Senate Finance Passes Health Bill 14-9 with Snowe Vote

Emma Sandoe, a Health Care Researcher at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, contributed to this post.

Today, after nine months of negotiations and more than 80 hours of mark-up, the Senate Finance Committee reported its health care bill out of committee by a vote of 14-9. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) broke ranks with her Republican colleagues and voted in favor of the bill, telling the committee that “when history calls, history calls. And I happen to think that the consequences of inaction dictate the urgency of Congress to take every available opportunity to demonstrate its capacity to solve the monumental issues of our time.”

A committee will now merge the Senate Finance bill with the more progressive HELP bill. The latter contains a public option, better affordability standards, and a stronger employer mandate. Once voted on, Senate bill will then be merged with the House bill. Below is a comparison of all three bills:

HELP Bill (About $1 trillion/10 years) Senate Finance Draft ($829 billion/10 years) Tri House Bill($1.04 trillion/10 years)
Individual Mandate Yes Yes Yes
Employer Mandate Yes (Large employers would pay $750 per full-time employee, $375 for each part-time employee or provide adequate coverage.) No, but employers with workers at or below 300% FPL have to pay Yes
Medicaid Expansion 150% FPL, but still unclear 133% FPL 133% FPL
Subsidies between 150 – 400% FPL on sliding scale between 133 – 300% FPL on sliding scale; flat rate for 300%-400% between 133 – 400% FPL on sliding scale
Public Option Yes (Will have to compete on a level playing field with private providers and offer competitive rates and premiums. ) No (Conrad’s co-op compromise) Yes, Medicare + 5%
Insurance Regs Guarantee issue, modified community rating (2:1), no rescissions Guarantee issue, modified community rating (6:1), no rescissions Guarantee issue, modified community rating (2:1), no rescissions

The GOP’s rejection of a bipartisan health care bill that actually reduces the deficit should empower Majority Leader Reid to secure a progressive bill that retains Snowe’s support. After all, Repubicans have indicated that they will not support the proposal. In a statement released today, Republican Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) asserted this is not real reform. “The fact is, this proposal will never come before the Senate.”

Snowe may support an opt out public option, increased affordability credits, exchanges with negotiating power, the CLASS act, improvements employer coverage and fixes in tax treatment for coverage for older individuals. Snowe’s vote in gives key Republican moderates the cover of “bipartisanship” to vote for the bill on the floor. Some potential moderates potentially supporting the bill after it has been merged include Snowe’s Maine colleague Susan Collins (R-ME) and George Voinavhich (R-OH).

In fact, insurance industry study may help deliver an even better bill. Throughout the hearing, Democratic members used the study to substantiate the need for a public plan. John Kerry (D-MA) noted, “It’s a powerful argument, frankly, for why we ought to have a public plan and it’s a powerful argument for the attitude of an industry towards this effort.” Charles Schumer (D-NY) called the inclusion of the public option “more likely.” With increased competition and potentially lower costs, the public plan would drive down prices across the insurance industry.