Wall Street Journal ...the senators embraced a more limited proposal that would empower the government's Office of Personnel Management to put in place a new low-cost national health plan, congressional aides said. ...That plan would be run by nonprofit entities set up by the private sector, and would be available to the public on the new insurance exchanges that would be created under the bill.
The plan must still be analyzed by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and vetted by the full Democratic caucus. But the proposal is aimed at reconciling divisions among Democrats and ensuring that Mr. Reid has 60 votes needed for final passage.
In a nod to Democratic liberals still intent on expanding coverage, the group agreed to a proposal that would open Medicare, the health-insurance program for the elderly, to Americans ages 55 to 64. The proposal would benefit an estimated two million to three million Americans who have difficulty obtaining coverage elsewhere, including those who have lost their jobs.
These people would be allowed to buy into Medicare at subsidized rates, but would likely pay more than retirees age 65 and over.
Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.) said expanding Medicare "is putting more people in a boat that's already sinking."
The American Medical Association said it opposes expanding Medicare because doctors face steep pay cuts under the program and many Medicare patients are struggling to find a doctor. Hospitals also said expanding Medicare and Medicaid is a bad idea.
"We want coverage -- in the worst way -- expanded, but both of these means are problematic for hospitals and physicians," said Chip Kahn, president of the Federation of American Hospitals, which lobbies on behalf of for-profit hospitals. "It's going to make it difficult to make it work."
The legislation is designed to extend insurance coverage to tens of millions of Americans. It would create new tax subsidies to help low- and middle-income people comply with a mandate to purchase coverage.
It would also bar insurers from engaging in a range of practices, such as denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions, and Senate Democrats were considering adding to those restrictions.
Under discussion among Senate Democrats was a proposal that would require insurance companies to spend no less than 90% of the insurance premiums they take in on health services, effectively limiting how much they can reap in profit. The health bill that the House passed last month contains a similar provision, though it sets the minimum of 85%.
Aides cautioned that the accord reached Tuesday could be reopened if the CBO identifies major problems. Moreover, other issues, such as proposals to control the rapid growth of health costs, may still need to be negotiated over the next few days.
LINK>>> Senators Strike Health Deal