President Barack Obama has mounted a push to pass a health reform plan following a "template" his administration
recently unveiled. The president's plan includes provisions from the House and Senate bills (and possibly a few
Republican ideas). Democrats intend to use the congressional "reconciliation" procedure, which requires "only" a
majority vote in the Senate and would avoid Republican filibusters, to pass at least a large part of the health reform
plan, though Republicans intend to try to block that bill by arguing numerous points of order and submitting an
overwhelming number of amendments. The Democrats would meanwhile have the House of Representative
separately pass the Senate bill which has already been approved by the Senate. Many House Democrats, however,
are reluctant to do so unless the Senate provides ironclad assura nces that it will later pass a reconciliation bill which
includes items important to the House so that the original Senate bill will not be signed by the president. The
reconciliation measure would serve as a "corrections" bill that would make changes to the original Senate bill so that
the final plan would satisfy at least all Democrats. Groups of House Democrats, for example, seek elimination of the
special treatment for Nebraska's and Louisiana's Medicaid programs and for Florida's seniors in Medicare Advantage
plans, in the Senate bill as passed earlier. Others would like to revise the abortion language, improve subsidies for
low- and middle-income families to purchase insurance and remove the excise tax on high-cost insurance plans.

Key elements of the White House plan include:

  • Closing the Medicare prescription drug "donut hole" coverage gap;
  • Eliminating the Nebraska Medicaid exception and providing uniform support for state
    Medicaid programs for newly eligible individuals;
  • Increasing tax credits for health insurance premiums;
  • Federal review of insurance rates;
  • Delaying the excise tax on high-cost insurance plans and increasing the amount of
    exempt premiums;
  • Broadening the Medicare Hospital Insurance tax base to include unearned income of
    high-income households;
  • Tax credits for small businesses to support health insurance for their employees; and
  • Additional measures to combat fraud, waste and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid.

For more information, visit the White House website here.