In an effort to be more open and transparent, President Obama released his own health care proposal Monday so that Republicans, Democrats and the general public could take a look at the language before Thursday’s televised health care summit with Congressional leaders. Coming in at a very manageable 11 pages, the proposal in essence adopts much of the language of the Senate bill and then tweaks it.
Perhaps the first thing that stands out in the document is what it doesn’t include, a public option and any language addressing federal funding of abortion; a likely sticking point among Republicans and conservative Democrats. Also gone is Senator Ben Nelson’s perk for Nebraska.
Basically, the President took the ideas he supported from both the House and the Senate bills and then expanded on them. The following represents the highlights of the document:
- Lowering premiums for lower income families, specifically those making under $44,000 per year. A family of four in that income bracket would pay 4-6.3% of its income for insurance premiums.
- Closing the Medicare “donut hole” on prescriptions. Currently, Medicare stops covering drugs once the beneficiary has spent $2,830 and doesn’t pick up the costs again until the out-of-pocket expense reaches $4,550. The plan would give a $250 rebate to those seniors that reach the donut hole threshold in 2010.
- $11 billion would be spent on existing and constructing new community health centers.
- Small Businesses would get $40 billion in tax credits to provide coverage for workers, yet those who have less than 50 employees would be exempt from any employer mandates.
- A Health Insurance Rate Authority would be established to oversee the industry so that rates wouldn’t be increased without just cause.
- People can keep their current plans if desired which would be “grandfathered” into the new system.
- And the President’s plan would grant extraordinary powers to the Secretary of Health and Human Services in order to crack down on fraudulent claims and abuses and monitor billing activities.
The document’s release received what could be best called a lukewarm response from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) who simply said, “I look forward to reviewing it.” House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) was much more critical saying, “The President has crippled the credibility of this week’s summit.” He added the meeting would amount to nothing more than a Democratic “infomercial” and again stressed the need to toss out the entire proposal and start from scratch. Yet the Administration outlines in detail those Republican ideas that were adopted into the proposal.
Reviews in the social media world of Facebook were mixed. While many people seemed quite pleased with the President’s proposal, many were still dissatisfied, clamoring, “Where’s the public option?”