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Health Insurers, Amid Historic Vote, Mired in Risk

WASHINGTON ( TheStreet) -- On the eve of reform, health insurers that were in a fit of palpitations over possible profit erosion released their lobbyists, America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), to snuff out pending legislation.

Health-insurance companies thought this day would never come. Decade after decade, the industry raised prices faster than inflation and resisted reform while laughing all the way to the bank. Given a seat at the table, they figured that if they played along with a popular president, they could shape the bill to their liking or quietly undermine it with screaming town-hall protesters.

The health-insurance companies miscalculated. AHIP issued a report threatening to raise insurance premiums even further if senators and representatives pass the $829 billion plan, which would require Americans to obtain insurance yet impose restrictions on insurance companies from denying coverage on pre-existing conditions.

Insanely high health-care costs have finally pushed legislative gridlock past the breaking point.

Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus called for a vote on his health-care reform plan on Tuesday that would get the bill out of committee and off to the floor for melding with the health-reform bills of other committees. The Baucus plan passed by a party-line vote of 14 to 9, with all Democratic Party senators voting in support and all but one Republican in opposition. In a crossover "yes" vote, Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine warned fellow Republicans and conservative Democrats not to be caught on the wrong side of history on the issue. Her support makes finding a filibuster-proof block of 60 votes easier to secure for final passage.

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