House Dems considering high-cost insurance plan fee

House Democrats are reportedly considering a new addition to their healthcare reform bill: a tax on high-cost insurance plans.

The proposed fee, which would likely mirror a similar provision already part of the Senate Finance Committee’s draft, has historically drawn the ire of lawmakers in both parties who fear insurance companies would translate the tax into an increase in subscribers’ premiums.

"We just have to see how much money we need for what," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told the Associated Press on Friday. "And if we’re taking the bill down in cost, there are other provisions in the Senate bill that bend the curve that might be more palatable. We’ll see."

Pelosi’s openness to the high-cost insurance tax is but one facet of the speaker’s latest attempt to forge a House compromise on healthcare reform. Opposition to the chamber’s current bill, HR 3200, has grown almost unpalatable, which has forced Pelosi and her Democratic colleagues to consider submitting a second draft of their reform. That effort is reportedly underway.

As they prepare those revisions, their foremost concern is likely the bill’s price tag. Previous estimates from the Congressional Budget Office scored the House proposal at nearly $1 trillion — more than $100 billion more than what President Barack Obama has requested, and about $200 billion more than what Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) introduced in the Finance Committee.

The high-cost insurance tax, however, is responsible for billions in offsets in Baucus’ proposal, and it could possibly produce similar savings for the House bill. It is unclear whether that fee would replace or supplement the House’s proposed income tax hike — another fee designed to pay for healthcare reform that has infuriated members of both parties.

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