Provisions that affect hospitals and physicians remained unchanged from a bill passed last December by the Senate, according to Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a member of the House leadership team.
A provision to create an independent Medicare advisory board, which hospitals have lobbied against, remains intact, Van Hollen said. “And that, as you know, will achieve important savings down the line,” he said.
Still, some changes were made to the revenue portion of the bill. An excise tax on high-valued health insurance, so-called “Cadillac” plans, was tweaked so that it is now indexed to the consumer price index. Under the new math, some health insurance plans would be subject to the tax earlier than under the previous index.
The tax would begin in 2018.
Van Hollen also said that a White House-backed proposal to create a health insurance rate authority would not be included in the package. “My understanding is that it will have to move as a separate package,” he said. “We are absolutely determined to pass that.”
Congressional leaders stressed that the numbers were preliminary but nevertheless stressed that they were sound. The Congressional Budget Office, which is charged with giving legislation a financial assessment and pricetag, has yet to officially release its numbers.
Still, House Democrats cheered the cost assessment, which came in lower than the estimate for than their own initial legislation of more than $1 trillion, though about $65 billion more than the Senate’s package. The bill, however, covers 1 million more people than the Senate’s legislation.
House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said he would officially start to count how many Democrats expect to vote for the bill. Such a vote could come as early as Sunday.
Under the House measures, the federal deficit would be reduced by $130 billion over the first 10 years and $1.2 trillion in its second decade. Further, it's expected to slow Medicare growth by 1.4 percentage points per year and extend solvency to the program by nine years.
But House Republican Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) denounced the Democrats' numbers, saying that the legislation would eventually cost more than $1 trillion and would cut into Medicare.
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