The Trail: A Daily Diary of Campaign 2008


Health Care

Senate Republicans Send Obama Letter Opposing Public Health Plan

By Perry Bacon Jr.
All but one of the ten Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee signed a letter to President Obama today outlining their opposition to a so-called public option in a health care overhaul, illustrating what has become the sharpest divide between the two parties on this issue.

"Washington-run programs undermine market-based competition through their ability to impose price controls and shift costs to other purchasers," the Republicans wrote. "Forcing free market plans to compete with these government-run programs would create an unlevel playing field and inevitably doom true competition."

Only Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) declined to sign the letter from the GOP members of the committee, which has been meeting for weeks to hash out a bipartisan comprise on health care legislation. The letter comes less than a week after Obama wrote to Congress declaring his support for creating a government-sponsored insurance program to compete directly with existing private insurance plans.

The top Republican on the Finance Committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), has sharply criticized Obama's embrace of the public plan, but the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a group of more than 70 of the most liberal Democrats in the House, is insisting any health care legislation include such a provision.

Posted at 3:20 PM ET on Jun 8, 2009  | Category:  Health Care
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I want to know why I have to pay for this? I want to make something understood. If you want something for nothing you are wrong! Get over these feelings of entitlement and go to work. This is the very reason this country is in the position it is in now. What a bail out. like water from a sinking ship!

I am a business owner and my clients do not pay for my insurance I do. There is no reason anyone should be mandated by the federal government to provide health insurance or any other benefit for anyone else.

It is already a sad fact that corporate america is going broke and my tax dollars are being squandered on programs that do not and will not work. Look at GM.

Leave the economy and the private sector alone!

I am becoming embarrassed to live in this country

Posted by: thatsnotright | June 10, 2009 6:23 PM

It would be well for congress to examine the Kaiser-Permanente NON PROFIT HMO which emphasizes preventive medicine. I think that cloning that system would make an excellent choice for any new plan as part of a private provider solution.

Posted by: thegor | June 9, 2009 4:04 PM

It is more than apparent that the health insurance lobbyists - whom it was reported just days ago were ramping up their efforts with Congress to oppose this proposal - are colluding with Congressional members...for a premium donation to the campaign coffers, of stop any type of government sponsored or "hybrid" plans for health insurance. The chicanery of AIG and their subsidiaries using high cost premiums to fund elaborate exotic broker vacations contiues. The "Corporate-Congress Cartel" at its highest volume yet.

Posted by: InSpiredVentures | June 9, 2009 2:24 PM

With all due respect, when are you guys at the Post going to do your job? Anyone who has had even the most modest instruction in economics 101 from a mid-level college, can readily see what Obama is doing. This man is single handedly wrecking the U.S. economy and you at the Post say nothing. When the American people finally wake up and see what has happened to their country, you will be held complicit and responsible your lack of action and your lack of truthful appraisal of this man.
Does the Washington Post want to go the route of the NY Times and become a joke with zero credibility as a government owned media stooge? Obama has no credibility, and the state run media has no credibility either, does the Post want to still be a part of this consortium?

Posted by: walterndebby | June 9, 2009 2:07 PM

Years ago , traveling from Chicago to Providence on AA or UA Airlines , round trip fare was anywhere from $700-$1000 with no saturday night stay.

THat is how the airlines penalized business travelers.

Low and behold, Southwest came into the market, offered a round trip fare same days/times for less than 200.00USD

Funny- you know what UA and AA did- they dropped their $700-$1000 airfares to MATCH Southwest Airlines.

Do you know in Business schools across the country , the airline that is taught for 'successful' business models- SOUTHWEST AIRLINES

Now- what about a PUBLIC PLAN - ?

Isn't that free market?

Some people will pay higher price on AA or UA because they get more perks personally-

What is good for the company is Southwest really, yet people prefer the higher UA or AA fares for their opwn personal reason.

We want REAL choices- for Sen Snowe to have a default plan - is not acceptable.

Why did these insurance companies not change their behavior years ago.

Does anyone recall the CEO pay of UNITED HEALTHCARE 2 years ago?


