Friday, February 26, 2010

Summit ends without definite next steps for reform

Despite the spirited discussion at Thursday’s bipartisan health care summit, Congressional leaders made little progress in the way of substantial policy decisions or negotiations. Both parties agreed that cost containment and insurance market reforms to help individuals and small businesses obtain affordable coverage are necessary reform components, yet there was little consensus on how to achieve this.

In response to the President's plan, Republicans asserted that the $950 billion proposal does little to control costs and does not include the major reform measures favored by the GOP. Obama concluded the summit by allotting up to six weeks for continued health reform discussion in an attempt to reach bipartisanship, but implied that a Democrat-only bill by way of reconciliation is still a possibility.

Released Monday prior to the summit, Obama’s proposal reflects the Senate-passed health care bill but attempts to improve on some of its less popular components. While the Congressional Budget Office has not officially scored the proposal, the White House projects a $950 billion price tag over 10 years.

Key provisions
• Includes an individual mandate but lowers penalty to $325 in the first year
• Closes the “donut hole” for Medicare prescription drug beneficiaries
• Delays 40% excise tax on so-called Cadillac plans until 2018
• Endorses state-based exchanges rather than a public option
• Gives federal government power to block excessive premium increases by insurance companies

Major funding mechanisms
• Raises Medicare payroll tax on couples making more than $250,000 a year
• Imposes fees on drug companies and large employers that do not provide group health insurance
• Includes measures to eliminate Medicare fraud and waste

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