House Bill Would Make Health Care A Right

House Democratic leaders, pledging to meet the president's goal of health care legislation before their August break, are offering a $1.5 trillion plan that for the first time would make health care a right and a responsibility for all Americans. Left to pick up most of the tab were medical providers, employers and the wealthy.

"We cannot allow this issue to be delayed. We cannot put it off again," Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce committee, said Tuesday. "We, quite frankly, cannot go home for a recess unless the House and the Senate both pass bills to reform and restructure our health care system."

In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid said he wanted floor debate to begin a week from Monday. With the Senate Finance Committee still struggling to reach consensus, that timetable could slip. Even so, it underscored a renewed sense of urgency.

Obama himself was driving the action, going off-script to push the issue during a speech in Michigan and scheduling a Rose Garden news conference for Wednesday to make more comments on the topic.

"There's going to be a major debate over the next three weeks," Obama said in Warren, Mich., deviating from his prepared text on new spending for community colleges. "And don't be fooled by folks trying to scare you saying we can't change the health care system. We have no choice but to change the health care system because right now it's broken for too many Americans."

All involved were mindful of the dwindling days before Congress leaves town. Obama wants legislation through the House and Senate before then to slow rising costs and extend coverage to some 50 million uninsured Americans.

Under the House Democrats' plan, the federal government would be responsible for ensuring that every person, regardless of income or the state of their health, has access to an affordable insurance plan. Individuals and employers would have new obligations to get coverage, or face hefty penalties.

The legislation calls for a 5.4 percent tax increase on individuals making more than $1 million a year, with a gradual tax beginning at $280,000 for individuals. Employers who don't provide coverage would be hit with a penalty equal to 8 percent of workers' wages, with an exemption for small businesses. Individuals who decline an offer of affordable coverage would pay 2.5 percent of their incomes as a penalty, up to the average cost of a health insurance plan.

The liberal-leaning plan lacked figures on total costs, but a House Democratic aide said the total bill would add up to about $1.5 trillion over 10 years. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private calculations.

Three House committees will begin voting on the bill Thursday. Changes in the legislation are likely to satisfy a group of moderate and conservative Democrats who are withholding support.

The 1,000-page bill is unlikely to attract any Republican backing, and business groups and the insurance industry immediately assailed it as a job-killer.

The business groups also warned that the U.S. health care system could be damaged by adding a government-run insurance plan and a federal council that would make some decisions on benefits, as called for in the legislation. Thirty-one organizations signed the letter, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable representing top corporate CEOs and the National Retail Federation.

The House bill seemed unlikely to win broad backing in the Senate, where the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee was expected to finish its version of the legislation Wednesday in what was looking to be a party-line vote.

The Finance Committee was striving to produce a bill by the end of the week, though the committee's chairman, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., acknowledged it would be a challenge to meet Obama's timeline.

"I think it's a lift but one we could accomplish, one we could handle," Baucus said. "I'm not going to guarantee that it's going to happen."

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  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Jul 16, 2009 at 01:11 PM
    Spotting a trend here? Seems everything they have to get through quickly is controversal. Well, better do it while we have both houses and a dem president no matter what it costs.....spend, we will tax the rich to pay for it...Bill, this will wreck the economy more than gas prices did. The dems say it was mortgage, loans and care companies, nope, gas prices shut us down. That trickle hits everybody even the poor. Well, Cap and Trade will finish us off. Wellcome to USSA Comrades...the end is near.
  • by Bill Location: Jamesville on Jul 16, 2009 at 05:09 AM
    The Demo's are in office. Take from the haves and give to the have nots. When are we going to wake up a realize something is wrong with the system when we have 3 generations of people on welfare and SS.
  • by elvishasinsurance on Jul 15, 2009 at 06:39 PM
    The bill has it partly right, everybody is responsible for their own health care--however it is certainly NOT a right. I defy those clowns in DC to cite me ONE article in the Constitution that supports their arrogant and socialistic claim. But not to worry--- they will continue to have the BEST health care that taxpayer money can buy!! Thank me very much!
  • by Kat on Jul 15, 2009 at 10:35 AM
    Actually OSOC I'd say the real problem is that there are not more people getting riled up over this health plan. We may need something but it isn't this.
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Jul 15, 2009 at 08:57 AM
    I think the real problem is the model they pulled from, California. This is partly why they are 26 billion in debt. So, what do you think it will do in the US? This plan is just another give away for illegals to come here. Yes, they might have to pay for insurance while they are here, but when they owe a large bill, will they go home?
  • by Don Location: washington on Jul 15, 2009 at 08:33 AM
    Yeah, our teeth will start to look like those of the Brits.... great health care system!
  • by David Location: Kinston on Jul 15, 2009 at 08:19 AM
    The beginning of the end for decent healthcare.Obama and the democrats won't be happy until this country is economically paralyzed.
  • by Kat on Jul 15, 2009 at 07:48 AM
    A health care policy that kills all other health care programs and redirects those programs funds to the new one, I may be for. But this program where medicare, medicaid, schip, etc still exist. NO! It's like if one program doesn't work we create a new one, but we NEVER get rid of the old one. We should only have one program for health care. And this health care plan is a joke and I do not believe in mandatory programs period. Forcing people to have health care whether they want it or not is wrong. And then making them pay for it as a penalty anyway if they decide not to take it? HELLO, mine as well of just took the sorry insurance. Either get real and create a REAL plan that helps or get lost and take this sorry excuse of a plan (which is really just ANOTHER way to steal hard working people's money in the end and put it towards some unknown program) and shove it!
  • by don Location: washington on Jul 15, 2009 at 05:52 AM
    It is way past time for America to wake up and STOP this "you owe me" attitude. Who is going to pay for all this free health care? The well is drying up as we speak! You can blame doctors and hospitals if you want, threaten to make them lower their charges by law... then see how many stay in the medical field. Where is capitalism? Where is America?
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Jul 15, 2009 at 05:48 AM
    Barlow, I am not against having a heath care policy as I stated. What I am concerned about it over a thousand pages in the document with no one in the houses even reading. Just like the stimulus, no one read what they were passing. So, with the cost being 1.5 Trillion, do you really think the weathly will pay this? No, brother, you and I will, one way or another. Now the government can "dictate" behavior for the sake of health.
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