Every member of the Democratic caucus backed the bill, while every Republican opposed it. But the Senate’s $871 billion health bill passed Dec. 24 by a 60-39 vote.
Should it become law, it would be the biggest expansion of federal health care guarantees since Medicare and Medicaid came along.
But first, it must be merged with the $1 trillion plan the House approved in November.
When will it be ready for Obama’s signature?
Democrats hope both chambers can strike a deal and a have finalized bill ready for President Obama’s signature early next year — around the time of his State of the Union address.
As they stand now, both the House and Senate bills would:
- subsidize insurance for a family of four making up to roughly $88,000 annually
- create health insurance exchanges designed to make it easier for small businesses, the self-employed and the unemployed to pool resources and purchase coverage at a lower price, and
- prevent companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing health conditions.
However, the question of how to pay for health reform is a big roadblock standing in the way of finalized legislation.
- the House bill would be financed through an income tax surcharge on wealthy Americans and new Medicare spending reductions, and
- the Senate bill would impose a 40% tax on insurance companies that provide “Cadillac” health plans valued at more than $8,500 for individuals and $23,000 for families.
We’ll keep you posted.