Kennedy Readies Health-Care Bill
By Ceci Connolly, Staff Writer
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) has laid down the first marker
in this year's debate over how to revamp the nation's
health-care system, writing a bill that would put strict new
requirements on individuals and businesses to purchase
As expected, the ailing chairman of the Senate Health,
Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and his staff have
crafted comprehensive legislation that would guarantee health
coverage for every American -- but would require the vast
majority to contribute to the cost, according to a draft of the
bill obtained last night by The Washington Post. Some
small businesses and low-income workers would be eligible for
While at least five congressional chairmen are working on
health-care reform bills, Kennedy is the first to complete
detailed legislative language. The draft provides a
partial road map for how the nation might address health
coverage gaps and problems such as rising costs and inferior
The 170-page bill, dubbed the "American Health Choices Act,"
does not include cost estimates or specifics on how to pay for
Perhaps its most controversial element is the creation of a new
government-sponsored health insurance plan that would compete
with private insurers. Republicans and industry groups have
opposed the so-called "public option," arguing it would
undermine the private marketplace and could lead to a
"single-payer" system. President Obama reiterated his
support for the public option earlier this week.
Under the approach crafted by the Kennedy staff, doctors and
hospitals serving patients in the new public insurance plan
would be paid 10 percent above current Medicare rates. The
bill suggests the costs of the program would be covered through
"This is a draft of a draft," Kennedy spokesman Anthony Coley
said. Committee Democrats, he said, "are still discussing
legislative options among themselves and Republican colleagues."
He did not dispute the contents of the document, which closely
tracks with summaries circulated by the Kennedy team last week.
Much of the bill is modeled after sweeping state health-care
reform enacted three years ago in
Massachusetts. In addition to the
requirements on businesses and individuals, the bill would
create new insurance exchanges, called "connectors," that would
essentially enable individuals to shop for insurance.
Kennedy would allow families earning up to 500 percent of the
poverty level -- $110,000 -- to buy insurance on a sliding scale
with government subsidies.
A markup of the bill by Kennedy's committee is tentatively set
for June 16. The Senate Finance Committee hopes to release
its proposal June 17 and begin markup on June 22.