Sen. Edward Kennedy and colleagues have released a health reform proposal that would create new coverage options and let employees pay for long term care insurance with pretax income.

Kennedy, D-Mass., says lawmakers tried to strengthen what works and fix what doesn’t.

“Over the next few days, we will continue working with our Republican colleagues on common-sense solutions that reduce skyrocketing health care costs, assure quality care for all and provide affordable health insurance choices,” Kennedy, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, says in a statement about the 615-page Affordable Health Choices Act bill.

Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., the highest-ranking Republican on the HELP Committee, says the bill would put the country on a “partisan road to government-rationed health care.”

“We’ve been meeting with Democrats for months to discuss health care reform, but from what I’ve seen in this proposal, it doesn’t look like they listened at all,” Enzi says.

The draft of the bill posted by supporters includes provisions that seek to:

–Stop health insurers from imposing preexisting condition exclusions on purchasers of individual health coverage.

–Require guaranteed availability and renewability of coverage.

–Require coverage of preventive services.

–Eliminate annual and lifetime benefit limits.

–Prohibit discrimination based on salary.

–Create “affordable health choices,” based on the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program, by creating affordable health benefit gateways in each state that would use federal grants to set up voluntary health insurance purchasing systems for individuals and small employers. Each gateway would have to offer a public health insurance option. Section 3116 of the bill, which appears to be meant to describe the public health insurance option, instead includes a note that the policy in this area is still under discussion.

–Make it clear that employers and individuals share responsibility for making sure that individuals have health coverage. The section describing how employer responsibility for coverage would be implemented is still under discussion.