... So that You may be kept informed

Main points of Obama health care plan

Mon Mar 22 20:45:11 EST 2010
Mon Mar 22 09:45:11 UTC 2010

President BARACK OBAMA'S health care bill .. which passed on Sunday in the House of Representatives .. aims to bring the United States closer to universal coverage than ever before.

The plan's intended to usher in the most sweeping overhaul of its kind in four decades and extend coverage to some 32 million Americans out of the 36 million who lack it now .. according to the independent Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

The CBO says the legislation carries an initial 10-year price tag of $US940 billion ($A1.03 trillion) .. but would reduce the ballooning US deficit by $US138 billion ($A150.74 billion) through 2019 and $US1.2 trillion ($A1.31 trillion) over the following decade.

Here are some other notable features of the compromise .. which requires the House to pass the Senate's health bill .. followed by both chambers approving a package of changes to make the overhaul more palatable to the lower chamber.

- Tough new rules on private insurers:

The bill would ban insurance company practices like denying coverage for pre-existing illnesses, dropping people from coverage when they get sick, or capping lifetime coverage, and restrict new plans' use of annual limits.

- No "public option"

After a year-long fight, Obama's Democratic allies opted not to include a government-backed program to compete with private insurers, which supporters and many analysts described as the best way to rein in costs.

- New insurance markets

Instead, the plan creates new state-based marketplaces called exchanges where Americans without employer-provided coverage could buy insurance.

- Requirements, subsidies

For the first time in US history, most Americans would be required to buy insurance or face fines, and larger firms could face penalties for not offering coverage.

But the bill would also offer subsidies to help individuals who earn too much to get coverage under an expansion of the government's Medicaid program but under 400 per cent of the US federal poverty level, which in 2009 stood at earnings of $US22,000 ($A24,030.58) per year for a family of four.

- Elderly drug benefits

The bill offers a rebate to seniors who fall into a "donut hole" gap in prescription drug coverage under the government-run Medicare program for the elderly. The gap would be phased out by 2020.