Thursday, November 19, 2009

Senate Democrats Propose $848 Billion Health Bill

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) unveiled a healthcare proposal yesterday that would cover 94 percent of all Americans and cost $848 billion over 10 years. Estimates from the Congressional Budget Office predict that the bill will cut the federal deficit by $127 billion in its first year, and $650 billion over the next decade.

While the bill has wide Democratic support in the Senate, Republicans are hesitant to believe that the bill will be budget-neutral. The plan will be paid for by Medicare cuts and increased taxes, such as a tax on high-premium "Cadillac plans."

Some provisions of the bill include:
  • A public health care plan, with an option to the states to opt out of the system if they want to;
  • Employers under the House bill (except some small businesses) would be mandated to provide coverage to their employees; under the Senate bill, employers who do not offer coverage will only be fined $750 per employee;
  • Individuals (except illegal immigrants) who do not have access to affordable coverage through their employers would be able to purchase it from a multi-state exchange;
  • 5 percent excise tax on elective cosmetic surgery; and
  • A firewall segregating private insurance funds used to cover abortion from public funds; the HHS Secretary will be given discretion to determine whether or not public funding will be available for abortions.

The Senate is expected to hold a vote this Saturday to introduce the bill for debate.

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