Federal Healthcare Update

November 19, 2009

Pardon Our Dust

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) unveiled the long-awaited Senate health care bill, titled the “Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act,” yesterday evening. In a news conference held to announce the bill, Sen. Reid said that the bill embodied the President’s health care goals, calling it a “tremendous step forward.” The bill would cost $848 billion and would reduce budget deficits by $130 billion over ten years, according to the recently released Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score.
The bill would cover 31 million Americans who are currently without insurance, as well as adding new benefits to Medicare and imposing new regulations on insurance companies. It also includes a provision for a public option that would allow states to opt out by passing legislation. Unlike the House bill, the Senate bill does not include any new restrictions on abortion funding, but like the House bill, it will not provide assistance to illegal immigrants.
The bill pulls funding from a variety of sources, including a tax on higher-end ‘Cadillac’ health care plans, an increase in the Medicare payroll tax on high-income people, and a new five percent tax on elective cosmetic medical procedures. Individuals are required to have insurance or must pay a fine, starting at $95 in 2014 and rising to $750 in 2016, with a maximum of $2,250 for a family. Critics of the bill have said this penalty is too weak and will cause many people to forgo insurance. Businesses with more than 50 employees would have to provide insurance or pay a fine of $750 per employee.
The CBO score estimates that 24 million people would still be uninsured in 2019. About one third of these people would be illegal immigrants.
Sen. Reid and other Senate leaders are still trying to nail down the 60 votes needed to allow debate to begin on the floor. Sen. Reid has scheduled the procedural vote for Saturday evening.  Debate on the bill will likely last through much of December.