The scene of the furious health care debate. (Photo credit Starslate, Flickr.com)
This past weekend, while Washington, D.C. area residents were out enjoying the first snowfall of the season, members of the United States Senate were on Capitol Hill debating the health care bill. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), who is leading the charge, said he wants a health care bill by Christmas, USA Today reports. In order to succeed, however, Reid needs 60 votes from his colleagues, which he predicts he will get.
Negotiations for these votes began a few weeks after the House version of the bill passed early last month, when Senate Democrats voted along party lines to bring the bill to the floor for debate, The Washington Post reported. But getting support, even along party lines, hasn’t been easy, as signaled by President Obama’s rare trip on Sunday to rally his party’s members to make this piece of legislation happen.
The main obstacles in getting sufficient backing for the bill are “disagreements over coverage of abortions and a proposed government-run health insurance program to compete with private insurers,” Reid told USA Today.
If the Senate’s version of the bill passes, then a conference committee will be appointed by the House and Senate to work out differences between their two bills. A compromise version of the bill will be voted on by both committees and if both pass the bill, it will go to President Obama to sign into law.
What’s in the Bills?
According to HealthDay News, under both bills, most Americans will be required to have health insurance or pay penalties for not complying. The House version imposes a fine of 2.5 percent of adjusted income, while the Senate version phases in penalties, which rise to $750 a year starting in 2016 and are adjusted annually for cost of living, the report says.
Both bills expand Medicaid eligibility for low-income individuals without health insurance, with the House version being more generous than the Senate’s. Those who lose their health insurance because their employers either no longer offer it or go out of business, will also benefit from the bills.
The House and Senate bills will enable individuals and families with incomes up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level to be eligible for help paying for plan premiums and other cost-sharing through national or state-based exchanges, the report says. As for employer health insurance coverage, the House version requires employers with annual payrolls of more than $750,000 to offer coverage to their employees. Under the Senate version, employers with more than 50 employees failing to provide coverage would have to pay a penalty of $750 annually per worker when an employee obtains federally subsidized health insurance through an exchange, according to the report.
The two bills propose differing financing mechanisms. For more details on how the bills match up to each other, see the HealthDay News report here.
Check in with The Independent for more details, and how the bill could affect the independent media community, as the debate continues!