WASHINGTON -- Sen. George Mitchell's health care reform bill incorporates the Senate Finance Committee's proposal for ending the $150 million cap on the amount of bonds that individual private, non-profit organizations may have outstanding at one time.
Mitchell, the Senate majority leader, drafted the bill after finding that none of the reform bills passed by various Senate committees, including the finance panel, had enough support to pass the full Senate.
Unveiled yesterday, the Maine Democrat's bill also includes provisions adopted by the Finance Committee that would add new community benefit standards for private nonprofits, commonly known as 501(c)(3) organizations.
The Senate leader told reporters that he expects the Senate to begin debate on his bill next week.
Mitchell's bill comes four days after House leaders unveiled their own health care reform bill, which they said was an amalgam of various House committee measures.
The proposed new standards on 501(c)(3) organizations that Mitchell gleaned from the Finance Committee bill would be tougher than those proposed by the Clinton Administration in its health reform package, but less harsh than those in the House leadership's bill.
Thus under Mitchell's bill, a 501(c)(3) health care organization would have to do several things to be tax-exempt, including:
* providing health care, educational, or social services to the poor in medically underserved areas or at specialty emergency care facilities that normally operate at a loss.
* annually assessing the health care needs of the community and developing a written plan to meet those needs.
* providing emergency health care services that do not discriminate against a patient's ability to pay.
The provision that would lift the $150 million limit would also remove some of the post-1985 restrictions that were placed on 501(c)(3) bonds, in an effort to put the bonds more on a par with governmental bonds.
For example, under the provision 501(c)(3) bonds would not be subject to a 2% limit on issuance costs that now applies to them and to other private-activity bonds, but not to governmental bonds.
In its major reform provisions, Mitchell's bill is less comprehensive than that proposed by either President Clinton or the House leaders. Their bills revolve around guaranteeing health insurance for all Americans and requiring employers to pick up most of the cost of providing universal coverage.
Mitchell's bill would set up a voluntary system designed to achieve 95% coverage by the year 2000. Employers who covered their workers would be granted subsidies. In 2000, Congress would have to take further action to achieve 100% coverage.