The combined plan calls for new federal oversight of health insurance
company practices, including rate hikes; new tax credits to offset the
cost of insurance premiums; excise taxes on high-cost, so-called
"Cadillac" health care plans; and closing the "doughnut hole" coverage
gap in the existing prescription drug plan for seniors.
There is also a proposed 2.9 percent tax assessment on income from interest,
dividend, annuities, royalties, and rents, applying to individuals who
make more than $200,000 annually and families that make more than
The Obama health care proposal also calls for fines on businesses that don't insure their employees for at least $2,000 per
person, as well as individuals who refuse to obtain health care
The package "puts American families and small business owners in control of their own health care," said the proposal posted on the White House web site.
One thing the plan does not include: A publicly funded health insurance
option, which the House included in its bill but the Senate did not.
Debates over the "public option" slowed down the legislative process in
The plan also essentially ignores requests from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other Republicans
that the parties "start from scratch" at this week's health care
summit. Obama will sit down with House and Senate leaders from both
"It is clear this bill, like the Democrat bills that passed the House and Senate is another massive, government
takeover of health care that will increase the cost of health
insurance, explode the deficit, and slash Medicare benefits," said Rep.
Dave Camp, R-Mich., top Republican on the House Ways and Means
Committee, and an invitee to the summit.
White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said the House and Senate did too much good work last year for it to be simply be discarded.
"Starting from scratch doesn't make sense," Pfeiffer said. "However, we are
coming to this meeting with an open mind for new ideas, and we hope the
Republicans do the same."
While Republicans now have the ability to block any health care plan with a filibuster in the Senate, Pfeiffer
indicated that the White House might support efforts to enact some
provisions through a process known as reconciliation. That would
require only 51 Senate votes for passage, as opposed to the 60 needed
to break a filibuster.
"The president expects an up or down vote on health care reform," Pfeiffer said.
The White House health care package would cost an estimated $950 billion,
but the plan said it would reduce the deficit by $100 billion over ten
years "by cutting government overspending and reining in waste, fraud,
The White House plan leans more toward the Senate version, Pfeiffer said, but there are changes. They included increased
fines for companies that don't insure employees for $2,000 person, as
well as increasing the threshold for high-end plans subject to excise
taxes. A "Cadillac" plan would be defined as one of at least $27,500
The unveiling of yet another health care plan represents a new political approach by Obama, who during last year's
debate outlined general principles while leaving most of the details to
Congress. The results included two very different House and Senate
plans that Obama is now trying to fuse into one.
Efforts by Obama and the Democrats to meld the House and Senate bills ran
aground after the Jan. 19 election of Sen. Scott Brown, a Republican
from Massachusetts. Brown's election gives Senate Republicans the
ability to filibuster any health care plans they don't like.
Among other items, the Obama plan calls for new federal restrictions on health insurance rate hikes. The proposal is a response to the request by Anthem Blue Cross in California for premium hikes of as much as 39 percent.
The Obama plan also calls for:
- Eliminating the controversial Senate provision that would exempt the
state of Nebraska from Medicaid costs; indeed, Obama called for
increasing Medicaid assistance to all states.
- Maintaining congressional efforts to prevent insurance companies from rejecting people because of illness or pre-existing conditions.
- "Strengthening the provisions to fight fraud, waste, and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid."