President Obama this morning released his version of health care reform legislation that combines elements of the Senate and House bills passed late last year. The new plan was unveiled in preparation for Thursday’s televised bipartisan White House health care summit.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said working families “look foward” to moving the ball forward this week toward the goal of quality, affordable health care for all Americans. Republicans in Congress have an opportunity to stand with working families or continue to protect the profits of the insurance industry. We are prepared to work with the White House and leadership in Congress to advance a comprehensive health care bill that will be passed into law.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said this morning the revised proposal “contains positive elements” from both bills. She is scheduled to meet with the other House Democrats today to review the bill further. In a statement, Pelosi said:
Our nation is closer than ever to guaranteeing affordable health care to America’s middle class and small businesses, lowering costs and strengthening Medicare for seniors, holding insurance companies accountable, and reducing our deficit. The cost of inaction is too great for our nation and for every family facing the heartbreaking reality of skyrocketing health care costs and denied care or coverage.
An excise tax on health benefits that remain in the plan has been modified even further than an earlier agreement reached by the White House and union leaders. Under the latest proposal, the tax wouldn’t kick in until the annual premium cost for all families reached $27,500 and would not take effect until 2018.
The bill also includes: higher subsidies for low- and middle-income families to help pay for health insurance: closing the Medicare prescription drug ”donut hole”; new authority to control health insurance premium increases; applying the full Medicare tax (both employer and employee share, or 2.9 percent) to unearned income for families earning more than $250,000; an increase in the penalty for employers that do not provide health benefits from $750 per worker to $2,000; increased Medicaid funding for all states; raising from $23 billion to $33 billion the assessment of drug companies; a ban on denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions. Click here for a full summary.
House and Senate Republicans who have unanimously opposed the reform bills and blocked action were invited to post an alternative health care plan on the White House website so voters could compare ideas. But Republican leaders refused the offer. However, they do say they will attend the Thursday summit.
*This post originally appeared in AFL-CIO blog on February 22, 2010. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and managing editor of the Seafarers Log. I came to the AFL- CIO in 1989 and have written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety. When my collar was still blue, I carried union cards from the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers, American Flint Glass Workers and Teamsters for jobs in a chemical plant, a mining equipment manufacturing plant and a warehouse. I’ve also worked as roadie for a small-time country-rock band, sold my blood plasma and played an occasional game of poker to help pay the rent. You may have seen me at one of several hundred Grateful Dead shows. I was the one with longhair and the tie-dye. Still have the shirts, lost the hair.