Senate girds for Saturday vote, long battle on health care

The Senate on Thursday began what promises to be a bitter, lengthy battle over the future of health care in America. Taxes, abortion, affordability and federal deficits emerged as key flash points.

Senate Democratic leaders expect the first test vote on their new $848 billion, 2,074-page health care overhaul bill will come Saturday evening.

Although Democrats are likely to get the 60 votes they need to move forward with the debate, the outcome is uncertain.

Many provisions of the Senate bill unveiled Wednesday, including a mandate for individuals to obtain insurance and the creation of insurance markets, would take effect in 2014, a year later than similar provisions of the bill the House passed earlier this month.

A look at how the proposals compare on some key issues:

House version

Mandate: Requires most Americans to have a minimum level of health insurance or else pay a penalty.

Penalty: Tax equal to 2.5 percent of adjusted gross income over $9,350 for individuals, $18,700 for couples.

Exemptions: American Indians, people with religious objections and people who can show financial hardship.

Senate version

Mandate: Requires most Americans to have a minimum level of health insurance or else pay a penalty.

Penalty: Starts at $95 a year per person in 2014 and rises to $350 in 2015 and $750 in 2016, with a maximum of $2,250 for a family. No penalty if the cost of cheapest available plan exceeds 8 percent of household income.

Exemptions: American Indians, people with religious objections and people who can show financial hardship.

Other developments

Lower deficits: The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's bill would reduce federal deficits by $130 billion in its first decade and continue to give back for the next 10 years and beyond. The CBO noted that long-range projections can be imprecise.

Medicare cuts: The House, on a near party-line vote of 243-183, chose to add more than $200 billion to the deficit to prevent steep Medicare payment cuts to doctors. Republicans said the Democrats were thanking the AMA for backing the president's health care overhaul.

Botox tax: The Senate health care measure would slap a 5 percent excise tax on elective cosmetic surgeries and procedures such as face lifts, liposuction, cosmetic implants or teeth-whitening. The plan, projected to raise $6 billion, wouldn't apply to surgery to fix a deformity or injury.

Senate girds for Saturday vote, long battle on health care 11/19/09 [Last modified: Thursday, November 19, 2009 11:23pm]

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