Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) unveiled November 18 Senate Democrats’ version of healthcare reform, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects would cost $849 billion over 10 years and cut the deficit by $130 billion over the next decade.
In releasing the legislation, Reid said that “as the President asked us to do, we will not add a dime to the deficit–quite the opposite, in fact: We will cut it by $130 billion in the first 10 years and by as much as three-quarters of a trillion dollars in the first 20.” This will be done, he said, “by keeping costs down. This critical reform will cost less than $85 billion a year over the next decade – well under President Obama’s goal.”
Senate Republicans oppose the bill. Congressional Quarterly reported November 19 that Reid “needs all 60 of his members to vote for cloture Saturday [November 21] and, if that passes, to vote Sunday [November 22] on a motion to proceed to the bill”–that is, consideration of the bill by the full Senate.
According to the CBO, the Senate Democrats’ legislation would set a mandate for most legal residents in the United States to obtain health insurance; set up insurance “exchanges” through which certain individuals and families could receive federal subsidies to substantially reduce the cost of purchasing that coverage; significantly expand eligibility for Medicaid; substantially reduce the growth of Medicare’s payment rates for most services (relative to the growth rates projected under current law); impose an excise tax on insurance plans with relatively high premiums; and make various other changes to the federal tax code, Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs.
The House passed its own version of healthcare reform on November 7. The proposals are broadly similar but differ on issues such as a new government insurance plan, abortion, and immigration. Come 2014, the Senate bill would mandate that individuals obtain insurance and it would also then create insurance markets.