Democrat Health Insurance Bill Lacks Details
Democrat leaders in both the House and Senate unveiled health insurance plans earlier this week with which they claim will lay the groundwork for affordable health insurance access. The attempt to overhaul the nation's health care system is a daunting task and one full of debate on Capitol Hill. Creating a path for public health insurance is key, according to Democrats, to altering rising U.S. health care costs.
Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) introduced the bill Tuesday titled the "Affordable Health Choices Act". A similar bill was introduced in the House on the same day during a meeting with Democrat Representatives. The bills are similar in nature with both seeking to set up a national health insurance exchange. This exchange would be set up by the federal government and serve as a gateway for private companies, along with the government-run public option, to sell plans to consumers.
The House version of the bill requires "almost all" Americans to carry health insurance. Part of the bill provides for subsidies to families and individuals earning up to 400% of the federal poverty level, $88,200 for a family of four and $43,320 for individuals. A search of the Senate version did not produce any results indicating that citizens will be required to carry coverage.
Both the House and Senate version require employers help pay for health insurance for workers. Neither version lists details of this aspect, indicating negotiations and expenditure forecasts are still being performed. Democrat leaders say that smaller companies who pay lower wages will be exempt from such measures. The fear of this mandate is that a number of employers will shed jobs in order to drop below the established level of workers or payroll amounts so as to avoid this expense. The federal government requiring private companies to fund workers' health care could make it cost-prohibitive for some to hire additional workers.
Taxing employer-provided health insurance benefits is likely to be included in any final version of the Democratic health care bill. Representative Charlie Rangel (D-NY) would not rule out the possibility of such benefits being taxed when questioned by reporters earlier this week, despite last month saying there was "no way" that would happen. One can see the disturbing nature of such a proposition. American business owners could be mandated to pay for the health benefits to a certain amount, an amount to be determined by the federal government, only to have that same federal government turn around and reap revenue from those additional taxes on those workers.
Opponents of the Democrats health insurance plan are worried what a public option could due to the private insurance industry. House and Senate leaders assure Americans that if they are content with their current coverage then they will be "allowed" to keep that coverage. First, let's thank those in office for allowing us to make personal decisions on private matters with private companies. Some worry though that a public option, funded by the federal government, will offer prices below what private companies can, due to the fact that the government never runs out of money, they merely print more of it. The possibility of creating false price floors will drive private companies out of business and scour the very competition those in office declare they are trying to create.
House and Senate leaders say they hope to each have final versions of the bill by next month. President Obama has said Congress must work quickly to produce avenues for affordable health insurance for Americans. House leaders told reporters they hoped to have a reconciled version of the bill with the Senate by September and a vote on that final version sometime in October. The debate over health insurance and health care reform in the U.S. will be the topic of discussion this summer, with some arguing for more government control and others pointing to the failures of Medicare, Medicaid, and the VA system.