Last night Senate Democrats, lead by Harry Reid, unveiled their plan for healthcare reform: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The Congressional Budget Office said this package would cost $848 billion over 10 years, and still leave 24 million uninsured (a third of which are illegal immigrants).
The plan has many of the same proposals the Democrats have been pushing as the answers to fixing health care: more government intrusion, little to contain cost. There is an individual mandate, a creation of state/regional health insurance exchanges, federal subsidies for low and middle class families and a public option.
As you know, the House already passed their plan at the beginning of the month; and there a quite a few differences between the two packages. One instance of this is the different methods of funding the plans. The House wants to add 5.4% surtax to wealthy people; collect annual fees from health insurance companies; medical devices manufacturers and drug companies and make cuts to Medicare. The Senate is proposing an excise tax on the so-called “Cadillac Health Care Plans”; collecting annual fees from health insurance companies, medical devices manufacturers, and drug companies; making cuts to Medicare; increasing Medicare payroll taxes for workers; and collecting a tax on elective cosmetic procedures.
Another area where they differ is abortion coverage. The House’s plan bans abortion coverage with the passage of the Stupak amendment. The Senate has adopted a plan that aims for abortion neutrality. The exchanges would be required to offer plans that cover and do not cover abortion care, so people have a choice. Any insurance companies who receive federal subsides or are members of the public plan insurance companies would be required to segregate the federal funds, and could only use beneficiary premium and private dollars to fund the service.
Look in tomorrow’s Voice for Choice for a more in-depth look at the two packages.