As the day nears to consider the House health reform bill on the floor, some congressional Democrats admit they have lingering concerns about the bill's cost—and contents. Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.), co-chair of the New Democratic Coalition's task force on healthcare reform, told reporters late Monday that he had “lots of concerns about the size of this bill,” which includes nearly 2,000 pages, and, according to some cost estimates, could exceed the $1 trillion mark.
Altmire specifically took issue with an 8% payroll contribution the bill would impose on businesses that fail to provide health benefits to their workers, claiming it would be “punitive” to apply this penalty to smaller firms. Under the legislation, the penalty would be phased in for small businesses with annual payrolls between $500,000 and $750,000.
Rep. Baron Hill (D-Ind.), co-chair for policy of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, has concerns about a provision to tax medical-device makers $27 billion over seven years beginning in 2013. Hill, whose district represents a number of devicemakers, said he opposed the language, but wouldn't say whether the issue was a deal-breaker for him on the overall bill. Addressing another contentious issue, Hill indicated the bill's current abortion guidelines would be strengthened to ensure that no federal dollars would be used to fund those types of procedures.
The Democrats need a simple majority of 218 votes to approve the legislation.