Reid, Baucus Approve Wyden’s ‘Free Choice’ Proposal
Senate Democratic leaders have amended their newly released health reform bill to include a contentious provision allowing some workers to receive cash vouchers toward exchange coverage in lieu of enrolling in employer-based plans. Here’s an explanation from a statement released moments ago by the amendment’s sponsor, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.):
Under the Senate legislation as it is currently written, Americans with employer-provided coverage, whose income is below 400 percent of the federal poverty level and whose premiums are between 8 and 9.8 percent of their total income will be exempt from having to purchase health coverage but will not be able to access the exchange to qualify for government assistance to purchase insurance. The agreed to amendment will make it possible for these individuals to convert their tax-free employer health subsidies into vouchers that they can use to choose a health insurance plan in the new health insurance exchanges.
Critics contend that the proposal will cause a flood of young, healthy workers to flee employer-sponsored plans, hiking rates for the older, sicker folks who remained. But a number of Senate Democrats had recently joined Wyden in urging adoption of the so-called “free-choice” amendment.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the change will cover an additional 1 million people, Wyden says.