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This year is different, he said, citing strong support from congressional Democrats and Mr. Obama, grass-roots support and even the economic downturn, which he said is highlighting the financial impact and inefficiencies of the current U.S. health care system.

“Sufficient with a good majority in the Congress, I think it all comes together as being a time when we can and, very truthfully, when we should,” he said.

He expects skeptical Democrats eventually to climb on board when they have time to absorb the details of the proposal, but he isn’t as eager as other top Democrats to predict full support.

“The bill has a lot of enemies, and getting major legislation of this kind passed is extremely difficult, particularly in the Senate,” Mr. Dingell said.

Mr. Dingell has presided over some of the most substantial changes in American health care, including the creation of Medicare in 1965 and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) in 1997.

“Every single health care bill has gone through [the Energy and Commerce Committee],” said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a health care consumer advocacy group. “And through his role as chairman, and a leader in the Democratic caucus on health care, his imprint is on every piece of legislation.”

“The Dingell family has carried the torch for health care reform for many, many decades,” he said.

Mr. Dingell has used his role as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee — a position he lost to Rep. Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat, last year — to investigate various aspects of the industry, particularly insurers.

“I found the insurance industry, particularly the health insurance industry, to have done some scandalous things,” he said, recounting stories of pressure on customers to buy policies they did not need, restrictions on customers with pre-existing conditions and “cherry-picking” by insurers to accept only healthy and cheap customers. The bill includes provisions that would provide a check to the insurers, he said.

Though he is no longer chairman, Mr. Dingell said he has two staffers dedicated full time to health care and he’s happy with the direction in which the bill is going.

The draft was introduced by the chairmen of the three committees with jurisdiction — Energy and Commerce, Education and Labor, and Ways and Means — as well as by the subcommittee chairmen and Mr. Dingell.

The idea to name the bill after Mr. Dingell came from Mr. Waxman and Mr. Rangel, according to Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, California Democrat.

“I thought it was a great idea,” he said, “as a legacy to his father and his own involvement.”