Health Care Overhaul: What's in It for the People?
A look at what nearly a $1 trillion for health care gets Americans.
Dec. 22, 2009— -- The health care debate has been centered in Washington, D.C., but it entails a massive overhaul that would affect nearly every American.
The Senate and House have their own versions of the health care bill. Both are similar in principle but differ widely in important aspects, such as whether there should be the option of a government-run insurance plan that would compete with private insurers, abortion language and how to pay for the legislation. When senators pass their health care legislation, it will have to be reconciled with the House bill in the conference committee. Each chamber has to approve the exact same health care bill, with simple majorities, before sending it to the president.
Democratic lawmakers still have a long way to go in finding a common ground. Some senators have said they would be unwilling to accept further changes in the conference committee, but House members are also holding their ground.
"It's unacceptable," Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., said of the Senate bill. "My colleagues and I have great differences with that language."
Stupak's amendment to include tougher restrictions on federal funding for abortion was passed in the House, but the Senate version is relatively less restrictive. Stupak today said it's not the abortion language alone that he disagrees with: It's also that certain states would get preferential treatment when the bill was meant to improve health care coverage for Americans.
"I will not vote for the Senate bill regardless of the abortion language," Stupak told ABC News, referring to the concessions provided to senators for their support. "I think it sends a bad message."
Even as some senators are unwilling to budge, the Michigan Democrat is hopeful the differences can be resolved.
"I remain optimistic that we can work this out," Stupak said.
"I will not leave until my friends in the Senate have completed their work," he told reporters. "My attitude is that if they're making these sacrifices to provide health care to all Americans then the least I can do is be around to provide them any encouragement and last-minute help where necessary. That's the deal."
The Senate is hoping for a final vote on the passage of the health care bill by Christmas Eve, if not earlier.
"The finish line is in sight," Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said today at a news conference. "We're not the first to attempt such reforms but we will be the first to succeed."
The House passed its version last month.
Here is a look at some of the key components of the House and Senate health care bills and their potential impact:
For the first time ever, Americans would be required to carry health insurance. Both bills would require people to do so, and provide subsidies to low- and middle-income families who cannot afford it.
Under the Senate plan, families who make less than $88,200 would be eligible for Medicaid. There are also sweet deals for some states.
Nebraska, the state of once-skeptical Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson, would be exempt from paying for Medicaid's expansion, a gift worth $100 million, under the Senate plan. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., also negotiated $600 million in additional Medicaid benefits for his state over 10 years, and Massachusetts would get $500 million in Medicaid help. Louisiana would get $100 million in 2011 from the federal government for Medicaid.
The Senate plan also designates $10 billion for new community health centers.
Both bills also call for the creation of exchanges, an insurance marketplace where the uninsured, small businesses and self-employed people can compare prices and plans.
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