Senate set to unveil healthcare bill

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Healthcare legislation expected to reach the Senate floor this weekend is projected to cost $848 billion and reduce the federal budget deficit by $130 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

The CBO analysis holds that the number of nonelderly people who are uninsured will be reduced by 31 million people, leaving about 24 million nonelderly residents (about one-third of whom would be unauthorized immigrants) uninsured. This would mean 94 percent of legal nonelderly residents would have insurance coverage, compared with the current figure of 83 percent.

An intense struggle is expected on the Senate floor, where Republicans have vowed to block the legislation.

The bill would require most Americans to carry health insurance and would mandate large companies to provide coverage to their workers, as well as ban insurance company practices such as denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions.

In addition, it would set up new insurance marketplaces—called exchanges—primarily for those who now have difficulties getting or keeping coverage. Subsidies would be available to help defray the cost of coverage for people with lower incomes.

Reid announced two weeks ago that the bill would also include an option for consumers to purchase government-sold insurance, with states permitted to drop out of the system.

He is poised to release his legislation more than one week after the House approved its version of the healthcare bill on a near party-line vote of 220-215.

According to estimates from the CBO, the House bill, with a price tag of about $1.2 trillion, would result in coverage for 96 percent of the eligible population.