Federal health policy likely to continue on same track after election

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President Bush's re-election and Republican gains in the House and Senate signal that health policy likely will continue the same way it has been moving, without major reform.

Former Democrat presidential nominee John Kerry's healthcare proposals would have cost between $653 billion and $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years, according to administration officials. That would have expanded public health insurance, increasing federal funding in case of catastrophe and insuring between 25.2 million and 27.3 million uninsured.

In contrast, Bush's proposed plan is projected to cost between $90 billion and $190 billion and expand insurance for anywhere from 2.1 million to 8.2 million uninsured by focusing on tax subsidies and market-based incentives, his supporters say.

Although experts predict that medical tort reform will be Bush's main priority during his second term, helping the millions of uninsured through an "affordability crisis" also will be essential, said AFL-CIO's Gerald Shea.

Health committee leadership also will likely stay the same. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-IA) and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Judd Gregg (R-NH) held onto their seats. Key committee leaders on healthcare in the House faced no major challenges. Grassley said that addressing the uninsured would be his top priority in the upcoming term.