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July 15, 2009
Senate Mulls Big Changes to Health Care

The Senate is gearing up to debate sweeping healthcare legislation, and one version of the legislation would require that all individuals have healthcare insurance and would make employers pay a fee if they fail to offer healthcare.

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Under legislation approved by the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, employers with more than 25 employees that offer no qualifying coverage or that pay less than 60 percent of their employees' monthly premiums are subject to a $750 annual fee per uninsured full-time employees and $375 per uninsured part-time employees.

The legislation (the Affordable Health Choices Act) would also prohibit insurers from establishing terms of coverage based on any applicant's health status, medical condition (including physical and mental illness), claims experience, prior receipt of health care, medical history, genetic information, evidence of insurability (such as being a victim of domestic violence), or disability. No individual or group health insurance policy would be permitted to establish lifetime or annual limits on the dollar value of benefits for any enrollee or beneficiary.

In addition, all individual and group coverage policies would be required to continue offering dependent coverage for children until the child turns age 26.

The legislation would also establish an Affordable Health Benefit Gateway in each state. The Gateway would allow qualified individuals and qualified employer groups to purchase health insurance coverage and related insurance products at an “affordable price.” Low-income and moderate-income Americans who enroll in plans through the Gateways would be eligible for premium credits.

Other Senate committees are busy readying their own versions of healthcare legislation.

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