearly one year ago, the president moderated a health care summit that kicked off a national debate that has led us to where we are today: a partisan bill devoid of support from the American people and a diminished faith in this government's capacity to listen," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said Monday.
"Let's not make the same mistake twice."
–CNN's Dana Bash and Alan Silverleib contributed to this report.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/22/art.crime.rodriguez.missing.jpg caption="Carlos Rodriguez, 39, escaped from the St. Tammany Parish Jail on Saturday night. "]
An inmate awaiting trial for murder escaped Saturday night from a Louisiana jail, authorities said.
The fugitive, Carlos Rodriguez, made his getaway from a secure location inside the St. Tammany Parish Jail just before 10 p.m., said Capt. George Bonnett, spokesman for the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office.
“He was housed in a dorm-style containment area,” Bonnett told CNN, "and he was in there when he escaped.”
A massive search for Rodriguez, 39, is under way and has involved hundreds of deputies. Multiple law enforcement agencies at all jurisdictional levels have been alerted, the sheriff’s office said.
Rodriguez, was charged in connection with a murder-for-hire plot and is expected to be tried for murder next year, Bonnett said.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2007/POLITICS/09/29/gingrich/art.gingrich.gi.jpg caption="Former White House speaker Gingrich was one of CPAC's winners."]
CNN Political Editor
I am pretty sure I met the next leader of the conservative movement during a three-day confab of activists that wrapped up Saturday here in the nation's capital. I definitely shook hands with a future congressman or maybe even a governor.
Maybe it was the 14-year-old conservative wonder-kid Jonathan Krohn, who champions "conservatism based on reality" and was a prominent speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Seriously, 14 years old and he is talking about "conservatism based on reality." He has even written a book about it: "Defining Conservatism."
When I was 14, I was trying to learn how to hit a fastball. If you follow baseball, you know that spring training has started in Arizona and Florida, and I am writing this column from Washington.
Oh well. I wonder if Krohn can hit a fastball?
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/01/art.granholm.cnn.jpg caption="Granholm: overstated the break that manufacturers get in countries with universal health care."]
Arguing for the need for a sweeping overhaul of the U.S. health-care system, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm said Sunday the high cost of health insurance is driving jobs in her state's automotive plants north
across the border to Canada.
Speaking on "Fox News Sunday," Granholm, a Democrat, said every car built in the United States "has $1,600 worth of health care cost embedded in it, whereas other countries - and they're our competitors - don't have that cost.'
"Those auto companies weren't going there because of regulation, or taxes or anything, they were going there because there's a partnership on the part of the Canadian government with health care," Granholm said. "Now, we don't want to create that exact same system, but I can tell you that other countries are providing health care for their businesses so they can compete globally. "
Fact Check: Does Canada's health system save auto manufacturers $1,600 a car?
- Granholm cited a widely circulated figure often attributed to General Motors. A CNN report in 2008 found that the costs of the health plans negotiated with GM's unions added about $1,600 to the cost of a vehicle.
- Canadian industrial recruiters do cite the country's government-paid health insurance as a plus in attracting industry. A brochure put out by Ontario's provincial Ministry of Economic Development and Trade touts it as a "clear advantage" in core operating costs for companies located there.
- But is the score $1,600 to nothing? There's a big gap, but health care in other countries not cost-free. Ontario officials say the cost of employee health benefits for companies there is about half what their U.S.-based counterparts would pay. And the comparable figure for Japanese automaker Toyota's plants back home, where the government requires companies to provide health coverage to employees, is about is about $200.
The figure Granholm cited for U.S. automakers matches up with other published estimates. But her comments appear to overstate the break that manufacturers get in countries with universal health care.
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CNN International Correspondent
For more than a week, CNN International Correspondent Atia Abawi has been embedded with U.S. Marines who are working alongside Afghan soldiers to rout out Taliban forces from the southern Afghan province of Marjah. Abawi filed this inside look at Operation Moshtarak:
It's been over a week now since Operation Moshtarak began here in southern Afghanistan. The city of Marjah shakes with the sound of improvised explosive devices, most of them set off by controlled explosions. Between IED blasts, the air is filled with the sounds of whizzing bullets, booming mortars, clacking helicopters, and other noises of war that I can't even express in writing.
The U.S. Marines and the Afghan Army are fighting a fierce battle against the Taliban inside Marjah while other NATO forces are in the surrounding towns in villages. The story started well before the launch of Operation Moshtarak on February 13. In fact, journalists – aware of the impending operation – began deploying to Helmand province at the beginning of the month.