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U.S. News

FACTBOX: Government players in U.S. healthcare debate

(Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers return from a weeklong break with the daunting task of finding common ground on President Barack Obama’s top legislative priority -- a huge, costly healthcare overhaul.

Here are some major government and congressional players:

* Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius leads Obama’s push to overhaul the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare industry by the end of the year. The former governor had been Kansas health insurance commissioner for eight years.

* Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of White House Office of Health Reform, is charged with coordinating reform efforts with Congress. DeParle headed the Health Care Financing Administration (now Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) during ex-President Bill Clinton’s administration. She was also a commissioner of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, which advises Congress on Medicare issues.

* Rahm Emanuel, White House Chief of Staff, is a former congressman who was also a senior adviser to Clinton. He was chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, fourth in the hierarchy of Democratic leaders of the House of Representatives, before joining the Obama administration.

* House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her number two, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, have vowed to pass an overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system before Congress takes its August recess.

* Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Democrat, and the panel’s senior Republican, Sen. Chuck Grassley, have taken the lead in the debate, writing legislation aimed at reducing soaring costs and expanding coverage to an estimated 46 million Americans who lack health insurance.

* Senate Health Committee Chairman Edward Kennedy, a Democrat, has been a Senate leader on health care reform, pushing for a Patient’s Bill of Rights and expansion of Medicare, to lower prescription drug costs. It’s unclear how active a role he may play as he has an incurable brain tumor.

* Sen. Mike Enzi, senior Republican on the Senate Health panel, is an advocate for bipartisan support for healthcare reform. But Enzi says government-run healthcare is not the answer and has introduced a bill listing 10 steps to “market-based solutions.”

* House Energy and Commerce committee chairman Henry Waxman, a Democrat, has championed reform efforts, including expanded coverage for children, the elderly, persons with disabilities and low-income families.

* Joe Barton, the senior Republican on the House Energy panel, says ensuring Americans can afford the care they need is an important priority. He believes a more market-based approach will mean greater flexibility, efficiency and lower costs.

* House Ways and Means chairman Charles Rangel, a Democrat, supports an expansion of healthcare to include Americans who lack coverage. He says the United States must provide for children and working people the same kind of coverage Medicare provides for the elderly.

* Representative Dave Camp, the senior Republican on the House Ways and Means panel, says Republican lawmakers are ready to work with the Democratic majority, but says the Democrats are making reform a partisan issue. Camp says it can and should be done without making the government the sole provider.

Reporting by JoAnne Allen, editing by Patricia Zengerle

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