Posted by: sasha2008 | June 9, 2009 1:44 PM

Heath care reform is long overdue as people with any sense of where a large portion of the budget know. Those who argue that privatization is the only way to go have ignored what the free market system has brought us to in the automobile and banking industries. As noted in another comment. Those legislators most reluctant to work for reform receive large sums of money from the private sectors of the healthe care system. If we don't do something with health care reform the Congress has no one to blame but itself for the spiraling national deficit. It is time they become accountable rather than to shift the blame to President Obama who was elected to bring change to Washington. Those in Congress who continue to oppose him will find themselve in grave danger when the time for re-election arrives. The negative aspects of of government run health care program are arguments that are ill-founded and several decades old. Let those who rely on them get the most recent facts. Yes, the taxes are higher, but the savings in health care costs seem to be a fair exchange. I am weary of reading arguments that are not based on current facts.

Posted by: sunny7wilt1 | June 9, 2009 12:38 PM

When will the Republicans realize that for their precious business owners, profits will go up with a national health care plan ,and, the countrys' health will also go up meaning less lost time due to sick days.
If GM wasn't the largest provider of health benifits maybe it wsould still be solvent.
Listen to Howard Dean evereyone.

Posted by: Phritz | June 9, 2009 12:35 PM

All this blather about "free market" is a canard. Let's suppose we fired all the baseball umpires and told the Yankess and Red Sox to go play a game. How do you think that would turn out?

In health care, free market means cherry pick the healthy customers, collect the premiumns, deny benefits, and let the ones who truly need care fend for themselves. Even Warren Buffet acknowledges that the free market is NOT the solution to every problem. When Jesus healed the blind, he didn't ask for a co-payment and "please fill out this form so I can collect the balance from Blue Cross." I would ask our Republican collegues to please address how both Jesus and the Oracle from Omaha are wrong.

It is stunningly cynical to claim that the government can't do anything right, but if we give citizens the chance to let government try, they will be so good at it that they will drive out the private insurers. On health insurance, I'm pro-choice.

Posted by: paulchouinard | June 9, 2009 12:03 PM

Dear Washington Post:

You guys are suppose to be intelligent, well-read people, then haven't you seen that socialized, government run health care does not work and has not worked in Canada and Great Britain. It is a disaster in those countries. Long lines, rationing, long waits for operations, poor care, poorly paid doctors and nurses, bad morale among the staff, and an assorted number of problems. Where will the staff of the Washington Post go for their medical needs under Obamacare? I bet you will be looking for a type of black market care.

A question to the Post, has the federal government ever been able to competently run anything? No, they have not. And the U. S. Armed Forces is not a branch of the civilian federal government. The real question to the Post, why are the American People so stupid as to be easily maneuvered by Obama's state run media?

Posted by: walterndebby | June 9, 2009 11:50 AM

If employers have to continue furnishing health care our free enterprise system will end as foreign nations provide health care for all which permits their businesses to charge lower prices for their products. Now GM is providing health care for 1 million people which is killing them.
Need a public option or there will be no real health care reform. Insurance companies love Republicans and the irony is that all insurance companies are located in democrat states such as Boston and New Haven.

Posted by: mascmen7 | June 9, 2009 11:40 AM

So the Republicans fear that a public health plan would drive the private insurance companies out of business?

Right on! Let's do it! Those vampires are right up there with the credit card companies in their determination to exploit us for their own profit. Who cares if they have to find some other endeavor to enrich themselves? At least they wouldn't have control of our ability to get health care, or the power to drive us to bankruptcy when we can't afford their 'services.'

Drive the insurance companies out of the picture? 'A consummation devoutly to be wished.'

Posted by: PeggyB1 | June 9, 2009 11:18 AM

And everyone who thinks the Government can run healthcare better than the looneytunes please raise their hand.

We do need to address the health care issue but not by the government and especially not by the nuts running the government right now.

Posted by: tjmlrc | June 9, 2009 10:46 AM

If we just leave health care alone the free market will make everything work out right. The Government just needs to get out of the free market!

Posted by: almek11 | June 9, 2009 10:37 AM

"The free market is not working for us in health care because the government won't let it work!!!!"

The free market for healthcare doesn't work. Before all those reforms you cite, healthcare in America was even worse in terms of payment.

A genuinely viable public option would rein in the private companies' greed and force them to actually compete for customers.

