House Democrats Unveil Own Health-Reform Proposal

Now they have a plan 852 pages and do they know what is in it, bet they have not even picked it up, let alone know really what is in it.

=====================================================Friday, June 19, 2009  Fox Business:  Joanna Ossinger and Peter Barnes

Democrats in the House of Representatives released an initial draft of their own health-care reform bill on Friday, saying that their proposal would lower costs, broaden choice, provide stability and boost quality in the system.

The 852-page bill contained many specifics, but left large areas of policy, taxes and spending still unspecified. A final budget tally wasn’t given, since it hadn’t been “scored” by the Congressional Budget Office.

Key points of the bill included a health-insurance exchange, which would be a place where individuals could comparison-shop for coverage; a public health-insurance option; and guaranteed coverage.

Also, there would be a 2% tax an adjusted gross income above a certain level for some individuals who choose not to get coverage, and an 8% payroll tax for businesses that would insure employees through the public plan; employers that choose to offer coverage must meet minimum benefit and contribution requirements specified in the proposal.

Democrats offered 12 ways they said health-care reform would help Americans, including an annual cap on out-of-pocket expenses, more health-plan choices and no rate increases due to pre-existing conditions, gender or occupation.

There has already been a lot of action on the health-care reform front in the past few weeks — the White House has been discussing broad outlines of reform efforts, as well as proposed savings that could be obtained by a public plan.

A couple of attempts at legislation have come from the Senate — notably, efforts from Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and the Senate Finance Committee — but the high cost estimates from CBO caught the Senate Democrats off guard and sent them back to the drawing board.

The Kennedy plan was estimated to cost around $1 trillion, and the Finance plan was estimated to cost around $1.6 trillion. Democratic leaders were critical of the CBO estimates, and there was some speculation they would try to seek more favorable estimates, perhaps from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.

Perhaps having learned lessons from some of the problems with the two previous efforts, proponents of the new legislation brought it out with fanfare and a number of bullet-point explanations about key provisions — as well as “12 ways health care reform will help you and your family.”

House Democrats expressed confidence in their plan, which they introduced in an early-afternoon Friday press conference, and stressed that some kind of reform was essential.

“Is this going to bring down the cost of health insurance? You bet your sweet life,” said Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, asserted that “the legislation is important for the health care and security of all Americans.”

But House Republicans weren’t as optimistic.

“The Democrats are refusing to reveal the price tag of this bill or how they will pay for it, but it is obvious it will cost well over a trillion dollars,” said Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), the ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee.

“We will certainly need to examine the details, but I fear this plan will force tens of millions of Americans to lose their current health-care coverage and put the federal government in charge of determining what doctors and treatments are available to patients,” Camp continued. “Those dangers will be magnified by the hundreds of billions of dollars in hidden tax increases that could cause millions more Americans to lose their jobs.

The Democrats plan to hold mark-up sessions over the next week where lawmakers write the final version of the bill in the three committees of jurisdiction — Ways and Means; Energy and Commerce; and Education and Labor.

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