[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.
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