My story out today focuses on five things but I think there are actually six – I just ran out of space. Plus, for some odd reason, readers don’t like listy pieces over five bullet points, I’m told. Actually, there are probably hundreds or thousands of things that lawmakers could find to loathe in this bill – which when actually written I’m sure will equal the size of two phone books – but we’re talking big, vote breaking items here.
The sixth item is one that Senator Bob Menendez just came out against, as he told reporters coming out of the committee room this afternoon: John Kerry’s idea to tax high end, so-called Cadillac health insurance plans. The unions hate this (see AFL CIO and Afscme’s comments here) and, as Menendez pointed out, in many states where the cost of living is high – like in New Jersey – teachers and first responders are often lured to lower-wage jobs by offers of high end plans. This is such a big deal to him that it actually overshadows his concerns about the immigration provisions.
The excise tax remains one of several stick points with progressives – the most important of which is still affordability — also a deal breaker for Menendez who is working on several amendments (which are due tomorrow, by the way). There are talks going on to either lower the cap — as a percentage of salary the maximum someone would pay in a year for a plan, right now set at 13% of income – or raise the subsidies to over 400 percent the poverty level. And so the talks continue… As Jill Lawrence notes: the watching-the-grass-grow stage is far from over, alas.