House Democrats are pushing to the brink of passage a landmark, $940 billion health care overhaul bill that would simultaneously deliver on President Barack Obama’s promise to expand coverage while slashing the deficit, a strategy aimed at winning over the party’s fiscal conservatives The fight has just begun, There are at last count 37 states ready to sue the Federal Gov’t if they inact mandatory Healthcare. But this looks like a GREAT compromise that may actually help those of us struggling in the middle class with healthcare cost. Congresswoman Tsongas said on her weekly WCAP appearance that if would insure people and be a deficit reducer she would support it.
The 10-year plan would provide coverage to 32 million people now uninsured through a combination of tax credits for middle class households and an expansion of the Medicaid program for low-income people. Release of the legislation later Thursday sets the stage for a House vote on Sunday, and Democrats have already signaled they plan to go it alone, without Republican support. The GOP has steadfastly opposed Obama’s plan from the outset.
It would restructure one-sixth of the economy, covering 95 percent of eligible Americans, in the biggest expansion of the social safety net since Medicare was created in 1965. It would also impose new obligations on individuals and businesses, requiring for the first time that most Americans carry health insurance and penalizing medium-sized and large companies that don’t provide coverage for their workers.
Hospitals and doctors, drug companies and insurers would gain millions of new paying customers, but they would also have to adjust to major changes. Medicare cuts would force hospitals to operate more efficiently or risk going out of business, but seniors would see the coverage gap in their prescription benefits gradually eliminated. Insurance companies would face unprecedented federal regulation. Health care industries would be hit with new federal taxes. Upper-income households would face a new tax on investment earnings.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated the legislation would reduce the federal deficit by $138 billion over its first 10 years, and continue to drive down the red ink thereafter. Democratic leaders said the deficit would be cut $1.2 trillion in the second decade_ and Obama called it the biggest reduction since the 1990s, when President Bill Clinton put the federal budget on a path to surplus.
The legislation would be vulnerable to attack after it passes, since the biggest changes would be phased in slowly. The major expansion of coverage would not come until 2014, when new health insurance marketplaces open for business.
In the meantime, the legislation calls for a series of new consumer benefits. Starting this year, insurers could not deny coverage to children because of an pre-existing health problem, nor could they place lifetime dollar caps on the amount of coverage. A high-risk health insurance pool would provide coverage to uninsured people who can’t get private coverage because of health problems.
Democrats are following a complicated two-track legislative strategy for passing the bill. First, the House will have to approve a Senate bill that many of its Democratic members object to. Then both chambers will quickly pass a package of fixes agreed to in negotiations with the White House.
Since the House will vote first, Democratic leaders are seeking assurances from their Senate counterparts that they have enough votes to pass the follow-up measure as well.
Democrats are promising 72 hours for lawmakers and the public to review the legislation once it’s released, so that would push a House vote on the bill until Sunday at the earliest — “during daylight hours,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. Much of the legislation’s longterm deficit reduction came from two key changes Democrats made in recent days, the budget office said.
Starting in 2019, the bill would slow annual inflation increases in new federal tax credits available to help people pay health insurance premiums. Beginning in 2020, it would accelerate the impact of a tax on high cost insurance plan by indexing it to the general rate of inflation.Labor unions earlier succeeded in easing other features of the insurance, and Thursday the AFL-CIO’s executive council was deliberating over the latest changes.