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Senate Dems release $849B health plan
In an attempt to bring the bill in line with what the House passed in its reform bill earlier this month, Mr. Reid’s bill would impose new Medicare taxes on individuals reporting incomes over $200,000 and couples earning over $250,000 and tax some of the most expensive insurance policies, with exceptions for people in high-risk jobs.
The new bill reduces a tax on medical device makers - from $38 billion over 10 years to $20 billion - and adds a new tax of 5 percent on elective cosmetic surgeries.
The bill would give the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services authority to let the public insurance plan provide coverage for abortions, only if she can ensure that no federal dollars are used to fund the procedure, except in cases of rape, incest or in the interest of the life of the mother. Pro-choice Democrats said the legislation merely upholds existing law, but the provision is likely to be heavily debated in coming weeks.
The $849 billion cost, which a senior Democratic leadership aide attributed to a preliminary Congressional Budget Office analysis, is less than the $900 billion Mr. Obama has called for and far less than the $1.2 trillion cost of the House legislation and could help ease some moderates’ concerns over harming the deficit.
The bill’s release to Democrats late Wednesday comes amid heavy lobbying on Capitol Hill. Mr. Reid met privately with the three holdouts to talk about how debate on the legislation would proceed and reviewed the details of the bill with Vice President Joe Biden, who was on the Hill meeting with lawmakers Wednesday.
Mr. Reid told the moderates that he’s open to an amendment for “trimming back or eliminating the public option,” Ms. Landrieu told reporters after the meeting. The public insurance plan has become one of the most controversial elements of health care reform over concern from Republicans and moderates that it would give the government too large a hand in the insurance market and in health decisions.
Ms. Landrieu said her biggest concerns about the bill are the same issues she has raised for months, including concerns that the bill will not lower health care costs and that government-run insurance will undermine the private health insurance market.
Still, neither Mr. Nelson nor Ms. Landrieu said they were ready to commit to supporting the first procedural vote. Ms. Landrieu said the meeting helped her move in that direction, after she was assured the bill’s budget score had improved and that the leadership would allow for the amendment to remove the public option.
“I’m probably in neutral right now,” Ms. Landrieu said. “This meeting helped.”
Ms. Landrieu said that Mr. Reid promised that “there will be a full debate on the floor.”
• S.A. Miller, Kara Rowland and Sean Lengell contributed to this report.
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