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WASHINGTON — As Republicans frantically scramble to find votes to pass their health care bill, the most important debate may be about one issue: essential health benefits.

That is the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that health insurance plans sold to individuals and small groups cover 10 types of services, from prescription drugs to substance abuse treatment to maternity care.


That requirement was never as widely discussed or debated as Obamacare’s individual mandate or Medicaid expansion. But it is now central to understanding the debate in Congress.

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