WASHINGTON, July 14, 2009— -- On Capitol Hill today, House Democrats unveiled their $1.04 trillion plan for health care reform, a sweeping plan that was quickly endorsed by President Barack Obama, who wants Congress to pass legislation before the August recess.
"This legislation is landmark legislation, and this is a defining moment for our country," said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif.
The sweeping changes to the health care system would cover 97 percent of Americans and include a mandate requiring all Americans to buy health insurance or pay a fine. Subsidies would be available to those with an income of less than $88,000.
The plan would also eliminate co-payments and deductibles for preventative care and there would be no denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions. Additionally, a government-run insurance program would be created to compete with private insurance.
To help pay for the new plan, the bill would slap a new surtax of up to 5.4 percent on those with incomes of more than $400,000 a year.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, praised the bill, calling the moment "historic and transformative."
"This bill is the starting point and a path to success," she said.
Republicans Oppose the Plan
Most Republicans are already vowing to oppose the plan.
"What we really have here is a bill that, without any question, will kill jobs, will limit access to health care, will raise taxes and will lead to a government takeover of health care," said Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.
Some Republicans compared the new plan with the $775 billion stimulus bill that was passed a month after Obama took office.
The stimulus has yet to stop unemployment from rising, even though Democrats pushing for it to pass said it would bring quick relief to the troubled economy.
"Here we are a few weeks before the recess, and you get the impression they willing -- they want to pass just anything they can pass as rapidly as they can," said Rep. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. "And the reason I was comparing that to the stimulus, we know that that, at least so far, is a failure. It, once again, was sold to us on the basis that we had to do it tomorrow in order to prevent catastrophe."
Senate Democrats Consider Taxing Health Insurance, Pharmaceutical Companies
ABC News has learned Senate Democrats are considering something entirely different -- new taxes on health insurance and pharmaceutical companies. The new taxes could bring in more than $100 billion, but were hotly opposed by the health industry.
Senate Democrats are also considering a new tax on soft drinks of 3 to 10 cents per can and a 1.5 percent increase in capital gains and dividends taxes.
Democrats are scrambling to get bills passed in the House and Senate by August.
It will be an immense challenge, and even if they succeed, the tougher challenge will come in the fall, when they try to resolve fundamental differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.