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Health Care Storm Clouds Near

And that isn’t the only sticking point: Hospitals, for one, could peel off if they face cuts that could amount to as much as $250 billion over the next decade.

“Doctors, hospitals and insurers are equipped and stand ready and are very well-positioned to be extremely helpful in pushing legislation through or coming out against it,” a second health care lobbyist said.

For several months, Baucus and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, led simultaneous negotiations on a reform bill that — given the politics of the issue — were considered remarkably bipartisan. Baucus has worked closely with Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and Kennedy has done the same with HELP ranking member Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.).

Similarly, discussions with the business community and insurance industry were notably amicable and cooperative. Representatives of both have been at the negotiating table from the beginning.

But cracks in this façade have begun to emerge over the past few weeks — both on Capitol Hill and downtown.

Democrats, mindful of the political breakdown in Congress and revolt in the business community that defeated the push for health care reform in 1993, are hopeful that history doesn’t repeat itself.

“I would just hope that those who have vested interests in reform — whether it’s the business community, whether it’s the labor unions, whether it’s provider groups or hospitals or doctors or advocacy groups for different illnesses — that they will wait to see what the final product looks like before they start trying to run their ads,” Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) said Monday. “Because I think if you start to do that, there could be almost a race to see how many ads you can get up on so many different points without looking at the full picture.”

Congressional Republicans have placed particular emphasis on the government-run, public plan option supported by Obama and Democratic Congressional leaders. The GOP believes this proposal would diminish the quality of care and lead to medical rationing. The business community is equally concerned, but is growing even more worried about the costs of reform and is nervous that it might be slapped with the bill.

Republicans view an upheaval by the business community as their only chance to win the health care battle.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has used his opening floor remarks for the last five business days to push the Republicans’ message on health care. He acknowledged on Monday that it would be helpful to the GOP’s cause to get help from the outside and encouraged anyone who shares his opposition to the public plan option and other problematic health care proposals to voice their opinions.

“I think it’s important to hear from people who are out in the country who are going to be affected by the idea that the government would adopt a plan here from which no one is going to be able to compete. People who think that’s a bad solution ought to speak up,” McConnell said.

“I think now’s a great time to do it, we’re moving into this debate in a major way and we need to hear from our constituents who may have a contrary view to that of the administration.”

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