Senate Proposals for Health Care Reform Released
President Obama’s proposals for health care reform includes a public system to compete with private health insurance. Democrats in the Senate have a different set of ideas. On June 9th the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee formally announced its broad healthcare reform proposal, called the “Affordable Health Choices Act.”
The bill includes:
- The creation of navigators, or associations and membership organizations that assist individuals and businesses in the use of the Gateways. This is similar to language used in the SHOP Act. (Title I, Subtitle B)
- Limitations on health status ratings within a geographic region based only on family composition, the value of the benefits package, and age (no more than 21). (Title I, Subtitle A)
- The creation of Affordable Health Benefit Gateways in each state, or insurance exchanges at the state level. If a state fails to establish a Gateway, the Secretary of Health and Human Services is required to create an exchange in that state. States can form regional Gateways in multiple states. (Title 1, Subtitle B)
- Expansion of Medicaid eligibility based on the recommendations of the Senate Finance Committee. (Title I, Subtitle B)
- Tax credits for small business under 25 or fewer employees, and whose average wages are under $40,000 per year. (Title I, Subtitle C)
- A variety of wellness encouragement programs, such as requiring some restaurants to post caloric count of foods and expansion of loan forgiveness programs for medical specialists. (Title III)
Travel Promotion Act Would Boost Economy and Lower Budget Deficit According to CBO
The US Travel Association estimates that the TPA, S. 1023, would generate $4 billion in new spending on travel in the U.S. each year and create 40,000 new jobs in the first year. “These are new dollars that America can no longer afford to live without,” the industry’s letter to the Senate said. “It is time to start competing for foreign visitors and to use international travel to the United States as an economic solution.”
Boosting the bill’s chances for passage is a report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) this week estimating that the Travel Promotion Act would reduce budget deficits by $425 million over the 2010-2019 period. About 35 Senators are co-sponsoring the bill.
The bill creates a corporation with a board made up of representatives from the travel industry. It will oversee a $200 million fund to promote international travel to the U.S. $100 million would come from fees collected from travelers through the Visa waiver program. Another $100 million (match) would come from assessments from the travel industry. Of that $80 million could be in-kind although the amount of in-kind accepted by the board may vary. The assessment authority is one of the few controversial elements of the bill, since some industry segments which do not benefit from international travel, may be assessed although the amounts should be small at least initially. Assessments would be approved by referendum with voting weighted toward industry segments with the highest percentage of international visitors. The method for collecting assessments will have to be worked out after passage of the bill, which is currently on a fast track with support from Senate Majority Leader, Senator Reid.
One key issue long term, assuming the bill passes, is to ensure that the $100 million generated by the $10 tacked onto the Visa waiver authorizations does not get diverted to deficit reduction or other purposes deemed more noble than travel promotion.
American Recovery Act (ARC) Small Business Loans Up for Grabs But Not Expected to Help Many Businesses Due to Limited Number Available and Questionable Lender Support
Yesterday, a hearing before the House Committee on Small Business heard complaints from small businesses about the lack of financing and the difficulty in obtaining SBA financing. Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), the chairwoman of the House Committee on Small Business, said SBA has not done its job of providing capital and loans when private capital is scarce. Unfortunately, many banks are under such intense scrutiny from the FDIC and concerned about their existing loan portfolio that they have chosen not to participate in SBA loan programs.
On June 15, SBA will start issuing ARC loans up to $35,000 to 10,000 small businesses. The Wall Street Journal reports on the Pros and Cons of the ARC program. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124458265906299453.html?mod=dist_smartbrief
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