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Better Budget Numbers for Health Care

July 2, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Good news for those that support a public health care option. Apparently, when you throw a public option into the health care reform fray, along with a plan to tax large companies that don’t provide health care, the cost of action becomes much less and covers more people.

The Associated Press reports:

Democrats on a key Senate Committee outlined a revised and far less costly health care plan Wednesday night that includes a government-run insurance option and an annual fee on employers who do not offer coverage to their workers.

The plan carries a 10-year price tag of slightly over $600 billion, and would lead toward an estimated 97 percent of all Americans having coverage, according to the Congressional Budget Office, Sens. Edward M. Kennedy and Chris Dodd said in a letter to other members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The AP obtained a copy.

By contrast, an earlier, incomplete proposal carried a price tag of roughly $1 trillion and would have left millions uninsured, CBO analysts said in mid-June.

The letter indicated the cost and coverage improvements resulted from two changes. The first calls for a government-run health insurance option to compete with private coverage plans, an option that has drawn intense opposition from Republicans.

“We must not settle for legislation that merely gestures at reform,” the two Democrats wrote. “We must deliver on the promise of true change.”

Additionally, the revised proposal calls for a $750 annual fee on employers for each full-time worker not offered coverage through their job. The fee would be set at $375 for part-time workers. Companies with fewer than 25 employees would be exempt. The fee was forecast to generate $52 billion over 10 years, money the government would use to help provide subsidies to those who cannot afford insurance.

The same provision is also estimated to greatly reduce the number of workers whose employers would drop coverage, thus addressing a major concern noted by CBO when it reviewed the earlier proposals.

For more details on the new version of the “HELP” bill, see Wonk Room and The Treatment. Also, Health Care for America Now says that all 13 Democrats on the HELP committee are set to vote in favor of the new version of the bill.

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