A 96-page bill containing Gov. Ed Rendell's universal
health care plan was introduced in the state House
yesterday. A statewide series of public hearings
begins at 11 a.m. Monday in Room 140 in the Capitol.
Rendell wants to use a state-subsidized health
insurance plan to help cover the uninsured. It would
be funded, in part, with a 3 percent payroll tax. The
tax would rise to 3.5 percent in 2010-11, according to
the bill introduced by state Rep. Todd Eachus,
Businesses that provide health insurance would
qualify for a tax credit that would exempt them from
paying the tax. Those that don't provide coverage
would pay the tax quarterly.
The bill doesn't specify exactly what type of
coverage a business would have to provide to avoid
paying the tax. The standard will be tied to
out-of-pocket costs paid by employees and the
percentage of employees that enroll in the coverage.
Exact thresholds will be decided by the state
Department of Labor and Industry and the Insurance
Department, said Ann Torregrossa, a senior health
policy manager for Rendell.
Rendell's plan also calls for reducing financial
waste in health care, which he says amounts to about
$7.5 billion per year.
Republican leaders are wary of various aspects of
the plan, particularly the state-subsidized insurance
program. They prefer a "consumer-driven" approach
involving things such as health savings accounts.