WASHINGTON, Dec 24, 2009 (AFP) - Key provisions of health care legislation, the most dramatic health reform in the United States in four decades, that Senate is to vote on Thursday:
-- The measure, like its counterpart in the House of Representatives, would extend coverage to roughly 31 million Americans of the 36 million who currently lack it.
-- Senators removed a government-backed "public option" plan the House included to compete with private insurers, which has caused friction as the two chambers look to reconcile their rival versions to send a compromise bill to President Barack Obama.
-- The Senate bill would create insurance exchanges where Americans could buy health coverage, helped along by government subsidies for low-income workers. It would also require most individuals to have coverage on penalty of a fine.
-- Another House-Senate dispute looms over abortion: The House decreed that recipients of government subsidies cannot buy into a health plan that covers the procedure, while the Senate allows plans to cover abortions but requires separate premium payments for abortion and for all over coverage.
-- The legislation would ultimately forbid private insurers from denying coverage on the basis of "pre-existing" medical conditions, ends a lifetime cap on benefits. It would allow children up to age 26 to stay on their parents' coverage.
-- The United States relies on employer-provided health insurance, and the bill includes subsidies to help small businesses to pay for covering employees, and inducements for larger businesses to cover their employees.
-- The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found the bill would reduce the federal budget deficit by 132 billion dollars over the first 10 years and as much as 1.3 trillion in the next 10.
Many of the items phase in, some do not take effect until 2014.