With a budget deal in hand, lawmakers turn to the details

By Robert Pear

New York Times News Service

Published: Sunday, April 10 2011 7:55 p.m. MDT

Montana officials want to conduct a regulated hunt of wolves, which prey on elk and other big game in the western part of the state.

The budget agreement also takes aim at two provisions of the new health care law. It would cut more than $2 billion set aside for creation of private nonprofit health insurance cooperatives.

It also eliminates a program that would have allowed hundreds of thousands of lower-income workers to opt out of employer-sponsored health plans and use the employer's contribution to buy coverage on their own, through new insurance exchanges.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the architect of this provision, lamented its demise.

"Publicly," Wyden said, "both parties say they are champions of choice and competition and making health insurance more affordable for everyone. But then behind closed doors they kill a program that does exactly that. This seems like a victory for special interests."

Many employers had objected to the Wyden provision, saying it would increase their costs by allowing younger and healthier entry-level employees to opt out of employer-sponsored plans.

Carl Hulse contributed reporting.

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