KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Baucus Bill Not Finding Favor Among Democrats Or Republicans

Sen. Max Baucus' health care reform bill is the target of criticism from all sides.

Politico: "Reaction from congressional Democratic leaders was lukewarm to worse, progressives were downright hostile and Republicans were scornful of what they described as brazen government grab. But Baucus may have provided lawmakers with the only viable blueprint for winning support across Congress, because he sought to find elements that pleased all sides. … The next challenge for Baucus and the Senate leadership is to get the bill out of the Finance Committee - but after that, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will need to merge the Finance bill with one approved in July by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee" (Budoff Brown and O'Connor, 9/17).

The Boston Globe: "Republicans said [Baucus'] plan spent too much on insurance subsidies for low-income people, Democrats said it did not spend enough. Lawmakers in both parties said it was unaffordable, particularly for low- and middle-income people. Republican leaders, who have panned the Democrats' plans from the start, pronounced it 'dead on arrival.' Liberal Democrats and unions recoiled at Baucus's proposal to compromise with moderates on the government-sponsored insurance option by establishing nonprofit insurance co-ops instead. … Despite all the negative reviews, the Baucus plan might still represent the best chance of a workable compromise" (Wangsness, 9/17).

The Associated Press/The Washington Post: "The Finance Committee is to meet next week to vote on the plan, and after combining it with another panel's bill, Majority Leader Harry Reid intends to begin debate on the Senate floor late this month or early October. Across the Capitol, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been waiting to see Baucus' health care prescription before advancing companion legislation toward a vote by the House" (Espo, 9/17).

The Wall Street Journal: "The major new health-care overhaul bill that landed in the Senate on Wednesday sets the lines for a fall showdown over taxes, spending and coverage for millions of uninsured Americans. The [Baucus] bill ...  breaks a logjam and is likely to form the core of a bill in the full Senate" (Hitt, Adamy and Weisman, 9/17).

USA Today: "'Sen. Baucus is trying to put together a centrist piece of legislation that can appeal to moderate Blue Dog Democrats and attract a few Republicans,' said Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation. 'They are fighting over the details.' … Despite the effort at bipartisanship, the bill drew criticism from across the political spectrum. Karen Ignagni, CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans, said co-ops could 'disrupt the quality coverage on which millions of Americans rely today'" (Fritze and Schouten, 9/17).

The Associated Press in a second story: "Baucus' legislation reflected nearly a year of preparation, a partially successful attempt to gain support from outside interest groups and months of painstaking negotiations with two other Democrats and three Republicans on the Finance Committee - the so-called Gang of Six. But when Baucus stood in front of the cameras Wednesday, he was alone" (Werner, 9/17).

The Hill: "Baucus's bill and his exclusion of all but two other Democrats from negotiations met with ambivalence to downright rejection from most Democrats, especially liberals. There are no Republican supporters but, additionally, there is resistance from Democrats, including key senators on Baucus's panel. It is clear that the bill will get out of committee only if there are significant changes made to it. But every move to the left further alienates Republicans and makes it more likely that Democrats will invoke controversial budget-reconciliation procedures to pass the bill by a simple majority" (Young, 9/16).

Roll Call: "But Baucus struck an optimistic tone when asked why so many were distancing themselves from a product that he has worked on for months within the bipartisan gang of six. 'Part of it could be they want to see what it is, really, because it was just introduced,' Baucus said. 'It's going to take getting a sense, you know, of where things are. But I think that we're going to get very significant support for this by the time we get to the end of this process, and each step along the way, support for the bill's not going to deteriorate, it's going to build'" (Pierce and Drucker, 9/17).

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