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Sen. Kent Conrad
Sen. Kent Conrad

Subsidies, mandate eyed in trimming reform costs


By Matthew DoBias
Posted: June 24, 2009 - 3:00 pm ET
Tags:

A key senator said the total price tag on a bill that would reshape the U.S. healthcare system has been whittled down to $1.2 trillion from a high of $1.6 trillion, largely based on reductions in government subsidies and tweaks to an employer mandate.

Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), part of a coalition made up of six other Democrats and Republicans who meet frequently to shape a bipartisan Senate Finance Committee bill, also said that a limit on the employer tax exclusion would likely be used to help pay for it. Conrad said that there are roughly $2.4 trillion in healthcare subsidies over the next 10 years, “just a small fraction of that is being considered as part of the way for paying for this.”

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Conrad said discussions centered on a provision that would require employers to pay some dollar amount if they do not offer workers health insurance coverage. Conrad said that a so-called “free rider” proposal, which wouldn’t mandate that employers offer coverage but instead have them pay if their employees were on Medicaid or got their insurance from a government-established insurance exchange, “is very much a live option,” saying it could raise about $300 billion.

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