WASHINGTON — Here is a comparison of two health care bills before Congress, one by House Democrats and the other by Senate Democrats.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is finalizing legislation merging the work of two committees and making other changes. The Senate Democrats' bill has not yet been made public, so some specifics are unknown.
House Democratic bill
Who's covered: About 96 percent of legal residents under age 65 — compared with 83 percent now. About one-third of the remaining 18 million people under age 65 left uninsured would be illegal immigrants.
Cost: The Congressional Budget Office says the bill's cost of expanding insurance coverage over 10 years is $1.055 trillion. The net cost is $894 billion, factoring in penalties on individuals and employers who don't comply with new requirements. That's under President Obama's $900 billion goal. However, those figures leave out a variety of new costs in the bill, including increased prescription drug coverage for seniors under Medicare, so the measure may be around $1.2 trillion.
How it's paid for: $460 billion over the next decade from new income taxes on single people making more than $500,000 a year and couples making more than $1 million. The original House bill taxed individuals making $280,000 a year and couples making more than $350,000, but the threshold was increased.
There are also more than $400 billion in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid; a new $20 billion fee on medical device makers; $13 billion from limiting contributions to flexible spending accounts; sizable penalties paid by individuals and employers who don't obtain coverage; and a mix of other corporate taxes and fees.
Requirements for individuals: Individuals must have insurance, enforced through a tax penalty of 2.5 percent of income. People can apply for hardship waivers if coverage is unaffordable.
Requirements for employers: Employers must provide insurance to their employees or pay a penalty of 8 percent of payroll. Companies with payrolls under $500,000 annually are exempt — a change from the original $250,000 level to accommodate concerns of moderate Democrats — and the penalty is phased in for companies with payrolls between $500,000 and $750,000.
Small businesses — those with 10 or fewer workers — get tax credits to help them provide coverage.
Subsidies: Individuals and families with annual income up to 400 percent of poverty level, or $88,000 for a family of four, would get sliding-scale subsidies to help them buy coverage. The subsidies would begin in 2013.
Senate Democratic bill
Who's covered: The Senate Finance version covered an estimated 94 percent of Americans. Illegal immigrants would not receive government benefits.
Cost: Senate leaders aim to keep it under $900 billion over 10 years.
How it's paid for: Fees on insurance companies, drug makers, medical device manufacturers. Tax levied on insurance companies, equal to 40 percent of total premiums paid on insurance plans costing more than $8,000 annually for individuals and $21,000 for families. But that number may rise to $23,000. Retirees over age 55 and people in high-risk professions may be allowed to have somewhat more valuable plans before they're taxed. Cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. A fee 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. The Senate Finance Committee version required individuals and families to buy coverage as long as it cost no more than 8 percent of their income. Those who are obligated to buy coverage and refuse would face a fine of perhaps $100 in the first year.
Requirements for employers: Not required to offer coverage, but companies with more than 50 full-time workers would pay a fee as high as $750 multiplied by the total size of the work force if the government ends up subsidizing employees' coverage.