President Obama has, for the first time, proposed specific legislation to overhaul the U.S. health system. According to officials at the White House, Obama's bill represents a blending of legislation passed by the House and Senate last year. It is in effect the conference report that Democratic Senate leaders have been unable to pass since losing its 60th vote.
Obama's communications director, Dan Pfeiffer, says the President's bill contains changes modifying a proposed excise tax on high-cost health insurance plans and increasing subsidies to help lower-income families afford insurance. The Obama proposal also would give federal regulators the power to block premium increases by private insurers. Premium oversight has been historically controlled by states.
The new version of the 40% excise tax would affect plans for individuals costing more than $10,200 a year and plans for families above $27,000. Those are nominally higher thresholds than in the previous versions, but the earlier bills assumed the tax would start in 2013, not 2018, and the new proposal contains a potential adjustment if health costs rise faster than expected. The thresholds would be indexed to the general inflation rate, plus 1%.