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A summary of the Democrats' health overhaul proposal

President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are pulling together a final version of a health care overhaul bill and pushing for House votes as early as this week. Democrats are awaiting cost assessments from the Congressional Budget Office that will allow them to finish details. Some of the main features as the bill takes shape:

How many covered: 31 million uninsured Americans.

INSURANCE MANDATE: Like the bills approved last year by the House and the Senate, the proposal would require almost everyone to be insured or pay a fine. There is an exemption for low-income people.

INSURANCE MARKET REFORMS: Stops unpopular insurance industry practices such as denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions or charging women more. In response to recent insurance premium rate increases, the legislation adopts an Obama proposal to give the federal government the authority to block rate hikes, roll back premium prices and force insurance companies to give rebates to consumers.

MEDICAID: The legislation would expand the federal-state Medicaid insurance program for the poor to cover people with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, $29,327 a year for a family of four.

TAXES: The legislation would scale back a Senate-passed tax on high-cost insurance plans that was opposed by House Democrats and labor unions. The tax would be delayed from 2013 until 2018 and the thresholds at which it is imposed would be moved up from policies worth $8,500 for individuals and $23,000 for families, to $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families.

PRESCRIPTION DRUGS: The proposal would close the "doughnut hole" coverage gap in the Medicare prescription drug benefit that kicks in once seniors have spent $2,830.

EMPLOYER RESPONSIBILITY: The legislation keeps the approach in the Senate bill, which doesn't require businesses to offer coverage but charges fees to companies with more than 50 employees if the government subsidizes employees' coverage. The proposal increases the fees to $2,000 per worker instead of $750, but grants companies an allowance that was not part of the original Senate plan.

SUBSIDIES: The proposal provides more generous subsidies for purchasing insurance than the Senate bill did. The aid is available for households making up to four times the federal poverty level ($88,000 for a family of four).

GOVERNMENT-RUN PLAN: The proposal does not include the government-run insurance plan. It gives Americans purchasing coverage through new insurance exchanges the option of signing up for national plans overseen by the federal office that manages the government health plan available to members of Congress. Those plans would be private, but one would have to be nonprofit.

ABORTION: The proposal tries to maintain a strict separation between taxpayer dollars and private premiums that would pay for abortion coverage. No health plan would be required to offer coverage for the procedure. In plans that do cover abortion, beneficiaries would have to pay for it separately, and that money would have to be kept in a separate account from taxpayer money. States could ban abortion coverage in plans offered through the exchange. Exceptions would be made for cases of rape, incest and danger to the life of the mother.

Brown criticizes 'destructive' drive

Republican Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts accused President Barack Obama and Democrats on Saturday of a "bitter, destructive and endless" drive to pass health overhaul legislation. "We need to drop this whole scheme of federally controlled health care, start over, and work together on real reforms at the state level that will contain costs and won't leave America trillions of dollars deeper in debt," Brown said in the weekly GOP radio and Internet address.

Pelosi predicts House passage of overhaul

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Saturday she's confident the House will pass health care legislation. Pelosi declined to say when House members would vote on a health care bill, or how many votes she had secured. She said lawmakers were "on the verge of making history."

Catholic hospitals back Obama plan

A group representing Catholic hospitals Saturday rallied behind President Barack Obama's health care bill ahead of a House vote in which anti-abortion lawmakers could play a decisive role. The chief executive of the Catholic Health Association, Carol Keehan, wrote on the group's Web site that although the legislation isn't perfect, it represents a "major first step" toward covering all Americans and would make "great improvements" for millions of people. The more than 600 Catholic hospitals across the country do not provide abortions as a matter of conscience. Keehan said she thinks the bill would keep federal dollars from being used to pay for abortion.

A summary of the Democrats' health overhaul proposal 03/13/10 [Last modified: Saturday, March 13, 2010 10:48pm]
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