Washington Report

House Introduces Healthcare Bill

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Following months of intense negotiation—with more haggling inevitably to come—House Democratic leaders introduced their long-awaited healthcare bill, HR 3962, to much fanfare on the West Front of the Capitol Thursday morning.

“This a historic moment for our nation and families. For nearly a century, leaders of every party and political philosophy have fought for health insurance reform,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) at a rally that featured rock music and health insurance (or lack thereof) horror stories from members’ constituents.

The $1.055 trillion bill would expand coverage to approximately 36 million more Americans. It does not include a robust public option favored by House liberals, which would have paid hospitals and healthcare providers at Medicare rates plus five percent. Under the bill introduced, the government would instead negotiate rates with providers. Two conflicts heating up include abortion funding and care for illegal immigrants.

Small businesses with payrolls below $250,000 would be exempt from the employer mandate. Firms with payrolls between $250,000 and $400,000 would pay a graduated penalty. In 2013, small businesses with up to 10 employees can enter the exchange, followed by firms with up to 2o workers in 2014.

President Obama was scheduled to meet privately that evening with members of the black, progressive Hispanic and Asian Pacific American caucuses, groups he needs to hold in line to ensure the House gets the 218 votes needed to pass a reform bill.

Calling the bill a “government takeover” of healthcare, House Minority Leader John Boehner said in a statement his office released that bill would raise premiums and “kill jobs with tax hikes and new mandates.”

Lawmakers have been given 72 hours to review the nearly 2,000-page document. The bill will be debated and, if leadership has its way, voted on next week, perhaps even on Saturday.

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