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Senators outline less-costly healthcare overhaul

The plan would cost about $600 billion, versus an earlier $1-trillion price tag, and eventually would cover 97% of Americans, Sens. Kennedy and Dodd say.

July 02, 2009|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Democrats on a key Senate committee outlined a revised and far less costly healthcare plan Wednesday night that includes a government-run insurance option and an annual fee on employers who do not offer coverage to their workers.

The plan carries a 10-year price tag of slightly more than $600 billion, Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) said in a letter to other members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. They said the plan would lead to 97% of all Americans having coverage, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter.

By contrast, an earlier, incomplete proposal carried a price tag of roughly $1 trillion and would have left millions uninsured, CBO analysts said in mid-June.

The letter indicated that the cost and coverage improvements resulted from two changes. The first calls for a government-run health insurance option to compete with private coverage plans, an option that has drawn intense opposition from Republicans.

Additionally, the revised proposal calls for a $750 annual fee on employers for each full-time worker not offered coverage through their job. The fee would be set at $375 for part-time workers. Companies with fewer than 25 employees would be exempt. The fee was forecast to generate $52 billion over 10 years, money the government would use to help provide subsidies to those who could not afford insurance.

The same provision is also estimated to greatly reduce the number of workers whose employers would drop coverage, thus addressing a major concern noted by the CBO when it reviewed the earlier proposals.

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