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Key differences between House, Senate health bills

Differences in health care bills

The Senate and the House have released different versions of legislation to overhaul the U.S. health care system, with the goal of expanding coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans and curtailing medical costs. Here are key differences between the bills:

PUBLIC OPTION: The House would create a government-run insurance program designed to compete with private companies and help reduce prices for insurance in the market. The Senate bill does not.

HOW TO PAY FOR IT: The House would add a surtax on the wealthiest Americans, starting with couples who earn more than $1 million a year. The Senate would tax so-called Cadillac benefit plans, with higher thresholds for high-risk jobs and costly states. It also raises the Medicare payroll tax on couples earning more than $250,000.

EMPLOYER MANDATE: The House requires that employers cover their workers or pay a penalty, with potential exemptions for some businesses because of size or hardship. Under the Senate bill, if an employer doesn't offer coverage and has just one employee who qualifies for a new tax credit, the company must pay a fee for every full-time employee.

ABORTION FUNDING: Both the House and Senate bills bar federal funds from being used for abortion. The House bill is more restrictive, barring any federal subsidies for plans that cover abortion purchased on state insurance exchanges and requiring anyone seeking coverage for elective abortions to purchase separate insurance riders. The Senate plan would let states opt out of including plans with abortion coverage on the exchanges and require anyone with abortion coverage to write two separate premium checks - one for the abortion coverage and one for the rest.

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