Senate releases $848 billion health reform bill

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has released a 10-year, $848 billion health reform bill--featuring a much-lower sticker price than the House's $1.05 trillion bill--which highlights some of the significant differences between the two branches of Congress on the issues.

As expected by most observers, the new bill differs from the House version on key questions like taxation, abortion coverage and the public option. According to the CBO, the Senate version of health reform would cut the federal budget deficit by $130 billion over the first decade after being enacted.

Despite loud outcries against the model from some Senators, the Senate version of the health reform bill would feature a public option plan, though states would be allowed to opt out if they wished. The Senate version of the public plan would negotiate with providers directly to establish rates, rather than tying rates to Medicare.

One controversial section of the bill, added by Reid, would increase the Medicare payroll tax for high-income earners by 0.5 percent to 1.95 percent of adjusted gross income. This new tax, which would raise $54 billion, would affect individuals making more than $200,000 or families earning more than $250,000.

Given the widely varying postures the two chambers have taken on key issues, the process of reconciling the two proposals is likely to be arduous, observers note.

To learn more about the Senate reform bill:
- read this Kaiser Health News item

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