President Barack Obama's health care bill, which passed Sunday in the House of Representatives, aims to bring the United States closer to universal coverage than ever before.
The plan is intended to usher in the most sweeping overhaul of its kind in four decades and extend coverage to some 32 million Americans out of the 36 million who lack it now, according to the independent Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
The legislation carries an initial 10-year price tag of 940 billion dollars, but would reduce the ballooning US deficit by 138 billion dollars through 2019 and 1.2 trillion over the following decade, the CBO said.
Here are some other notable features of the compromise, which requires the House to pass the Senate's health bill, followed by both chambers approving a package of changes to make the overhaul more palatable to the lower chamber.
- Tough new rules on private insurers:
The bill would ban insurance company practices like denying coverage for preexisting illnesses, dropping people from coverage when they get sick, or capping lifetime coverage, and restrict new plans' use of annual limits.
- No "public option"
After a year-long fight, Obama's Democratic allies opted not to include a government-backed program to compete with private insurers, which supporters and many analysts described as the best way to rein in costs.
- New insurance markets
Instead, the plan creates new state-based marketplaces called exchanges where Americans without employer-provided coverage could buy insurance.
- Requirements, subsidies
For the first time in US history, most Americans would be required to buy insurance or face fines, and larger firms could face penalties for not offering coverage.
But the bill would also offer subsidies to help individuals who earn too much to get coverage under an expansion of the government's Medicaid program but under 400 percent of the US federal poverty level, which in 2009 stood at earnings of 22,000 dollars per year for a family of four.
- Elderly drug benefits
The bill offers a rebate to seniors who fall into a "donut hole" gap in prescription drug coverage under the government-run Medicare program for the elderly. The gap would be phased out by 2020.