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Analysts say Massachusetts is an example where the coverage guarantee has worked well, but it's also a state that requires everyone to buy health coverage or suffer a tax penalty.
Some key Democratic lawmakers have already expressed support for an individual mandate. The concept was a centerpiece of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's health care plan. It was also part of the blueprint offered last week by Sen. Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
Chris Jennings, senior health care adviser in the White House during the Clinton years, said it remains to be seen whether the industry will support other key components of health care reform. Nevertheless, he called it an important contribution to the coming debate.
"It sends the signal that broad health reform can happen," Jennings said. "There are so many in Washington who are the gloom and doom prophesiers who believe it's impossible."
However, Consumer Watchdog, a consumer advocacy group, called the insurers' position self-serving.
"If consumers can't afford coverage or refuse to buy it, they'll face tax penalties. Turning the U.S. government into a collection agency for for-profit health insurers is not universal health care, it's full employment for HMO executives," said Jerry Flanagan, the group's health care policy director.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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