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House Democrats unveil healthcare plan - but what will it cost?

Price will be a major factor in winning bipartisan support, and the public insurance option could be a sticking point too.

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the health care system at the annual meeting of the American Medical Association in Chicago, Illinois, June 15, 2009.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

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House Democrats on Friday unveiled their draft plan to ensure “quality affordable healthcare” for all Americans -- but without the politically critical price tag.

The plan relies on a new Health Insurance Exchange, including insurance reforms, consumer protections, and a public health insurance option. At the heart of the draft proposal are two key mandates:

Individuals must obtain insurance coverage -- or pay a penalty based on 2 percent of adjusted gross income, with exceptions for hardship.

Employers must provide health insurance for their workers -- or pay a fee based on 8 percent of their payroll, with exemptions for “certain small businesses.”

In a statement, President Obama dubbed the House healthcare reform proposal “a major step toward our goal of fixing what is broken about healthcare while building on what works.”


To broaden access to healthcare, the plan proposes credits for low- and moderate-income individuals and families on a sliding scale: Credits begin just above the proposed new Medicaid eligibility levels and gradually phase out at 400 percent of the federal poverty level ($43,000 for an individual or $88,000 for a family of four).

Small businesses that “want to provide health coverage to their workers but cannot afford it today” will be eligible for a new small business tax credit.

At the same time, the plan sets up consumer protections for all new policies. It caps annual out-of-pocket spending to prevent bankruptcies from medical expenses and bars discrimination based on an individual’s health status, including preexisting health conditions.


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