The Senate Health Bill has been grabbing headlines for months as members of the Senate continue to debate spending, bill allotments, and the merits of improved or universal healthcare coverage. The latest iteration of this bill in late November and included a price tag of $849 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. $200 billion alone would be set aside to help cover doctors’ fees so that they would not suffer from a drastic cut back to reimbursement rates.Much in keeping with the diversity of American opinion, this bill has come with more than its fair share of controversy, sparking heated debates on both sides of the political aisle.Bill controversyDemocrats and Republicans are sharply divided over the merits and allocations included in this healthcare bill. The final vote on the bill showcased this division; the voting results were nearly entirely along party lines. In the 243 to 183 win by the Democratic-controlled House, only 11 Democrats voted against the bill and only one Republican voted for the bill. That Republican is also an obstetrician – Rep. Michael Burgess of Texas.Republicans called the $200 billion allocation to cover doctors’ fees a political payoff and labeled it as the Democrats’ way of thanking physicians for their support of President Obama’s healthcare overhaul.What’s included in the bill and how will it affect Americans?The new healthcare bill, which will go into effect in 2010, is said to provide coverage to 94 percent of Americans. The bill is also estimated to cut the federal deficit by $127 billion during its first ten years. In its second decade, the bill is estimated to cut the federal deficit by as much as $650 billion. Over a 20-year period, it is believed that the bill would cut the federal deficit by $777.However, in order to cut this deficit, the bill will reduce payments for Medicare plans and cut spending in a wide variety of other areas. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that seniors on Medicare will have to pay $49 billion in higher healthcare premiums over the next 10 years, passing along much of the healthcare expenses to Medicare beneficiaries.Additionally, because of reduced payments and services covered by the bill, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that Americans will see a $195 billion price increase in doctors’ fees for those doctors who treat Medicare patients. With only a percentage of those fees being covered by Medicare, patients themselves will have to make up the difference out of their pockets. TRICARE (the military healthcare program) beneficiaries would see an increase in fees by about $64 billion for non-military physicians who see patients enrolled in the TRICARE program.How can Americans protect themselves from these price increases?While it may be impossible to predict exactly how this bill will impact Americans and their pocketbooks until the bill is fully approved and implemented, Americans would be wise to begin looking for alternative healthcare solutions. Many Americans on Medicare may want to investigate alternatives to Original Medicare plans, including Medicare Advantage Plans.Also, as healthcare prices increase, so will the prices of prescription medications and other medical services. Therefore, many Medicare beneficiaries would benefit by enrolling in Medicare Supplement insurance plans to help cover the cost of price increases and of items that are not covered by Original Medicare plans.Managing the national healthcare system has proved to be a challenge and a politically derisive topic – especially over the past year. While changes are inevitable and are sure to impact every American, Americans can help to protect their health and their pocketbooks by focusing on maintaining or improving their health in controllable ways. Enrolling in affordable healthcare programs, such as a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplemental insurance program, may also help to save Americans a significant amount of money at the doctor’s office.