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Q & A: The New House Health Bill

Q & A: The New House Health Bill

Chicago Tribune

November 02, 2009

This week’s questions focus on the House Democrats’ health care bill unveiled Thursday by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Q: Would the House Democrats’ bill raise my taxes more than the other bills making their way through Congress?

A: It depends on your income.

The House bill would impose a “surcharge” on individuals who make more than $500,000 and couples who make more than $1 million. The previous House bill would have imposed the surcharge on individuals who make $280,000 and families that make $350,000.

The bill would also impose a tax of 2.5 percent of income for those who make more than $250,000 and fail to purchase health insurance.

Q: How would the bill affect my prescription drug benefits under Medicare?

A: The bill would speed the process of closing the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole,” the coverage gap that occurs when a patient’s prescription drug costs exceed a certain yearly amount.

Over time, the bill would create a 50 percent discount for prescription drugs bought in the doughnut hole. That process would be completed in 2019 — five years earlier than the original House bill proposed.

The bill would also require the health and human services secretary to negotiate for Medicare drug prices.

Q: Why do insurers say this bill would raise health care costs?

A: Insurers are not happy that the bill includes a “public option” — a government-run insurance plan that would be funded through an increased payroll tax for those who chose it. The public option would compete with private options on a regulated insurance exchange.

Insurers say the public option will disrupt the current health care market and that it could force some members of the industry out of business.

The bill also ends insurers’ exemption from antitrust laws that prohibit price-fixing, another element they say could drive up costs.

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