Congress and its Dueling Healthcare Plans

There are so many healthcare reform trial balloons being launched in Washington, D.C., that it’s difficult to keep up with who wants what.  Following is a rundown of what the current proposals say.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee’s proposal would require most people to have qualifying healthcare coverage, though with some exceptions.  People who do not participate face a tax penalty of at least 50 percent of the average yearly premium cost of the basic plan.  Employers would have to offer healthcare coverage and pay a minimum of 60 percent of the premium, or $750 for every full-time employee.  Individual and small business coverage would be managed through state-based “gateways” that provide consumers with information to help them decide on the right plan.  This is likely to cost $1 trillion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

The House Tri-Committee bill would require individuals to carry “acceptable health coverage”. People who opt out would pay a penalty of 2.5 percent of their modified adjusted gross income to the cost of the average national premium for individual or family coverage.  Employers must offer healthcare coverage and pay a minimum of 72.5 percent for single coverage and 65 percent for family coverage into the cheapest qualifying plan.  Alternatively, employers would pay eight percent of payroll into a health insurance trust fund.  The CBO estimates that this plan will cost $1 trillion over 10 years.  Medicare and Medicaid savings would pay for this, with the remainder covered by a surcharge on high-income individuals and families.

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Several other proposals are under consideration.  The Senate Finance committee is debating allowing people aged 55 – 64 to buy in to Medicare, as well as taxing insurance companies to fund the healthcare plan.  Conservative Democrats on the Energy and Commerce committee want the government to pay rural healthcare providers at a higher rate to assure better access to quality care.

With no vote expected prior to Congress’ annual August recess, we may see even more evolution in the proposals currently on the table.

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