Monday, October 12, 2009

Healthcare Reform Debate Quickly Coming to A Conclusion

With the Senate Finance Committee expected to report out its version of a healthcare reform measure Tuesday along a strict party line vote, House and Senate leaders will caucus behind closed doors at the Capitol, in an effort to reconcile the divergent details of two Senate and three House committee versions of the legislation before bringing any bill to the floor for a vote. Whatever blended bill comes up for floor debate will run into two obstacles to easy passage in either chamber: Republican contentions that failure to include and reform of medical malpractice laws is costing $41 billion, and Monday's insurance industry report arguing that the watered down penalties for failing to purchase coverage will increase the premiums for covered families by as much as $4,000 per year.

The three major proposals which have to be blended include the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee bill pushed by Senator Edward Kennedy before his untimely death, costing $645 billion, Max Baucus' Senate Finance Committee measure, costing $829 billion, and the likely House version, costing $1.05 trillion. The Baucus plan omits a "public option, while both other measures have one. The Baucus measure also omits a mandate that employers provide health coverage for their workers, while the other two bills include such a requirement. All three bills impose penalties in individuals and families who fail to purchase health insurance, either individually or through their employers, with an annual penalty of $750.00 in the two competing Senate bills, and a fine ranging from 1.5% to 12% of annual modified adjusted gross income in the House measure.

Finally, the details of how any of these proposals will be paid for remain murky and incomplete. All we have is the promise of President Obama and Congressional leaders that the final law will be "deficit neutral," whatever that means.
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