American consumers, who spent a year watching Congress scratch and claw over sweeping health care legislation, can now try to figure out what the overhaul would mean for them.
The uninsured are clearly the biggest beneficiaries of the legislation, which would extend the health care safety net for the lowest-income Americans.
The legislation is meant to provide coverage for as many as 32 million people who have been shut out of the market - whether because insurers deem them too sick or because they cannot afford ever-rising insurance premiums.
For people already covered by a large employer - most Americans, in other words - the effect would not be as significant. And yet, just about everyone might benefit from tighter insurance regulations.
To further her point, Bernard quoted a spokesman for the unlabeled liberal group Consumers Union:
"We think it's a big step forward," said Bill Vaughan, a policy analyst at Consumers Union. "It's going to provide a peace of mind that many Americans who really want or need health insurance will always be able to get a quality product at a reasonable price regardless of their health or financial situation."
There would be costs to consumers, too. Affluent families would be required to pay additional taxes. Most Americans would be required to have health insurance and face federal penalties if they do not buy it. And it is still unclear what effect, if any, the legislation would have on rising out-of-pocket medical costs and premiums.
But there is no question that the legislation should benefit consumers in various ways. Beginning in 2014, for example, many employers - those with 50 or more workers - could face federal fines for not providing insurance coverage. Several of the other changes would take effect much sooner
How "consumers" would benefit from not being able to find a job with employers who want to stay under the 50-worker line is left unexplored.
Bernard ran down details of what's in the bill, or at least what the Democrats say is in the bill:
EMPLOYER COVERAGE People who receive coverage through large employers would be unlikely to see any drastic changes, nor should premiums or coverage be affected. But almost everyone would benefit from new regulations, like the ban on pre-existing conditions that would apply to all policies come 2014.
There might even be cases where people would be eligible to buy insurance through an exchange instead of through their employer, Professor Jost said: those who must pay more than 9.5 percent of their income for premiums, or those whose plans do not cover more than 60 percent of the cost their benefits.
- Clay Waters is editor of Times Watch . You can follow him on Twitter .