The 10-year, $849-billion Senate health reform bill unveiled Wednesday night would require most Americans to have health insurance, provide subsidies to help low-income earners afford coverage, force insurance companies to accept all applicants, increase payroll taxes for the wealthy, and place a new tax on patients who have elective cosmetic surgery.
The bill -- which the Congressional Budget Office estimates suggest would reduce deficits by $127 over a decade -- would not require employers to offer coverage to workers. However, medium and large companies would have to pay a fee if the government had to subsidize their employees' insurance, the Associated Press reported.
The bill, which also proposes cuts in future Medicare spending, was hailed by Democrats and President Barack Obama.
"From Day One, our goal has been to enact legislation that offers stability and security to those who have insurance and affordable coverage to those who don't, and that lowers costs for families, businesses and governments across the country," said Obama, who added that the Senate bill "meets those principles."
But Republicans oppose the bill and vowed a tough fight.
"Higher premiums, tax increases and Medicare cuts to pay for more government. The American people know that is not reform," said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
The bill needs 60 votes to move beyond a must-pass procedural requirement before it can be debated. That vote could take place this weekend, the AP reported.
The House recently passed a more expensive and liberal version of the health-care bill.