Pelosi Unveils $894 Billion House Health Overhaul Bill; Expands Coverage To 36 Million Americans
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Thursday morning unveiled a House health care reform plan that is expected to cost about $894 billion and "provide insurance to up to 36 million people by broadly expanding Medicaid, the state-federal insurance program for the poor, and by offering subsidies to moderate-income Americans to buy insurance either from private carriers or a new government-run plan," the The New York Times reports. "According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bill would reduce future federal deficits by about $30 million over the next 10 years."
The House measure is similar to a proposal being considered in the Senate. "But there are crucial differences," according to the Times. "The House bill, for instance, would impose a new income surtax on individuals earning more than $500,000 and couples earning more than $1 million a so-called millionaire's tax. The Senate would impose a tax on high-cost insurance policies, a move that experts say could help lower long-term health care costs by giving employers, employees and private insurers incentive to reduce expenditures" (Herszenhorn, 10/29).
Kaiser Health News provides the bill language.
In a separate story, the New York Times reports, "Democrats lowered the cost of their bill, in part, by splitting off provisions to increase Medicare payments to doctors. Those provisions, which would cost more than $200 billion over 10 years, were put into a separate bill, also introduced on Thursday. ... The measure includes a new provision that would require the secretary of health and human services to negotiate drug prices on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries, a proposal that is anathema to pharmaceutical companies" (Pear, 10/29)
CNN: "The bill guarantees that 96 percent of Americans have coverage, Pelosi's office said. The figure is based on an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Under the House plan, health care providers would be allowed to negotiate reimbursement rates with the federal government, according to Democratic leadership aides." Throughout the development of this legislation, Pelosi and other liberal Democrats "had argued for a more 'robust' public option that ties reimbursement rates for providers and hospitals to Medicare rates plus a 5 percent increase. Several Democrats representing rural areas, however, complained that doctors and hospitals in their districts would be shortchanged under such a formula" (Oct. 29).
The Washington Post: "The bill includes a version of the 'public option' preferred by moderates and raises Medicaid eligibility levels to 150 percent of the federal poverty level for all adults, a steeper increase than in earlier drafts." In describing the bill, which Pelosi said would insure 36 million more Americans, Pelosi noted that "'[t]oday we are about to deliver on the promise of making affordable, quality health care available for all Americans,' Pelosi said, describing a bill that she said . '...We are putting forth a bill that reflects our best values and addresses our greatest challenges.'" The bill seeks "to provide health insurance of one form or another to 96 percent of all Americans at an expected cost just below $900 billion over 10 years, without increasing the federal budget deficit for at least 20 years, House Democrats said. 'It opens the doors to quality medical care for those who were shut out of the system for far too long,' Pelosi said" (Murray, 10/29).
The Associated Press: "The ceremony marked a pivotal moment in Democrats' yearlong attempt to answer Obama's call for legislation to remake the nation's health care system by extending insurance, ending industry practices such as denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions, and slowing the growth of medical spending nationwide." A vote on the measure is likely next week (Werner, 10/29).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.