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Senate kicks off formal health reform debate

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009



Senate Democrats have unveiled their plan to overhaul the health care system. Similar to the House plan, the Senate proposal requires most Americans to purchase health insurance. WHYY reports on other elements being considered.

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What’s new is a proposal to increase the payroll tax that funds the Medicare program. Under the plan, individuals who earn more than $200,000 a year would pay .5 percentage point more than the standard tax.

Experts say lawmakers have gotten creative to finance a plan which could eventually cost more than one trillion dollars. One surprise is a new tax on elective cosmetic surgery.

Getzen: A lot of crazy stuff is gonna get noised about until the final bill is passed, even after, there’ll be strange things going on.

Temple University health economist Thomas Getzen.

Getzen: In order to kind of make the budget numbers, you’re gonna find people stretching for strange pots of money.

Getzen says the cosmetic surgery tax is an improbable idea, but he says in early negotiations, lawmakers often agree to improbable ideas in order to persuade colleagues to accept other proposals.

Mark Pauly is a professor of health care management at The Wharton School. He says Congress should tell middle-income people that they benefit when more Americans have health coverage and then establish a broad-based tax to pay for the expansion.

Pauly: The best way would have been to finance it with general revenue taxes, or if you wanted to be creative a value added tax, which is like a national sales tax. If we needed to raise total tax collections by 5 percent, just kind of raise everybody’s income tax by 5 percent.


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