As expected, the Senate broke for August recess last week without the Finance Committee releasing a health care bill. The news today however is comments made by a Democratic leader that signals a possible concession to the Finance Committee and Senate Republicans on a controversial section of the leadership’s bill.
Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-IL) on CNN’s State of the Union said he was willing to support health care legislation without a public plan. According to The Hill, Durbin said “I support the public option but yes, I am open” to voting for legislation without it. Currently, the Senate Finance Committee’s health care proposal does not contain a public plan and substitutes language creating privately-owned “cooperatives”.
While the Finance Committee’s bill is still under wraps, The Washington Post last week revealed additional details contained in the legislation. The revised bill lowered its cost by $100 billion while expanding Medicaid coverage and covering about 94% of Americans. It also includes, as a financing option, a tax on “Cadillac” insurance plans. The tax would be up to 35% on insurance companies that offer health insurance plans valued above $21,000 for families or $8,000 for individuals.
Despite reported progress, the six Senate Finance negotiators have yet to finalize the bill, leading even the negotiators to begin considering alternatives to their comprehensive plan. Finance Committee Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-IA) Tweeted yesterday that lawmakers should reconsider the so-called Wyden-Bennett health care bill. The “Healthy Americans Act” would require all Americans to be insured in a Health Americans Private Insurance (“HAPI”) plan, either through the state or an employer, and provide federal subsidies for lower-income Americans. The legislation has 14 bipartisan cosponsors, but was considered to this point a non-factor in the health care debate.
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