WASHINGTON (CN) – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an $894 billion health bill today that she said would expand health coverage to 36 million more Americans. “The bill will not add one dime to the deficit as it expands coverage, implements key insurance reforms, and promotes prevention and wellness across the health system,” she said outside the Capitol building. House Republicans blasted the bill, which includes a watered-down public option, as a trillion-dollar government health care takeover.
“We come before you to follow in the footsteps of those who gave our country social security, and then Medicare, and now universal quality affordable health care for all Americans,” Pelosi, (D-Calif.), said.
House Republicans harpooned the “monstrosity” at a press conference after the bill was announced, saying it amounted to a government takeover of health care. They said the 2,454-page bill was so large and complex that nobody will ever know what’s in it, adding that this might be what the Democrats want.
Democrats said the measure would cover 96 percent of Americans while combating unfair and deceiving health insurance policies and that it would not contribute to the already ballooning deficit. Instead, Pelosi has said the bill will save a total of $30 billion over 10 years.
To fund the bill, which is projected to cost $894 billion over the next 10 years, high earners would be taxed more and cuts would be made to Medicare. Individuals with salaries of more than $500,000 and married couples making more than $1 million a year would be hit.
The legislation would require individuals to buy insurance and businesses to provide insurance to their employees.
The measure would bar insurers from dropping customers once they get sick and from refusing applicants because of a preexisting condition. It would cap annual out-of-pocket expenses, and insurers would need to disclose rate increases.
It would also make gender rating illegal, a process that typically charges more to cover young or middle-aged women and older men, and would allow young adults to stay on their parents’ health plans until they are 27 years old.
A public option is included, but it is widely considered to be watered down as part of a compromise. Instead of using Medicare rates, the government would have to negotiate with doctors and hospitals just like insurance companies.
President Obama released a statement backing the bill and its public option. “A public option that competes with private insurers is the best way to ensure choice and competition that are so badly needed in today’s market,” he said.
House leaders hope to vote on the bill next week.
Once the House and Senate approve health bills, a bipartisan body will convene to merge the two. If both chambers approve the reconciled version, it will be sent to Obama for his signature.