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HEALTH POLITICS: Reid Ready to Present Merged Bill In Senate

October 26, 2009 - 10:33am

Details are firming up in the merged Senate health care reform bill, reports The Wall Street Journal (subscription required). Here's a preview of major provisions that appear to be highly likely to make it into the final bill:

Public option. The Senate bill will contain a public option, reports the WSJ, but states can opt out. Reid came out in favor of a public plan with an opt out last week, according to The New York Times. Some theorized the White House preferred a "trigger" for the public option,  appealing to moderates like Olympia Snowe (R-ME). But the White House Blog said that President Obama and Reid are pursing the same strategy, and the president supports both a public option and Reid's efforts to create a final Senate bill.   

Individual mandate. The individual mandate means that everyone will be required to purchase health insurance or face a fine, with exemptions for those who can't afford insurance. Employers with more than 50 workers don't have to provide health care for their employees, writes the WSJ, but they would be fined up to $750 per employee if any of their workers receive government subsidies to purchase insurance. That represents a larger penalty than the original Senate Finance bill, which had a fine limit of up to $400 per employee.

Coverage and affordability. The bill will cover most -- although not all -- of the uninsured. Subsidies will help low and middle income Americans purchase insurance. The final bill will also increase coverage for low-income individuals by expanding eligibility to Medicaid. (The WSJ didn't give the precise ceiling for Medicaid coverage in the final bill -- but the Finance bill went up to 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Level and the HELP bill went up to 150 percent FPL. For more comparisons check out the Kaiser Family Foundation's side-by-side reform bill comparison tool).

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid plans to send the final merged Senate bill to the CBO for scoring, reports Politico's Pulse, so expect him to report a final version of the bill to his caucus as early as Tuesday.