Senate bill fines people refusing health coverage *

Forbes / Associated Press
02.07.2009
By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR

Senate bill fines people refusing health coverage

WASHINGTON — Americans who refuse to buy affordable medical coverage could be hit with fines of more than $1,000 under a health care overhaul bill unveiled Thursday by key Senate Democrats looking to fulfill President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated the fines will raise around $36 billion over 10 years. Senate aides said the penalties would be modeled on the approach taken by Massachusetts, which now imposes a fine of about $1,000 a year on individuals who refuse to get coverage. Under the federal legislation, families would pay higher penalties than individuals.

In a revamped health care system envisioned by lawmakers, people would be required to carry health insurance just like motorists must get auto coverage now. The government would provide subsidies for the poor and many middle-class families, but those who still refuse to sign up would face penalties.

Called “shared responsibility payments,” the fines would be set at least half the cost of basic medical coverage, according to the legislation.

The fines would be collected through the income tax system.

The new proposals were released as Congress neared the end of a weeklong July 4 break, with lawmakers expected to quickly take up health care legislation when they return to Washington.

In a statement, Obama welcomed the legislation, saying it “reflects many of the principles I’ve laid out,”

The Senate Health Education, Labor and Pensions bill also calls for a government-run insurance option to compete with private plans as well as a $750-per-worker annual fee on larger companies that do not offer coverage to employees.

The Congressional Budget Office, in an analysis released Thursday evening, put the net cost of the proposal at $597 billion over 10 years

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