House conservatives have threatened to block the reform bill if their more restrictive provision isn’t included. Kerry acknowledged that there could still be negotiations, “but that’s where the Senate is starting.
Instead of taxing the rich to pay for a significant piece of the bill, as the House does, the Senate plan taxes “Cadillac” health plans. But the value of plans that would be taxed is increased from previous versions to $8,500 for an individual and $23,000 for a family of four. Higher values are allowed in high-cost states and workers in high-risk jobs – such as coal miners – are given an exemption.
Reid’s bill also altered the formula by which businesses would be assessed a fee for not insuring their workers. But the new formula was unclear. Kerry called it “convoluted” and Durbin dubbed it “complex.”
Reid presented to his colleagues a preliminary Congressional Budget Office analysis of the Senate health care legislation. It finds that the bill will cost $849 billion over the next decade while covering 94 percent of eligible Americans; 31 million currently uninsured Americans would be covered under the legislation. The bill would also lower the deficit by $127 billion over the next decade and by $650 billion during the decade after that. Kerry cautioned that the numbers were still being finalized and could change slightly.
By keeping the total cost of the bill under $900 billion, Reid met one of the conditions set by the Obama White House. The bill is also expected to drastically bend the cost curve in the health care system — another major Obama objective — by achieving “almost a trillion dollars in cost savings” within the health care system.
Reid will file a cloture motion Thursday, which will be followed by an intervening day, by Senate rules, leaving Saturday for the vote.