Baucus Aims For Health Agreement In Advance Of Obama Speech Tonight
Democrats are promising to send President Obama a health reform plan this year as Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus continues to try to get key Republicans on board with a new proposal.
The Wall Street Journal on what is likely to be included in the plan: "The broad aim of the overhaul is to expand insurance coverage to most of the 46 million Americans who currently lack it, and to reorient the health system so medical costs increase at a slower rate." The goals may seem at odds. "Covering most of the nation's uninsured is estimated to cost hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade. But advocates of an overhaul say getting these people insured puts the system on a path to lower costs by reducing their expensive use of emergency rooms and helping them stay healthy in the first place. Any plan would increase the government's involvement in the health system, one of the most contentious elements of the debates" (Adamy, 9/9).
Politico quotes Baucus: "Time is running out very quickly, and I suspect I will be making some decisions very quickly," Baucus said. 'On the one hand, I want to work to get a solution, but I want to make clear that we aren't going to dally." Politico adds that Baucus' plan "does not include the public insurance option ... but does include health care cooperatives. He also supports a new tax on health insurers who provide high-cost plans and a new fee on insurance companies to pay for reform, designed to raise $6 billion per year starting in 2010" (Brown and Frates, 9/8).
The Los Angeles Times: "Like the other major Democratic proposals, Baucus' plan would prohibit insurers from denying coverage to people with preexisting medical conditions, a cornerstone of the changes being pushed by the president and his congressional allies. It would also require nearly all Americans to get insurance" (Levey and Hook, 9/9).
CQ Politics on the cooperatives in Baucus' plan: "The Baucus proposal would cost less than $900 billion over 10 years, at least $100 billion less than the overhaul bills approved by other congressional committees. It would be fully paid for over that period through a variety of fees on stakeholders - such as $6 billion a year from health insurers, and $2.3 billion a year from pharmaceutical companies - as well as a tax on insurance companies that offer the most expensive health insurance plans and cuts to Medicare" (9/8).
Kaiser Health News has the particulars on Baucus' plan - which he calls a "framework" (9/8).
The New York Times: "Mr. Baucus said he asked the lawmakers - two Democrats and three Republicans - for their reaction to his proposal by Wednesday morning, saying he hoped to reach an agreement before Mr. Obama's scheduled speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night. Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, the Republican seen as most likely to join in a Baucus plan, sounded generally positive in her initial reaction to his proposal. But Ms. Snowe said she did not want to be rushed into making a decision about it and had a few concerns outstanding" (Hulse and Pear, 9/8).
Roll Call: "Other negotiators (Sens. Chuck) Grassley and (Mike) Enzi declined to endorse or reject the proposed policy framework Baucus floated over the weekend," but one "Senate Democratic source" said the two told Baucus "they would have a hard time signing on to it" (Pierce and Drucker, 9/9).
The Wall Street Journal: "If the group cannot come to a bipartisan agreement within a week or so, many expect Mr. Baucus to push ahead with his plan even if it has little or no Republican support. (Snowe) called the Baucus plan 'a work in progress,' but she added, 'It has many promising elements.' Among the changes Ms. Snowe said she would like to see were a provision addressing medical malpractice lawsuits, action to relieve the Medicaid burden on the states, and an assurance that national insurance plans, not just state-based ones, be available through a proposed insurance 'exchange'" (Bendavid, 9/8).
The New York Times in an analysis piece: "Getting a bill through the Senate remains a big challenge, but even there, the Obama administration has a reasonable chance of corralling the 60 votes it would need to pass legislation more or less on its terms" (Stolberg, 9/8).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.