Now That It's Passed: What You Need to Know About the Senate Health Care Bill

Now that the Senate's $871 billion health care overhaul bill has passed, many may still have questions about the exact nature of the bill -- and how it may affect their health choices in the decade to come.

To learn more, the ABC News Medical Unit reached out to some of the nation's top experts in health care policy. More than a dozen replied. Below are some of their comments on the Senate bill, its potential impact and how it differs from the House bill.

VIDEO: Senate Finally Votes on Health Care Bill

What Will It Mean?

Health reform proponents overwhelmingly spoke out in favor of the bill – though some noted that more remains to be done.

"It's a start," said Donald Kemper, chairman and CEO of Healthwise Incorporated. "It focuses on reducing the inequities, and that's not a bad place to start."

Karen Davis, president of the health care reform group the Commonwealth Fund, called the bill "another milestone on the way to historic and significant changes to the U.S. health care system."

The Senate's passage of the bill had its share of industry support as well.

"We applaud the Senate for taking an important and historic step toward expanding high-quality, affordable health care coverage and services to tens of millions of Americans, many of whom are struggling today financially," said the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America in a statement.

But not all were in favor of the bill.

"For the first time in our history, the federal government will tell you what type of insurance you have to have and – effectively -- where you will get it and even what price you have to pay," said John Goodman of the conservative think tank National Center for Policy Analysis.

How Is It Different From the House Bill?

Of course, the Senate version of the health care reform bill is only one side of the story. Lawmakers will now begin the task of reconciling the Senate legislation with the House bill, which passed in November.

"The major unresolved issues that the conference committee will have to resolve are one, the sources of financing for the program, and two, the fate of the public option," said Daniel Blumenthal, chair of the department of community health and preventive medicine at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Ga.

"[The House bill] has better premium and cost-sharing assistance for low-income families," Davis said, adding that the House and Senate bills have different provisions on abortion coverage, which could also be a major point of contention.

Cost and Coverage

In its current form, the Senate bill asks for $871 billion over the next 10 years. What would Americans get for this sum? Uwe Reinhardt, professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J., said poorer families would be one group that would come out on the winning end.

"Starting somewhere between 2013-14, but no later than 2014, the bill will channel about $870 billion divided by roughly 6 years ... $145 billion a year toward lower-income American families that would otherwise find themselves priced out of health insurance by the ever rising cost of coverage."

In total, 31 million more Americans would ostensibly receive health coverage with the passage of the bill. But Republicans argue that the Senate health care bill would add an extra $1 trillion to the budget deficit – a figure that differs from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office's estimate that it would reduce the deficit by $132 billion over 10 years.

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