House leaders today announced their plan for a sweeping health care reform bill and the House Ways and Means Committee announced that it will vote on the proposal this Thursday.

The bill, called America’s Affordable Health Choices Act, provides for establishment of a government-run insurance plan that would compete with private insurers and prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage or charging higher premiums on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions.

It provides for the spending of billions of dollars to subsidize lower-income individuals and families who cannot afford coverage and creates a new income tax on the wealthy, estimated to raise more than $500 billion over the next decade, to help pay for the plan.

The bill provides for a 5.4 percent federal surtax on couples earning more than $1 million annually and a 1.5 percent surtax on couples earning between $500,000 and $1 million annually. Households earning more than $350,000 would receive a 1 percent tax.

The bill is now expected to go to the full House by the end of July.

President Obama wants both houses of Congress to pass a reform bill in time for the August recess and he wants to sign health care overhaul into law in October.

One senate committee is working on a bill similar to the House bill while another is trying to draw up a bill that can attract bi-partisan support. That effort has run into resistance from Republicans who are strongly opposed to any plan that includes a public insurance option.

Reaction from the labor movement, as expected, has been quick and positive.

“We will mobilize our members around the country to pass this bill. Let’s get this done now. Congress needs to get this bill on President Obama’s desk as soon as possible,” declared AFSCME President Gerald McEntee, in a statement.

Anticipating stiff opposition from the insurance industry and others attempting to water down the bill, the co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive, Reps. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., and Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., issued the following statement upon the bill’s release, “The public option is central to our support of health care reform. The Congressional Progressive Caucus is confident that the final legislation will retain a robust public option linked to Medicare that will cut costs, promote quality care and offer coverage to all.”

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