Posted by: SeanC1 | June 9, 2009 12:06 AM

Yup, for all the money we pay those lovely private insurance companies, we have a medical system that ranks -- somewhere in the middle on most measures, and actually way down in the list on others. This is the country where poor folks can fall into spasms in an ER and be ignored for hours until they die.

I saw an interview with a nurse who had private health insurance, a health savings plan, and a sick husband when she found out she had cancer. The insurance didn't cover them adequately -- they had to declare bankruptcy.

Health problems are the most common reason for personal bankruptcy declarations in this country.

So, the system's broke.

Private insurance adds costs about 5 times those of public payers (note, we have state payers as well as the Medicare system). Why shouldn't we use it to start fixing this mess?

Posted by: thmas | June 8, 2009 11:28 PM

Government provided health care has only been created to fill a void left by the private sector! Basically to say govt programs such as medicare and medicade is why private sector insurance fails is to say people denied or unable to afford private sector insurance are the reason they fail!.....Well yah....thats the point isn't it...if the private sector can't take care of the entire countries health care needs, than they need to be supplemented by the public policy makers.

Why can't private sector insurance fill the void they left to be filled by medicare and medicade?......because they only wan't to make a profit and not provide actual long term insurance benefits. Private insurance is only in it for your premiums not for the masses.
Where is their incentive to provide actual benefits and services?

Posted by: AKABUD | June 8, 2009 10:13 PM

All of you people who keep claiming that the "free market has failed in providing health insurance" need to clue in real fast....We have no free market for health care! We have not had a free market for health care in decades! Thank Medicare, Medicaid, HIPPA, tax subsidies for employer provided health insurance, etc.... The free market is not working for us in health care because the government won't let it work!!!!

Posted by: BrittonBrewer2001 | June 8, 2009 10:00 PM

The Republican letter makes no sense! The goal should be to control costs and provide health care coverage to all citizens. Competition is good and it seems the public plan provides a better form of competition than the private sector only plan. Lets get on with it. If only 51 Senators vote for the plan so be it. Let the others explain to the voters why they oppose broader coverage at a lower cost. Medicare and the VA medical system both beat private insurance in terms of cost.

Posted by: cdierd1944 | June 8, 2009 9:46 PM

President Obama and the majority of Americans want the true reform of a strong public option choice included in the bill.

My suggestion for the Senate Finance Committee and the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee members who vote "NO" on a medical insurance public option choice in the med insurance reform bill clearly state the amount of career donations received from the Health Industry Sector so the whole country can hear you and see the price of your vote. Let them compete for your vote; US Senate seats and the lifestyle you’ve become habituated to (even in Montana, Nebraska, Iowa or Kentucky) have become quite pricey. Better yet, try showing up at your state Town Hall meetings--20 held last week in Montana, but no Senator Baucus to hear that his constituents want a public choice along with the private insurers and healthcare for all. It’s easier to just take the money and vote.

Posted by: Susan919 | June 8, 2009 9:33 PM

If the private insurance sector needs to pay lobbysists to protect their crooked operation.......They clearly don't want to have any changes on their antitrust control of this industry.

With Republicans signing a "pact" to limit insurance options for Americans goes to show how completely out of touch they are with main street and the voters. I hope this issue really seperates who should not be re-elected due to their strong lobbyist alliances.

The insurance industry is in the business of "denying healthcare benefits" not "providing health care benefits" it's as simple as that the incentive is for them to deny access and limit availability of this product whatever they way have too.

Unfortunately while this misdirected industry ruins families and kills and irreperably harms patients they continue to collect their premiums and venture even deeper into the corrupt world of combined insurance and banking investments operations.

Baiscally all they want is to get you to turn your money over then all they do is fight you and notify you of all the losses you are having to endure due to their business model of deception.

Private Health Insurance = denied or cost inaffective health care!

And oh yah lets allow these guys to get a foothold on the financial sytem also....they are surely qualified to not abuse this sector also. .....If you believe we should allow insurance as an industry to continue to sell us their lies....I have a bridge I wan't to sell you ! You can trust me!!!

Posted by: AKABUD | June 8, 2009 9:22 PM

I posted this earlier but I think its relevant:

Heehee! What a surprise!! The GOP is opposed!!

