The President signed the Senate health care bill into law at noon today.
This year, over 4 million small businesses will get tax credits worth up to 35% of their health care costs. This year, seniors will get $250 towards closing their coverage donut hole. This year, young Americans will be able to stay on their parent's insurance plan until they are 26. This year, lifetime caps on benefits will be a thing of the past. And this year, the people with pre-existing conditions who can't get health care now at any price will be able to buy into high-risk pools until the exchanges are set up in 2014.
But we are not done. Right after the House passed the health care bill on Sunday, they passed a package of improvements that now head to the Senate for an up-or-down vote.
The fixes heading to the Senate are mostly focused on making health care affordable to middle class families.
First, the package vastly improves the excise tax on "Cadillac" insurance plans, raising the threshold at which a plan will be affected to $10,200 for individual plans and $27,500 for family coverage. It also delays the implementation of the tax until 2018. As a result, the burden on middle tax families will be dramatically reduced.
To make up for the loss in revenue, the fixes broaden the Medicare payroll tax on on rich investors, taxing net investment income for those who make more than $250,000 per year.
And second, the package increases the subsidies available in the exchanges for middle class families and lowers their cost sharing. With the package, a lower percentage of a family's income will be spent on health care costs - both premiums and out of pocket.
And there are more provisions in the package that would help broad swaths of the American public:
- The package fully closes the donut hole for seniors over time
- It freezes Medicare Advantage overpayments to private insurers and requires private insurers to pay 85% of money in to benefits in Medicare Advantage, to match the levels for all insurance plans in the health care bill
- It strikes the deals Senators like Ben Nelson received and replaces them with increased Medicaid funding to all states
- And it funds student loans for millions of young Americans
The Senate, after a string of favorable parliamentary rulings, is expected to take up the improvements under budget reconciliation rules today, with the goal of a final vote at the end of this week before the Easter recess.