One of the key questions surrounding the debate in Congress over comprehensive health care reform is whether it will include help for low- and moderate-income families that are uninsured. A closer look at the House bill, H.R. 3200 or “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act,” suggests that the answer may be “yes.”
The House bill, released last week, describes health insurance coverage as a “shared responsibility” between individuals, employers and the federal government. For the first time ever, businesses with payrolls exceeding $250,000 would be required to provide health insurance coverage to their workers or contribute up to 8 percent of their payroll into a fund that would pay for their employees’ coverage. Additionally, uninsured individuals would be required to obtain coverage through their employer or through a new national health insurance exchange that would include a government-funded public option. Individuals who failed to obtain coverage would pay a penalty.
The federal government would provide “affordability credits” on a sliding scale basis for low- and moderate-income individuals and families to make health insurance premiums more affordable. The affordability credits would be available to those with incomes up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level (that’s $43,000 a year for individuals or $88,000 a year for a family of four).
In addition to these credits, the House bill proposes to expand Medicaid coverage to individuals and families with incomes at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level.
The House health care reform bill is currently in the Energy and Commerce Committee. However, given the amount of controversy surrounding all parts of the bill, including opposition from House “Blue Dog” Democrats, it is uncertain whether there will be sufficient votes to report the bill out of committee.