KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Senate Committee’s Reform Bill Could Cover 95 Percent Of Uninsured

"Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said Wednesday that a preliminary Congressional Budget Office score of his panel's draft health care overhaul package would cost under $900 billion over the next decade and provide health coverage to 95 percent of uninsured Americans," according to Kaiser Health News. Describing the report as "good news," Baucus said CBO's analysis shows "the plan would actually reduce the deficit in the tenth year by several billion dollars." While he noted that several policy decisions were not included in the analysis, he added that the "projected coverage is acceptable and 'more than we have today.'"

"Baucus has been meeting with a bipartisan group of Finance members to find consensus on a health care package with hopes of the panel concluding its deliberations before the chamber breaks for its month-long August recess. While some media reports have said the bipartisan group is close to a deal, a Republican participating in those talks said Wednesday that several issues remain unresolved. 'No deal is at hand and substantive issues, big and small, remain under discussion and need to be resolved,' Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., said in a statement. Enzi also said that he needed to see complete legislative language and a final CBO estimate of the cost of the bill as well as assurances from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., that a bipartisan Finance agreement 'will survive in a final bill that goes to the president'" (Pianin and Carey, 7/29).

Politico reports that the bill is expected to include health insurance cooperatives – but not the public insurance plan favored by President Barack Obama. It is not expected to include mandates on employers to provide insurance, in favor of a so-called "free rider" provision that would require employers to pay if their employee get government help with insurance. (Budoff Brown, 7/29).

"Although the proposal submitted to the [CBO] is not a finished product, Baucus said early results were promising as lawmakers try to complete their work before the start of the recess on Aug. 7," the Washington Post reports. If the bill makes it out of the committee, "it would scramble the reform landscape by introducing policy ideas that have their origins in the political center. The bill is bound to disappoint liberals." By contrast, Sen. Olympia Snow, R-Maine, one of the Republicans in the Finance group, said, "I think it might resonate, frankly, with our colleagues" (Murray and Kane, 7/29).

Though the senators cautioned that they're work is not complete, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the senior Republican on the panel told National Public Radio, "We're on the edge and almost there" (Inskeep, 7/29). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.