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Analysis: Paring back health care not so easy

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WASHINGTON – Trimming back the 2,000-page, trillion-dollar Democratic health care bills to the parts that average folks understand and like may not be as simple as it sounds. A complete ban on insurance companies denying coverage to people with medical problems would be out of the question. Forget about guaranteed health insurance for all Americans — it costs too much. Still, Congress might be able to craft legislation that takes some rough edges off today's coverage problems and makes progress in controlling costs. That's if Democrats and Republicans can call a truce. Republicans, who for months have been urging "commonsense" alternatives to the Democrats' sweeping overhaul plan, may still be unwilling to help pass anything that lets President Barack Obama claim an election-year victory. They'll have 41 votes in the Senate to block it once Massachusetts' Scott Brown is seated. Yet the nation's health care system is unlikely to heal itself. The number of uninsured will rise above 50 million unless government steps in, while ballooning costs could leave the baby boom generation with a bare-bones Medicare. "The problems that exist in our health care system are real problems," said Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., a moderate who has worked to find compromise with Republicans. "It would be unfortunate if we were to just set aside significant health care reforms." Obama has suggested shifting the focus to popular proposals like banning denial of coverage to those with medical problems. That particular fix is unlikely because it would encourage people to put off getting insurance until they're sick, driving up premiums for everybody else. "In health care, everything fits together," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. "It's very hard to say we can cut this out and do that." Banning pre-existing condition denials would have to go hand-in-hand with coverage for all.

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