WASHINGTON BUREAU — House Democrats today unveiled a health bill that includes provisions calling for a “public option,” a health insurance exchange, an employer mandate and appointment of a federal “health choices commissioner.”
Another noteworthy provision of the bill, H.R. 3200, “America’s Affordable Health Insurance Choices Act,” would place a 5.4% surtax on individuals and families with annual gross income exceeding $1 million.
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, scheduled a committee vote on the bill for Thursday.
The House Education and Labor Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee also would have to vote on the bill before it could go to the House floor.
House leaders are hoping to pass a health bill before the House starts its month-long summer recess July 31.
Along with creating the public option and the insurance exchange, the bill would:
- Cut payments to Medicare Advantage starting in 2011, with payments to insurers in excess to those paid for fee-for-services plans to be based on a complex formula partially determined through creation of quality-of-service standards.
- Prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, and it also would require all Americans to obtain health insurance. The bill would impose a tax on individuals who fail to buy health coverage.
- Scale back Medicare and Medicaid payments to hospitals and doctors.
In addition to imposing the 5.4% surtax on individuals and families with annual gross incomes exceeding $1 million, the bill would impose a 1% surtax on individuals and families with annual incomes between $350,000 and $500,000, and a 1.5% surtax on individuals and families with annual incomes between $500,000 and $1 million.
The surtax rates would increase to 2% in 2013 for taxpayers with annual incomes ranging from $350,000 to $500,000, and to 3% for taxpayers with annual incomes ranging from $500,000 to $1 million, unless the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget determined that other provisions of the bill had resulted in savings to the government of more than $150 billion, according to industry officials.
Rep. Mike Ross, D-Arkansas, issued a statement on behalf of a relatively conservative Democratic group, the Blue Dog Health Care Task Force, that says the group will try to hold growth in health care costs to the general inflation rate.
“The Blue Dogs are committed to passing health care reform,” Ross says. “However, reform that does not meet the president’s goal of substantially bringing down costs is not an option.”
House Republicans have asked the Democrats to slow action on health legislation efforts.
Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the highest ranking Republican member of the House Education and Labor Committee, says Democrats “should pull back from their arbitrary deadlines for voting on an overhaul of our nation’s health care system and give members of Congress adequate time to fully assess the consequences of newly introduced legislation on jobs, small businesses, and the quality of health care in America.”