Senators consider aggressive health plan regulations

This week, we're getting a first taste of what the Democrats' health reform proposals look like, and it seems they're ready to take aggressive steps right out of the gate. While the plan is very complex, here's some details you might find interesting.

Under a new set of proposals by Senate Democrats, which resemble those under consideration by their peers in the House, everyone in the U.S. would be required to carry health insurance starting in 2013, other than illegal immigrants and people with religious objections. Families making up to four times the poverty level ($88,200 for a family of four) would be eligible for tax credits to help them afford coverage. But the penalty for not carrying insurance would be considerable--up to 75 percent of the premium for the lowest-cost health plan in the area where the person lives.

The federal government would set minimum standards for what benefits health plans would offer, including physician services, hospital care and prescription medications. All health plans would have to offer four levels of coverage, ranging from lowest to high.

Most companies would be required to offer insurance to full-time employees, or else pay a special tax. To make it easier for employers to buy rather than dodge health plan obligations, the government would also provide tax credits to small businesses with up to 25 employees, offering extra help to businesses with the lowest-paid workers.

To learn more about Democratic reform proposals:
- read this piece from The New York Times

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