By Erica Werner & Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Associated Press Writers¿
A comparison of the health care bills before Congress:
The Senate Democratic bill (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act):
WHO'S COVERED: About 94 percent of legal residents under age 65 — compared with 83 percent now. Government subsidies to help buy coverage start in 2014. Illegal immigrants would not receive assistance.
COST: Coverage provisions cost $849 billion over 10 years.
HOW IT'S PAID FOR: Fees on insurance companies, drugmakers, medical device manufacturers. Medicare payroll tax increased to 1.95 percent on income over $200,000 a year for individuals; $250,000 for couples. New 5 percent tax on elective cosmetic surgery. Cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. Excise tax on insurance companies, keyed to premiums paid on health care plans costing more than $8,500 annually for individuals and $23,000 for families. Fees on employers whose workers receive government subsidies to help them pay premiums. Fines on people who fail to purchase coverage.
REQUIREMENTS FOR INDIVIDUALS: Almost everyone must get coverage through an employer, on their own or through a government plan. Exemptions for economic hardship. Those who are obligated to buy coverage and refuse to do so would pay a fine starting at $95 in 2014 and rising to $750
REQUIREMENTS FOR EMPLOYERS: Not required to offer coverage, but medium and large companies would pay a fee if the government ends up subsidizing employees' coverage.
SUBSIDIES: Tax credits for individuals and families likely making up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, which computes to $88,200 for a family of four. Tax credits for small employers.
BENEFITS PACKAGE: All plans sold to individuals and small businesses would have to cover basic benefits. The government would set four levels of coverage: The least generous would pay an estimated 60 percent of health care costs per year; the most generous would cover an estimated 90 percent.