Years ago I retired at age 62. As a senior officer of a large corporation I was entitled to several years of company provided health benefits. My benefits would run out about 7 months before I was eligible for medicare.

Well in due course I applied for a private policy with the same insurer I had had most of my life.

"No. We dont want you. You have a pre-existing condition". Like anyone who is 64 doesn't.

Well the law in my state mandates that the insurer had to sell me a policy since I had no break in coverage. Unfortunately it doesn't mandate what the insurer could charge me.

The price for me alone was $1,120 per month.

My wife had already passed away. Since she was several years younger than I, didn't work, was covered by my company insurance and years away from medicare we would have had to find some way to isure herif she had lived - which is a problem facing millions.

Luckily I could afford my coverage and I only needed it for 7 months.

"Health care reform" without a government option program is not reform at all.

I've got my medicare and a good supplement policy (which by the way costs $390 per quarter and only serves as a backup to medicare). Without medicare there would be 40 million more old people without coverage.

No thanks to the "private sector".


Posted by: toritto | June 8, 2009 8:58 PM

debmries -

We pay 25% percent more because the private medical business is double dipping.

You'll notice that rates on public and paid policies keep going up while the numbers of private insured consumers in our country keeps going down?

Why is that?

Posted by: JohnQuimby | June 8, 2009 8:53 PM

debmries: Yea! Let all those frickin old people drop dead outside the emergency room doors or in their houses alone with their cats.


Posted by: toritto | June 8, 2009 8:40 PM

France has the No1 Health System according to WHO. So, Why isn't the US Congress using their model? They say it is because we started with private insurance in place, but the French overcame insurance industry opposition by permitting existing insurers to administer health care.

No excuses Congress... Quit protecting the Insurance Mafia.

Posted by: ryan_heart | June 8, 2009 8:39 PM

One question for all of you in support this healthcare plan of Obama's.
Since 42% of the taxpayers pay no taxes and most get back far more than just tax dollars and if the cutoff line is $16,000 for a single person and $100,000 for a family of 4, just who will pay for this plan to insure all Americans and the Illegals in this country?

Posted by: jhnjdy | June 8, 2009 8:35 PM

The lack of understanding and knowledge about our healthcare system currently is astonishing.

Here's some facts.

We pay 25% more for health insurance because of MEDICARE.

Our gov't has a coding policy with 17,000 codes that makes hospitals and doctors spend over 25% of their time figuring out how to get paid for services.

Everyone who has insurance is charge an additional 9% because of Medicare - which underpays doctors and hospitals for services so everyone else is charged a fee to cover "unpaid" losses by our gov't.

Our gov't is going to a new coding system for Medicare with get this 155,000 codes!!!! which is expected to cost us $32 billion and add more people to coding.

And this is the group you want running our entire healthcare system?

The problem is that insurance is too expensive because of our gov't rules and regulations. Get the gov't out to the way and insurance costs will go down.

Or better yet. In Chicago area a group of doctors refuse insurance. Instead, people pay a flat fee for the year and they get all the healthcare they need. No papers to file. It costs 1/3 of current insurance premiums.

Posted by: debmries | June 8, 2009 8:26 PM

I get the narrative about VA coverage and those who chose private care through work - back in the 70's!

Today though, employers can little afford to offer real coverage for anything.

Why is that? Could it be that private costs keep rising even as real wages keep falling? Perhaps rationing health care is a built in function of the free market?

Ask anyone who buys their health care on the free market if their premiums have ever gone down.

Something like 40 percent of us have no coverage. So why should any of us think that the private sector will answer?

When government delivers health services, 95% of Americans will have health care.

If I were a Canadian citizen diagnosed with a disabling condition, my total expenses would already be paid for and I would be able to draw un-employment while I was unable to work. Meaning that I could pay my bills and get healthy without losing my house.

So...we can't do that in the States?

Posted by: JohnQuimby | June 8, 2009 8:16 PM

Ignore Jackass Republicans for private insurers. They stopped working the early 90's. The idiot above mentioned the VA? That hasn't worked in a while. There are far too many war veterans walking around with little to ***Coverage*** BECAUSE MOST PRIVATE INSURERS and THE VA fail to cover people with mental/emotional problems. BECAUSE Statistics show that those usually lead to serious physical ailments. Gee, a connection? So, let's just let wounded vets (whether scarred emotionally or physically) just twist in the wind ... that's the Republican way.

