President Obama vowed that he and Congressional Democrats will push through a healthcare bill by summer.
First, the President and Congressional leaders say the overall point of the legislation is to create a public healthcare system that covers 46 million uninsured Americans. Early volleys and opposition from Republicans center on:
- a stipulation that would cap the employer tax deduction for providing employee insurance
- how the system will be funded and how much it will increase the deficit
- whether such a system would undermine the traditional private system of insurance and care
Who’ll pay for it?
How to pay for the estimated $1.5-trillion cost over 10 years? Congressional estimates point out that the tax exemption for benefits annually costs the government between $246 billion $297 billion — money that could be used to fund a government-run program.
Most proposals, however, don’t call for completely doing away with the tax exemption, but rather limiting it, a move that could raise $700 billion over 10 years, according to consultants from the Lewin Group.
On top of limiting tax deductions for employers and employees, among the proposals floating around Capitol Hill are plans to raise taxes on alcohol, soft drinks and foods high in fat and salt. Health advocates in Congress are saying that’ll create a double benefit of raising money and encouraging better eating habits.
Congressional leaders say they’ll hammer out a bill by July and get action on it before the August recess. The goal: to have a final plan effective Jan. 1.
The full proposal from Congress is summarized in a report authored by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), Chair of the Senate Finance Committee.