CBPP: Despite Insufficient Subsidies, Senate Health Care Bill Enormous Step Forward

November 19, 2009 6:00 p.m.

The left-of-center Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, which was critical of a number of provisions in the Senate Finance Committee’s health care proposal, has much, much kinder words for the full Senate bill that Majority Leader Harry Reid unveiled this week.

“The new Senate health bill marks a major step toward comprehensive, fiscally responsible health reform,” said executive director Robert Greenstein. “It would extend health insurance coverage to 31 million Americans who lack it, reduce the budget deficit, and put long-term downward pressure on health care costs.”

CBPP had been particularly critical of the “free-rider” employer mandate provision in the Finance bill, which Reid has rectified. Greenstein says the main problem with the bill now is its affordability (or lack thereof) for working-class Americans.

The bill strengthens affordability by improving the premium subsidies in the Senate Finance Committee bill for the millions of households with incomes between 154 percent and 400 percent of the poverty line — that is, between $28,200 and $73,240 for a family of three. Unfortunately, the new bill reduces the subsidies in the Finance Committee bill for near-poor households at the bottom of the subsidy range, which already were less than adequate. A family of three with income of $27,465 (150 percent of the poverty line) would have to pay $1,250 for premiums, or over $400 more than under the House bill. Many families with incomes this low already struggle to pay the rent and utilities and put food on the table and could have difficulty paying this much for health coverage.

You can read more about the bill’s premium assistance provisions here.

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