“Today we are about to deliver on the promise of making affordable quality health care available for all Americans, laying the foundation for a brighter future for generations to come. The Affordable Health Care for America Act is founded on key principals of American success — opportunity, choice, competition, and innovation. We have listened to the American people. We are putting forth a bill that reflects our best values and addresses our greatest challenges.” – Nancy Pelosi, October 29, 2009
The Affordable Health Care for America Act evolved out of the three versions passed by House committees earlier this year, and includes cost savings in Medicaid and Medicare and a public option. Under this weaker public option, providers will be able to negotiate reimbursement rates with the federal government rather than being based on Medicare rates. Regulations on out-of-pocket costs are expected to lower costs for the middle class.
Most individuals would be required to carry insurance; large firms would be required to cover workers; insurers would no longer be able to refuse to provide coverage to anyone or to charge more because of a pre-existing condition; and the bil would strip the industry of its exemption from antitrust laws.
The bill also includes cost cuts to Medicaid and Medicare, expanded guidelines for Medicaid eligibility, an immediate push to close the Medicare donut hole. Regulations on out-of-pockets costs are intended to ease the burden on families. Small businesses will have immediate access to insurance exchanges.
The tax on the wealthiest Americans now applies only to couples earning more than $1 million per year, or singles earning $500,000.
The entire text of the new 1,990 page bill is expected to be available online early next week and the House will begin debate by the end of the week. The House bill, if it passes, will then be merged with the final bill that comes out of the Senate before it makes its way to the President’s desk. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said publicly that the Senate bill will also contain a public insurance plan.
As expected, Republicans quickly denounced the bill as a government takeover of health care and that “Republicans have better solutions…”
We can expect next week to be an interesting one, indeed.