Harry Reid has released the Senate health care reform bill, and it is scheduled for a cloture vote on Saturday. The vote to cut off a potential filibuster is the critical one, requiring sixty votes to pass.
At this point, both the Senate and House bills include a form of public option, but there is other good news as well:
- The bill provides for insurance exchanges, which will include a public option, but not until 2014. Individual states can opt out of the public option.
- Insurance companies have to accept all new customers, even with preexisting conditions, cannot cancel people when they get sick, and cannot charge sick people more than healthy people.
- Annual and lifetime limits are prohibited.
- A mandate requiring everyone to have insurance (with a $750 fine), but there are subsidies for the poor.
- Companies with more than 50 employees are required to provide insurance. Tax credits to help small businesses afford insurance.
- Insurance policies are required to explain their benefits on a standardized form in understandable English.
- If you are denied coverage, there is an appeals process so you can fight back.
- New taxes on so-called “gold-plated” health insurance plans, medical devices, and elective surgery offset the cost of the bill, actually reducing the deficit.
UPDATE: Not surprisingly, the Republicans have declared “a holy war” against the bill, which is an unbelievably poor choice of words.