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Health care debate is on!

OK, you're right. The debate's been going on for years.

But the official, formal, legislative debate on Capitol Hill, specifically in the Senate, will go forward, thanks to Saturday night's vote.

The House passed its $1 trillion health bill two weeks ago. Senate leaders hope to get a completed vote on their $848 billion overhaul proposal before the Christmas break.

If that happens, and that's still a bit if, we would kick off the second session of the 111th Congress with negotiations between the House and Senate on how to meld the bills into one piece of legislation.

That's going to take a lot of work. Both measures are ginormous.

The Senate version right now is more than 2,000 pages. What finally is approved, if anything, could be even bigger. You don't really think it'll get smaller as the legislative process proceeds, do you?

The House bill also is 2000-plus pages.

If you don't want to slog through both bills, a couple of sites do a very good job of breaking out the keep components:

Since you're here now, though, the table below gives a glimpse of the taxes in each bill that you and I could face:

House tax provisions Senate tax provisions
5.4 percent surtax on high-income individuals, defined as single filers with adjusted gross incomes of more than $500,000 and couples who file jointly with more than $1 million AGI 40 percent excise tax on “Cadillac” health plans, i.e., employer-sponsored group health plans with premiums over $8,500 for individual coverage and $23,000 for family. This would not be assessed on workers, but could affect the cost of workplace coverage.
2.5 percent excise tax on the medical devices sold for use in the United States. Increase Medicare payroll tax rate from 1.45 percent to 1.95 percent for workers with annual incomes of more than $250,000
  5 percent tax on elective cosmetic medical procedures, collected by doctors and clinics and forwarded to Treasury

Again, while this is the farthest any health care reform bill has ever made it on Capitol Hill, there are still potential potholes and roadblocks ahead. So don't think that what you're reading now will be the final product.

But it's definitely worth keeping track of what Congress is using as a road map.

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