If you are paying any attention to the news during 2009, then you know that legislation to reform the healthcare industry is on the horizon, with the House already passing its version of the bill last month and the Senate looking like it will finally pass a bill on Christmas Eve. Whether the bills are good or not, or whether the final bill will be for that matter, is up for discussion.

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the House plan is projected to guarantee coverage for 96% of Americans at a cost of more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years, while the Senate plan is projected to cover 94% of Americans with an $871 billion price over the next 10 years. The House bill includes a public option similar to Medicare, available to people without coverage or unable to afford private coverage, while the Senate bill does not. Both bills also have a mandate that requires individuals to buy health insurance. And both also would eventually limit total out-of-pocket expenses and prevent insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, as well as barring insurers from charging higher premiums based on a person's gender or medical history. (For a list of FAQs on the bills, click here)

For businesses, the House plan requires companies with a payroll of more than $500,000 to provide insurance or pay a penalty of up to 8% of their payroll. Under the Senate plan, starting in 2013, companies with more than 50 employees would be required to pay a fee per worker if their employees rely on government subsidies to purchase coverage. The House bill also creates a national health insurance exchange designed to make it easier for small businesses, self-employed and the unemployed to pool resources and purchase less expensive coverage. The Senate bill creates similar state health insurance exchanges in all 50 states.

There are differing opinions on how the bills will affect businesses. According to a recent article on nasdaq.com, John J. Castellani, president of the CEO Group Business Roundtable, said of the Senate bill, “The proposed legislation is a step toward our shared goal of providing high quality, affordable health care for all Americans,” while Bruce Josten, executive vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, called the bill "no good" and implored the Senate to "start over.” Other broad-based employer groups have weighed in both positively and negatively on both bills.

So how will healthcare reform affect your business? Has your company looked into the details of the plans yet to help shape medical insurance policies at your company? We would love to hear your responses and start an open dialogue where ideas and opinions on this issue can be shared for the benefit of the whole industry. So what do you think?

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.