"House Health Bill Removes Insurer Anti-Trust Exemption, Taxes Health Industry"
This morning, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will unveil the re-tooled Affordable Health Care for America Act (HR 3962). (Read the bill HERE.) Coming in at around $900 billion over 10 years, the legislation will extend coverage to 36 million Americans (6-7 million more than the Senate Finance version), include a national public option that reimburses physicians at negotiated rates and require individuals to acquire coverage and large employers to provide it. The bill is paid for with a surtax on the wealthy, changes to Medicare and Medicaid, and taxes on the health care industry.
Democrats successfully lowered the price tag of the original House legislation from $1.04 trillion by expanding the Medicaid program to Americans with incomes 150% of the federal poverty line and removing the SGR fix from the bill. “A permanent doc fix will be carved out of the reform bill and introduced separately today without pay-fors,” Live Pulse reports. (Read the SGR bill text HERE)
Most of the bill’s benefits won’t start until 2013 and House leaders are introducing “a temporary government program” that would “help people turned down by private insures because of medical problems.” The Senate Finance bill includes a similar provision, a high-risk pool that would be available to Americans between 2010 and 2013.
The re-tooled House bill will also “strip the health insurance industry of a long-standing exemption from antitrust laws covering market allocation, price fixing and bid rigging” and “give the Federal Trade Commission authority to look into the health insurance industry at its own initiative.”
While Democrats are still negotiating with moderate Democrats over abortion and immigration, Speaker Pelosi hopes to have the legislation on the floor next week, with a final vote before “Veterans Day,” November 11th. At the moment, “House Democrats do not have firm commitment from enough lawmakers to guarantee passage of their bill.” One whip count has shown 23 centrist Democrats intend to vote against any health bill. Assuming that all Republicans vote against it, the bill can lose at least 38 Democrats and still pass the chamber.