KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Senate Negotiators Wrestle With Employer Mandate, Unemployed Have Mixed Feelings On Health Bills

News reports reflect how current reform plans are likely to affect employers as well as people who are unemployed.

The Wall Street Journal reports on the status of the employer mandate. "Business groups won a big victory last week when a key Senate committee voted to place only modest penalties on employers that don't offer health-insurance coverage. But they are almost certain to face stiffer penalties in the final Senate health-care overhaul bill." The two Senate bills "have strikingly different penalties for employers who don't offer health insurance," and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called it "an issue we are concerned about." He and other key negotiators spent "at least two nights this week" trying to hammer out a compromise.

Both exempt the smallest businesses. "Overall, the Finance bill is expected to form the backbone of the final Senate bill aimed at fixing the nation's health system. But its version of the employer mandate is coming under sharp attack from some leading Senate Democrats who say it lets businesses off too easy" (Adamy, 10/23).

In other news, unemployed workers, who have a great deal to gain from an overhaul of the nation's health system, disagree on Congressional health care proposals, The Baltimore Sun and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel report. "The steep jump in unemployment and the accompanying rise in people without insurance this year were expected to increase support for health care reform. And not surprisingly, many of the people who have found themselves suddenly uninsured support health care reform. Yet the proposals before Congress face opposition even from some people hit by the downturn, and that opposition shows how the issue has divided the country" (Boulton, 10/22).

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