How Senate Will Impact Health Insurance Plans

Armen Hareyan's picture

The health insurance plans of millions of Americans will be affected by the Senate's decisions on healthcare reform. While the House of Representatives recently passed their own bill, the future of reform is now in the hands of the Senate. Democratic Senators like Majority Leader Harry Reid have written their own bill, and will have to approve it before reconciling it with the House's version. This process may take months; while the basic goals of Democrats in both chambers of Congress are similar, there are differences in the methods they would employ to achieve them.

In general, the Senate is the more cautious and conservative portion of the legislative branch. That shows in their proposals for healthcare reform, which are less far-reaching than the House of Representatives'. For example, the public option has received less support in the Senate. Most Democrats in the House agreed to having the government-run plan compete against private health insurance plans on the open market, but several key votes from moderate party members are leery. Since the Democratic majority is razor-thin--and includes some independent senators that caucus with Democrats but often disagree with them--including a public option puts the legislation at risk. Senator Joe Lieberman has vowed to oppose any bill that includes a public option, and with little chance of Republican support his vote is needed to reach the 60 votes that would make healthcare reform filibuster proof.

Another way the Senate's healthcare reform bill is different is that it shows more concern for the budget deficit. It would cost just $900 billion over 10 years; still expensive, but significantly less than the over $1.2 trillion the House of Representatives' bill would cost. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office claims that neither bill would add to the national debt overtime, but the price of the Senate's bill is far more palatable to many of those worried about the cost of their health insurance plans skyrocketing.


Taxes are another issue that separates the two proposals. The House of Representatives would levy a surtax on individuals and couples making over $500,000 and $1 million respectively in order to pay for it, but the Senate largely avoids that issue. Rather, they prefer to increase taxes on high-cost health insurance plans. The logic goes that if someone buys a health insurance plan that covers all the bells and whistles in existence, they are more likely to use unnecessary medical care. Wasteful health care spending is one of the factors that got our country into this predicament to begin with.

Finally, the Senate has chosen to shy away from enacting an employer mandate. One of the main proposals from House Democrats is the establishment of such a requirement. As opposed to forcing employers to provide health coverage to their employees, senators instead prefer to provide tax credits and subsidies that will allow middle- and low-income individuals and families to afford health insurance plans.

Like the House, the Senate aims to increase the access and affordability of health insurance plans to millions of uninsured Americans. However, their proposals are pragmatic. As healthcare reform passed the relatively liberal House of Representatives by such a tiny margin, it is unlikely that Democrats in the Senate will rewrite their bill to be more expansive.

Written by Yamileth Medina
VitalOne Health Plans Direct, LLC.