House democrats introduce health reform bill with a public option

Earlier today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled health reform legislation that promises to expand health care to 36 million people and fortify Medicare and Medicaid. The House democrats sponsored bill calls for an expansion of Medicaid, an end to insurance companies' exemption from anti-trust laws and an employer mandate for businesses with payrolls of more than $500,000. The estimated cost of the reform legislation is $894 billion over 10 years, spurring ongoing debates about just how much this will add to the federal deficit.

Despite the proposed new taxes on high-income individuals and levies on medical-device manufacturers, among others, lawmakers and insurance lobbies opposed to the bill claim it will not reduce overall health care costs.

Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), head of the Republican Study Committee, issued a statement saying Democrats had produced a "government takeover that will limit choice, competition and innovation in healthcare while increasing costs and decreasing quality." He added that the measure would kill jobs, raise taxes and inflict cuts on a program of private Medicare that provides benefits to millions of seniors.

Large companies would be required to cover their employees, and most individuals would also be required to have insurance. Federal subsidies would be available to millions of lower-income individuals and families to help them afford the policies, and to small businesses as an incentive to offer coverage to their workers.

The bill also aims to eliminate the Medicare "donut hole"--a gap in coverage for brand-name drugs--by 2019 instead of 2024, as originally proposed. It also allows the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate drug prices on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries. Young adults up to the age of 27 can remain on their parents' or guardians' health insurance. A vote on the bill is expected as early as next week.

For more on the reform bill:
- read this Forbes article
- check out this The New York Times story
- watch this video of Pelosi