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by Pearl Hahn 

Do you find that no matter how many headlines you read in the newspaper concerning health care reform in an effort to keep up, you still feel hopelessly left behind? You’re not alone. Read the following breakdown and pass it along to your friends. The more informed you are, the more convincing you’ll be when explaining to others how worse off we’ll be with greater government intrusion into our health.

Right now, the term health care reform refers to two separate bills, one in the House and one in the Senate. Both have passed, the Senate bill having passed more recently on Christmas Eve.

Both bills expand federal control over the health care sector, although the Senate bill is touted as being the more “conservative” of the two, coming with an $871 billion price tag while the House bill clocks in at $1 trillion. So if both bills have passed their respective chambers, what happens next?

The bills must be merged, then presented to President Obama to be signed into law. How long this will take depends on several factors. The Democrats are hoping that this will happen by early next year, 2010.

One can be sure of what this merged bill will contain by looking at similarities between the House and Senate bills.

Similarities include:

Subsidizing insurance for a family of four with an income of $88,000 annually, which is 400 percent of the federal poverty level

Creating health insurance exchanges (this targets small businesses and the self-employed, with the intent they can purchase less expensive coverage through pooling)

Preventing insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions (in other words, the healthy would subsidize the sick)

Preventing insurance companies from charging higher premiums based on a person’s gender or medical history (forget about varying premiums based on taking responsibility for your well-being with healthy eating and exercise)

Significantly expanding Medicaid- the House bill extends coverage to individuals earning up to $33,000 for a family of four, or up to 150 percent of the poverty level. The Senate plan extends coverage to 133 percent of the poverty level.

Differences between the bills include:

Payment- the House bill relies on tax increases on higher-income earners (by 5.4%) and Medicare spending reductions. Meanwhile, the Senate bill cuts Medicare by about $500 billion and imposes a 40 percent tax on insurers providing Cadillac health plans valued at over $8,500 for individuals and $23,000 for families.

Public option- the House bill has one. The Senate bill would instead create nonprofit private plans overseen by the federal government. The equally devastating effects of this have beencovered here.

Coverage mandate- while both bills require purchase of insurance, the penalties in the bills differ. The House would impose a fine of up to 2.5% of income. The Senate plan would fine either $750 or 2% of income, depending on which is greater. For employers, the House would penalize up to 8% of payroll. The Senate bill penalizes companies at $750 per employee if anyone relies on government subsidies to purchase coverage.

Abortion: the House bill adopted an amendment banning most abortion coverage from the public option. The Senate bill would allow states to choose whether to ban abortion coverage in plans offered in the exchanges.

Once the bills are combined into one, each chamber only needs a simple majority vote for final passage.

Recent polls, including one by CNN, show Americans oppose Obamacare by nearly two to one. Americans are opposing higher taxes, skyrocketing deficits, mandates, rationing, and lower quality health care. Passage of the bills shows that our representatives are turning their backs on the very people who elected them. The silver lining is this: Never have we been presented with a more convincing argument for greater liberty and smaller government.