Posted by: periculum | June 8, 2009 7:49 PM

You are so right.

All the bribe money you cited was money we paid the insurance companies to provide us with healthcare. They're spending it to make sure we don't get healthcare. These people have sold their souls and betrayed the American people.

Posted by: rooster54 | June 8, 2009 7:42 PM

Insurance companies don't deliver health care. They impede the delivery of health care, and rob us blind in the process. Their propaganda and their lobbying is bought with money that was supposed to pay our medical bills.

SINGLE PAYER is the obvious solution. It would cost less than we're paying now, and it would give us better care, period.

Posted by: rooster54 | June 8, 2009 7:36 PM

Want to know why Congress, or at least certain members who are not being honest with the American people?

Here --

Howie Klein has a rundown of all the money that the people who are blocking real reform in health care have received from the health care industry.

Arlen Specter (R-D- PA- $4,026,933)
Max Baucus (DLC- MT- $2,833,731)
Mitch McConnell (R-KY- $2,758,468)

And when you just go right to Big Insurance, the non-presidential candidates who got the biggest legalized bribes were the 7 senators who have been tasked with the job of killing single-payer:

Ben Nelson (DLC-NE- $1,196,799)
Max Baucus (DLC- MT- $1,184,113)
Joe Lieberman (DLC- CT- $1,036,302)
Arlen Specter (R-D- PA- $1,035,530)
Chuck Schumer (D-NY- $981,400)
Mitch McConnell (R-KY- $929,207)
Chuck Grassley (R-IA- $884,724)

There is nothing else to say, except to express my disgust for the disingenuousness of the above members of Congress. They should NOT BE ALLOWED to participate in defining the new health plan !


Posted by: swanieaz | June 8, 2009 7:29 PM

I want the exact healthcare plan congress has - and nothing less.

I certainly DO NOT CARE about the whining complaints of deep southern representatives with a lobbiest's campaign contribution ax to grind.


Posted by: onestring | June 8, 2009 7:12 PM

I thought the GOP line was that the private sector was always more efficient than the public sector. You'd think they'd be delighted at an opportunity to clearly demonstrate the private sector's superiority, but it sounds like they are already trying to make excuses for its failure.

Careful, GOP, or people will get the idea that you're more concerned with private profit than public health.

Posted by: nodebris | June 8, 2009 6:29 PM

So the choice is decent healthcare run by government as in Germany, or the third world healthcare found in senator Shelby's Alabama.

Posted by: orange3 | June 8, 2009 6:08 PM

""Washington-run programs undermine market-based competition through their ability to impose price controls and shift costs to other purchasers," the Republicans wrote."

Ok, then restrict the public program so it can't use government action to impose price controls, only its bargaining power in the market.

But it's not really a level playing field they are after; they're just looking for the most plausible excuse they can find to deny us the right to insure ourselves through public action.

Posted by: j2hess | June 8, 2009 5:55 PM

Isn't the Congress supposed to debate the options? Shouldn't the Repubicans and Democrats debate the issues?

It would have been nice if they had taken some time to debate the bail-out bill. Look what rubber stamping that tird has done for us.

Posted by: Bubbette1 | June 8, 2009 5:55 PM

Since Reagan, Republicans have been a force for change in America. They wholeheartedly endorse changing the middle and working classes into serfs, through fear mongering, deceit, obfuscation, and disloyalty to the civic functions of American government. Let private enterprise run rampant to eat at the public trough while returning little. Enough of these self serving wretches! Let's have a little good old fashioned Democratic corruption for the next 30 years, and maybe the vast majority of Americans can eat, drink, talk, and work with pride again.

Posted by: hapibeli | June 8, 2009 5:43 PM

Heehee! What a surprise!! The GOP is opposed!!

Years ago I retired at age 62. As a senior officer of a large corporation I was entitled to several years of company provided health benefits. My benefits would run out about 7 months before I was eligible for medicare.

Well in due course I applied for a private policy with the same insurer I had had most of my life.

"No. We dont want you. You have a pre-existing condition". Like anyone who is 64 doesn't.

Well the law in my state mandates that the insurer had to sell me a policy since I had no break in coverage. Unfortunately it doesn't mandate what the insurer could charge me.

