The HELP Committee has released their final version of a health care bill, including a public health insurance option and a provision for shared responsibility:
Democrats on a key Senate Committee outlined a revised and far less costly health care 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 over $600 billion, and would lead toward an estimated 97 percent of all Americans having coverage, according to the Congressional Budget Office, Sens. Edward M. Kennedy and Chris Dodd said in a letter to other members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The AP obtained a copy.
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.
You got that cost number right - $611 billion. If you'll remember, the last version of the HELP bill - without a public option or shared responsibility - came in at $1 trillion. Clearly, these changes saved money. (And remember when John Boehner, Republican leader in the House, said the public option would cost over $1 trillion? He's dead wrong.) The full text of the bill can be found here. [pdf]
On the conference call announcing the measure, Senators Dodd, Brown, and Whitehouse said that all 13 HELP Democrats would be voting for this bill. That's right, every single one.
Richard Kirsch, Health Care for America Now's national campaign director, had this to say:
The HELP Committee's bill will give Americans all across this country what they want - a choice of a strong public health insurance option that will provide lower costs and keep the insurance companies honest. The public health insurance option included in the HELP bill will be available on day one, giving Americans a new alternative to the private insurance industry. It will also encourage the delivery of better health care at a lower cost. The public health insurance option, combined with other key sections of the HELP Committee legislation, makes this bill a good prescription for health care reform. More specifically, the bill invests enough resources to make good, affordable health care available to middle-class families and includes strict rules to stop insurance company abuses.
We urge the Senate Finance Committee and the full Senate to follow Senator Kennedy and his fellow Democrats' lead in giving everyone a choice of keeping their current health insurance coverage or selecting a new public health insurance option. That public health insurance option would be a real alternative to the private insurance companies that have failed to make health care affordable while regularly delaying and denying needed care.
I concur. The HELP Committee is standing up today and doing the right thing for the American people, and indeed, doing something they deeply support. Finance should follow suit.
(also posted at the NOW blog)