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A proposed tax on high-cost, or “Cadillac,” health insurance plans has touched off a fierce clash between the Senate and the House as they wrestle over how to pay for legislation that would provide health benefits to millions of uninsured Americans.
Supporters, including many senators, say that the tax is essential to tamping down medical spending and that over 10 years it would generate more than $200 billion, nearly a fourth of what is needed to pay for the legislation.
Critics, including House members and labor unions, say the tax would quickly spiral out of control and hit middle-class workers, people more closely associated with minivans than Cadillacs.
The tax, a provision of the bill to be voted on Tuesday by the Senate Finance Committee, is one of the few remaining proposals under consideration by Congress that budget experts say could lead directly to a reduction in health care spending over the long term, by prompting employers and employees to buy cheaper insurance. Whether it remains in the bill is emerging as a test of the commitment by President Obama and his party to slowing the steep rise of medical expenses.
It is also a prime example of the major differences still to be bridged by Democrats as health care legislation advances to floor debate in both houses.