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Split Still Wide on Health Care

Cardin, a strong supporter of the public-plan option, said it would add more competition to the marketplace and ensure that coverage was available in areas where private insurers are hard to find. Obama, who campaigned last year on the need to implement a government-run insurance option but has been relatively quiet on the matter since moving into the White House, said during his prime-time news conference last week that he favors including a public plan in any final health care deal.

But a majority of Republicans, and a significant number of centrist Democrats, hold starkly different views. Specter, who last week bolted the GOP for the Democratic Party, made his opposition plain during a television interview Sunday.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) declined to criticize a government-run health coverage option specifically. But in discussing his fears over a health care overhaul, Shelby said he’s worried that the private insurance industry will be gutted in favor of “everything being central to the government,” diminishing a patient’s ability to choose doctors and receive quality care.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) declined to speak out against a government-run insurance component. But in expressing the principles she believes health care reform should be built upon, Landrieu — a centrist on key issues like energy and the environment — sounded like a Republican.

“Democrats and President Obama are trying to give people a plan that they can afford that gives them the health care they want, when they want it, and that saves money for the Treasury,” Landrieu said. “We need the kind of change in a health care system where they choose their own doctor, choose their own hospital, have something that’s affordable — and when they need treatment they get it right away.”

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