Dems Might Have Cleared Major Healthcare Hurdle

Looks like Congressional Dem leaders and White House officials have struck a major agreement on one of the biggest sticking points in negotiations over healthcare reform legislation -- the excise tax on high-cost, or so-called "Cadillac", plans.

Congressional sources tell Fox that one major component of the compromise, which is tentative and still must be sold and file Dems, particularly in the House, is a 7-year carve out for unions and state and local government workers. A tax on their plans wouldn't hit till 2017.

This, I'm told by sources with union ties, angers the unions a little less. They don't, of course, like this way of coming up for revenue to pay for the bill, but - it is one of the few ways CBO has said the bill will actually bend the healthcare cost curve, a key goal of the reform effort.

Also in the agreement:
Threshold raised to 24000 for a family

8500 for individuals - stays the same

Index is still to CPI plus one -- meaning, it has the potential to hit more plans over time. This is something unions wanted nixed -- but if you do that, you'd gut the revenue effects.

Dental / vision removed from calculation (could save 1500)

The agreement seems quite good for unions, on first blush, and it does appear to shoot a major hole in the primary funding stream for the bill. Stay tuned for what they'll do to make up for it.

Word is, they're going to impose a Medicare tax on cap gains and dividend income.