Congress primed for final push toward reform
After a grueling legislative session and a mad dash to the finish line, lawmakers from both the House and Senate last week began the process of melding two similar but widely divergent health overhaul packages despite an outcome that should hold few surprises.
In a political effort to corral the 60 votes needed to move ahead with their bill, Senate leaders cut a number of last-minute deals that could handcuff House members from pushing for broad changes that are already included in their bill.
House Democrats have been put in a position where they have had to defend the policy changes in their bill while fending off accusations that the Senate’s bill will simply trump their own.
Major differences hound the two legislative packages. For starters, the House bill is more expensive, clocking in at $1.1 trillion over the next 10 years vs. the Senate’s $871 billion bill. President Barack Obama has said that he wants a bill that costs less than $900 billion.
The House also includes a measure that would create a national public health insurance option—something that has proved combustible in the Senate.
Other differences center on an employer mandate—the House has one; the Senate does not—and an expansion of the Medicaid program. The House’s expansion is more generous than the Senate’s.
The chambers also split on how to pay for the bill. The House includes a tax on high wage-earners, those individuals making more than $500,000 per year or joint filers making in excess of $1 million. The tax is expected to raise more than $460 billion over 10 years.
The Senate’s package, however, relies on a