The price for me alone was $1,120 per month.

My wife had already passed away. Since she was several years younger than I, didn't work, was covered by my company insurance and years away from medicare we would have had to find some way to isure her - which is a problem facing millions.

Luckily I could afford it and I only needed it for 7 months.

"Health care reform" without a government option program is not reform at all.

I've got my medicare and a good supplement policy (which by the way costs $390 per quarter and only serves as a backup to medicare). Without medicare there would be 40 million more old people without coverage.

No thanks to the "private sector".


Posted by: toritto | June 8, 2009 5:37 PM

gator-ron- You seem to be biting!

The VA System has several differences!

Tort-free, and Earning while Learning style Training!

Combine that with the Lack of Insurance Middlemen-WHICH I am Afraid is ALL the Government of Barry, Peloser, and Hairy is thinking about-NOT Treatment!;

and you have the System that I believe is the best way for the government to help Private Practice become more affordable!

Then, consider a Plan where you just pay directly to a Provider such as Seton!

Posted by: SAINT---The | June 8, 2009 4:53 PM

Republicans are seized with the fear that, somewhere, government might be helping someone.

Posted by: davestickler | June 8, 2009 4:50 PM

Republicans are afraid that the private sector will not be able to compete with a government run plan. In non complex medical conditions the VA's care is very good. Their medical records system is second to none. When problems get complicated the bureaucracy interferes. It is not the best system possible nor is it the worse.

Posted by: Gator-ron | June 8, 2009 4:47 PM

While I cannot possibly know for sure at just what level of Idiocy the Dimocrat Socialist want the Government involved;

I do need to say this to the RepubliCans who think the government should keep allowing the mess we have to continue:

Consider if you will the huge numbers of Americans who when there was a Draft, and Constant Wars! They all had VA Medical entitlements! It did not mean they all used them. Often, they would prefer to pay their own, or the Corporations they worked for supplied it!

Then, since the 70's, we have had far fewer Americans having that Entitlement-and somehow the Costs began EXPLODING!

Granted, the Bone-Headed Amnesty in the 80's opened the Gates of hell to Illegals-almost every one of which Free-Loads! And that single factor is probably the biggest cost to be offset!

But, I feel the bigger difference that existed, was FORCING the Insurance Companies to offer BETTER and competitive Plans than the Military VA Hospitals-who simply provide SERVICES!

Make "Government" involvement-THROUGH the VA Systems! Expand the VA Hospitals, and whenever feasible, send both Illegals and Un-Insured THERE!

Posted by: SAINT---The | June 8, 2009 4:05 PM


Howard Dean and the Democrats are correct.

"a" (Toothy, Robust, Affordable, Immediate, Triggerless, Medicare-Like ) "public health insurance option" (For All Who Want It) "is more important than bipartisanship, and Democrats should pass health-care legislation that includes the option with 51 votes if necessary."

"Democrats should have "no intention" of working with Republicans if it's not the strongest possible legislation that could be passed with a simple majority." (Howard Dean)

CONTACT CONGRESS and your representatives Now! And tell them you demand ALL of the minimum requirements above. This is the time for maximal, toothy, sustained pressure on Congress to get this done. Be creative. But be relentless.

This is what WE THE PEOPLE gave the Democrats all that power to do for ALL of us.

In medicine and healthcare there is only one acceptable standard. And that standard is the HIGHEST level of EXCELLENCE! you can provide for everyone. Nothing less is acceptable for a precious human life.

And the White House is right. "Good health care reform is essentially good economic policy." (Christina Romer)

BUT HEAR ME WELL! Just as I warned you before 911. Before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And before the US and Global economic crisis.

I must tell you now that healthcare reform is now a critical matter of NATIONAL SECURITY. A-H1N1 (Swine Flu) was yet another loud WAKE-UP! call. And there is MUCH! worse lurking, and poised to strike at any moment. Working against the clock, many of us have known this for a long time now. And this is why we have been pushing so hard for so long without fully saying why. But Congress and the American people are literally running out of time.

I'll tell you more later. But get healthcare reform done NOW!.


God Bless All Of You

jacksmith -- WORKING CLASS

Posted by: JackSmith1 | June 8, 2009 3:55 PM

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