Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) asserted Thursday morning that the 1,990-page House health care bill would cost $894 billion to add health insurance for 36 million Americans over the next 10 years and will cut the deficit by $30 billion.
"Today, we are about to deliver on the promise of making affordable quality health care available for all Americans, laying the foundation for a brighter future for generations to come," Pelosi said at a morning rally on the West Front of the Capitol to unveil the bill. "We have listened to the American people. We are putting forth a bill that reflects our best values and addresses our greatest challenges."
Pelosis also said the bill, which will insure 96 percent of Americans, would reduce the deficit in the second decade something that 36 House Democrats have warned is essential to getting their vote. The measure is funded primarily by a surtax on the rich and about $500 billion in cuts to the growth of Medicare.
Democratic leaders went with a less robust public insurance option than liberal lawmakers preferred, using negotiated rates rather than tying rates to Medicare. That cost them about $85 billion, which they made up by increasing Medicaid eligibility and taking a huge whack out of drug companies to get under the $900 billion figure set by President Barack Obama.
Democrats also are creating a new national insurance high-risk pool for people with pre-existing conditions that they said would take effect until national insurance exchanges are created in 2013.
The final bill also allows more small businesses to enter the national exchange, with companies with 100 or fewer employees allowed in by 2015, up from companies with 20 or fewer employees in the original bill.
And it eliminates the donut hole for Medicare drug insurance by 2019, four years earlier than the original bill, and eliminates the blanket anti-trust exemption for insurance companies. Individuals would also be able to extend COBRA insurance coverage until exchanges are set up in 2013.
States would also be authorized to enter into compacts allowing insurance to be sold across state lines, and children would be able to piggyback onto their parent's insurance plans until they turn 27.
The bill also prohibits federal funding for abortions as well as prohibits illegal immigrants from getting subsidies and requires a verification system for determining legal status.
Republicans were quick to attack the plan, objecting to numerous provisions.
The Democratic plan "includes a job-killing employer mandate, an individual mandate that requires Washington bureaucrats to define what kind of coverage is acceptable, burdensome tax increases, cuts to Medicare Advantage benefits and a huge expansion of Medicaid that will break already strained state budgets," ripped Rep. Tom Price (Ga.), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee.