Hey Ed : What’s in the Bill?

Member Group : Commonwealth Foundation

Contact: Nathan Benefield 717.671.1901 | [email protected]
CF Challenges Gov. Rendell to Explain What’s In the Bill

Harrisburg, PA – Yesterday, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell told Fox News that voters oppose the current health care reform proposal because "the administration and its supporters, myself included, haven’t done a good enough job explaining to people what’s in this bill." The Commonwealth Foundation formally welcomes Gov. Rendell to join their efforts to educate the public on the latest health care bills.

Over the last several months, CF gave numerous presentations to civic groups on pending health care legislation and in October produced a Guide to National Health Care Reform Proposals.

"Actually, Mr. Rendell, Americans overwhelmingly oppose the current health care takeover plans because they do understand what’s in the bills," said Nathan Benefield, Director of Policy Research for the Commonwealth Foundation. "But we are, nonetheless, glad Gov. Rendell is willing to help us inform the public about what these bills contain, rather than offering empty rhetoric and flowery promises."

Among the provisions CF hopes Gov. Rendell will explain to voters:

• The bills would mandate individuals buy health insurance, with minimum standards developed by the US Department of Health and Human Services-a mandate President Obama opposed during his campaign because it would drive up the cost of coverage.

• The health care bills would provide between $800 billion (Senate version) and $1 trillion (House version) to insurance companies over the next 10 years, in subsidies for those earning up four times the poverty threshold ($88,000 for a family of four).

• Both the House and Senate bills would increase eligibility for Medicaid; this provision alone would increase state costs for Pennsylvania taxpayers by an estimated $1.5 billion. The Senate version exempts Nebraska from this mandate.

• The bills propose cutting $493 billion in Medicare spending over 10 years. These cuts are unlikely to ever be realized, as they have been previously ignored due to objections from seniors. Seniors in Florida would be exempted from the cuts to Medicare Advantage.

• The uninsured would pay a tax of up to 2.5% of income in the House version and 2% in the Senate version. These taxes would fall on many low- to moderate-income Americans.

• Businesses that don’t provide coverage meeting the new federal standard for their employees would pay a tax of $750 per employee under the Senate bill, and up to 8% of payroll under the House bill. The most logical way for business to pay this tax would be to cut wages.

• The Senate bill would tax employer-provided coverage benefits above $8,500 for individuals and $23,000 for families. Union shops would be exempted from the tax.

• The House bill would tax high-income earners with a "surcharge" of 5.4%, which would raise the top income tax rate well above 50% in most states.
• Both bills would also mandate guaranteed issue and community rating. These mandates drive up the cost of insurance, shift costs to young adults, and encourage healthy individuals to drop insurance coverage.

"We also hope Gov. Rendell will help us educate voters on the alternatives to the plan put forth by Sen. Reid and Speaker Pelosi," Benefield said. Reforms previously outlined by the Commonwealth Foundation include:

• Allowing individuals to buy insurance across state lines.

• Allowing individuals to buy "mandate-lite" policies, or opt out of specific coverage mandates which make insurance more expensive.

• Giving individuals who buy insurance themselves the same tax treatment as those who buy it from their employer.

• Repealing state laws which require Wal-Mart and others to sell prescription drugs at higher prices.

• Creating a state high-risk pool.

• Enacting medical malpractice reform, include limits on non-economic damage awards and joint and several liability reforms.

"If Gov. Rendell truly wanted to educate the public on the health care bill, he would call for the negotiations to be televised, one of President Obama’s campaign promises" added Benefield. "Unfortunately, those moving the health care legislation through Congress would sacrifice transparency in order to get back-room deals to rush through a ‘historic vote’. The more the public has an opportunity to see what is in the health care bill, the more unpopular it becomes."

# # #
Editors Note: The Commonwealth Foundation publication Guide to National Health Care Reform Proposals features summaries of federal health care legislation and includes links to the full text of the bills and comparison of the different versions. This resource is available at www.CommonwealthFoundation.org/healthcare.
The Commonwealth Foundation (www.CommonwealthFoundation.org) is an independent, non-profit public policy research and educational institute based in Harrisburg, PA.