Senate Committee Okays Health Care Reform Bill
How to provide health care for millions of uninsured Americans has moved one step closer to some reality.
On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee gave the okay to its version of health care reform by a 14-9 vote.
Costing $829 billion over 10-years, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says it would reduce the federal deficit by $81 billion and would extend coverage to more than 30 million uninsured Americans, funded in part by a $121 billion tax on drug and device makers and insurers.
The proposal, written by Montana Democrat Max Baucus, must be reconciled with four competing House and Senate versions. All contain a government-run medical plan.
All eyes focused on Sen. Olympia Snows, R-Maine, who was the only Republican to vote for the legislation. She warned that Tuesday’s vote does not assure her suppport in the future.
As it passed, the legislation helps low and middle-income Americans buy health care coverage, expands Medicaid and creates a health insurance exchange for individuals and small business to access affordable insurance.
Individuals could not be denied coverage over pre-existing conditions and insurers could not drop coverage for sick Americans or be charged more. The insurance lobby also doesn’t want an option for the government to sell insurance.
The insurance lobby is pushing back on the proposed $6.1 billion-a-year “fee” to be apportioned among insurers. And it believes premiums will be driven up because it lets people buy insurance when they need it and reduces penalties on individuals who do not get insurance.
Big Insurance, represented by the lobbying group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, expressed concerns about the “workability and cost” of the bill.
Alissa Fox, a lobbyist for Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association promises they will be “educating members of Congress about the very problematic consequences of these issues,” AP reports.
Lots of TV, Newspaper Ads
Expect a barrage of new media ads to be generated as various special interests push back on the plan.
Generous employer-provided health plans, also known as “Cadillac plans” would face additional taxes. That has prompted about 30 unions to place full-page ads in newspapers today in opposition, fearing the employees would cover the cost of the tax.
The insurance industry warns in a report that the bill would raise insurance costs for people who already have policies, reports AP.
It will take out a TV ad campaign in six states accusing Democrats of trying to cut $100 billion from subsidies for Medicare Advantage that private insurance uses to provide Medicare benefits.
Even the soft drink industry has responded with TV and newspaper ads opposing the idea of a tax on sugary soft drinks which Center for Science in the Public Interest wants Congress to consider in order to raise money.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said this was the best of five committee plans, but expressed concern about the effect on business.
The bill “increases premiums, raises taxes and creates a new entitlement that will add to the nation’s growing debt,” said Bruce Josten, the chamber’s top lobbyist.
Meanwhile, drug makers have expressed support of the effort.
Agreeing to forgo $80 billion in revenue over the next 10 years to finance the overhaul, the drug industry may actually see revenues increase by lowering costs on some brand-name drugs that could lead to more sales to Medicare recipients, reports Bloomberg. #