The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee released a revised health care reform bill today that includes both a public option and a significantly lower price tag:
WASHINGTON — Democrats on a key Senate Committee outlined a revised and far less costly health care plan Wednesday night that includes a government-run insurance option and an annual fee on employers who do not offer coverage to their workers.
The plan carries a 10-year price tag of slightly over $600 billion, and would lead toward an estimated 97 percent of all Americans having coverage, according to the Congressional Budget Office, Sens. Edward M. Kennedy and Chris Dodd said in a letter to other members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The AP obtained a copy.
By contrast, an earlier, incomplete proposal carried a price tag of roughly $1 trillion and would have left millions uninsured, CBO analysts said in mid-June.
All right! $600 billion and a public option? This we can do! Just think: a few weeks ago we were trying to find ways to get a bill without a public option at less than $1 trillion. Not only does the public option not cost nearly as much as its opponents have stated recently, but it turns out it actually saves money:
The letter indicated the cost and coverage improvements resulted from two changes. The first calls for a government-run health insurance option to compete with private coverage plans, an option that has drawn intense opposition from Republicans.
“We must not settle for legislation that merely gestures at reform,” the two Democrats wrote. “We must deliver on the promise of true change.”
Additionally, the revised proposal calls for a $750 annual fee on employers for each full-time worker not offered coverage through their job. The fee would be set at $375 for part-time workers. Companies with fewer than 25 employees would be exempt. The fee was forecast to generate $52 billion over 10 years, money the government would use to help provide subsidies to those who cannot afford insurance.
The same provision is also estimated to greatly reduce the number of workers whose employers would drop coverage, thus addressing a major concern noted by CBO when it reviewed the earlier proposals.
And there it is. All this screaming over health care, about how it couldn’t be done, about how any type of mandate would kill small businesses, about how the publci option would be the death toll of capitalism, etc. etc. — and this is all it takes? Ted Kennedy and Chris Dodd sit down and hash it out? I’m okay with this.
Of course, Republicans will still whine, but it’s not clear what there really is to whine about. Increased coverage: check. Decreased cost: check. Decreased taxpayer burden: check. What is there left to holler about? The folks at Daily Kos put it perfectly:
Politically, this puts Republicans and Democratic opponents of the public option in a terrible position. They can’t argue that the public option is too expensive. And they can’t argue that it won’t lower costs and expand coverage.
The only argument they have left is that private insurers won’t be happy with the public option. To the extent that argument sways opinion, it will sway opinion in our direction.
Amen. This bill could be the one that finally passes, that finally gives America the health insurance system it deserves. I hope it does and I hope Harry Reid has the stones to railroad it through, if necessary. It’s the right bill with the right coverage at the right price. The president wants it and, more importantly, the American people want it.
Let’s get it done, shall we?
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