ABC News’ Dean Norland reports: House Democrats unveiled their long-awaited health care plan today, and while details remained sketchy about the plan’s cost, vowed that it would be approved by the House before Congress’ August recess.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), one of the architect’s of the plan, described the bill as landmark legislation and said its consideration was a defining moment for the country.
“We are about to undertake what has eluded so many presidents and congresses for far too long, and that is the objective of getting good quality, affordable healthcare insurance to every American,” he said.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a strong supporter of healthcare reform, emphasized that the bill would provide peace of mind to many Americans because it will prohibit denial of care or coverage because of preexisting conditions.
“This is so important to the middle class,” Pelosi said. “If you change jobs, lose your job or start a new business, you still have healthcare. This is very important to the entrepreneurial spirit of America.”
Pelosi again pledged that the House will vote on its version of the bill before it starts the August recess at the end of the month.
The Democratic leaders called what they released Tuesday a “draft” and said the legislation will be modified as it works its way through three House committees.
How much will the new program cost? Estimates place the price tag at over $1-trillion over ten years.
Democrats could not say, but Rep. Waxman said an estimate would be available from the Congressional Budget Office by the end of the day.
A summary sheet provided by the Democrats claimed that half of the cost of healthcare reform will be achieved by significant efficiencies and savings in Medicare and Medicaid.
Some of the program will be paid for by increasing taxes on the top 1.2% of the wealthiest Americans. But families with adjusted gross incomes below $350,000 and individuals with gross incomes below $280,000 will not see their taxes go up.
Employers will have the option of providing health insurance coverage for their workers or contributing funds on their behalf. The payroll penalty would phase in starting at 2% for firms with annual payrolls over $250,000, increasing to 8% for companies with annual payrolls above $400,000.
House Republicans held their own news conference to respond. They said healthcare reform was too important to be rushed through the House by the end of the month. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) called the Democrats’ 1,018-page proposal “bad medicine”.
“What we really have here is a bill, without any question, that will kill jobs, will limit access to healthcare, will raise taxes and will lead to a government takeover of healthcare,” predicted Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO).