Senator Baucus expects his committee to have an amended plan ready by the end of the week. It will have some major compromises in an attempt to make it acceptable to all Democrats and some Republicans. Good luck!
In the original plan, the government would provide subsidies on a sliding scale to help people pay premiums. People with income at the poverty level ($22,050 for a family of four) would have been expected to pay 3 percent of their annual income on premiums before subsidies would begin. People with incomes of 300 percent to 400 percent of the poverty level would have been expected to pay 13 percent of their income for premiums before being eligible for subsidies.
Mr. Baucus said he wanted to reduce the maximum amount that moderate-income Americans would have to pay in premiums, under the legislation, to less than 12 percent of income.
Mr. Baucus now would reduce the penalty for people who go without insurance. Under his original bill, the penalty could have been as high as $3,800 a year for a family.
Richard J. Kirsch, the national campaign manager of Health Care for America Now, a consumer group, said: “The tax credits in the original Baucus plan were so low they would make premiums unaffordable for many moderate- and middle-income people, who could also face high out-of-pocket costs. And if they don’t pay the premiums, they might have to pay a fine.”
Similar concern was expressed by health policy experts at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal-leaning research and advocacy group often cited by Democrats in Congress. “Subsidies in the Baucus health reform plan would fall short of what is needed for many people to afford health care,”’ the center said id in a study last week.
The present bill does not include a government insurance plan, which Mr. Obama says is needed to compete with private insurers and “keep them honest.” But Mr. Baucus said he was “very open” to the idea of a public plan as a backup in any state where a significant number of people could not find affordable coverage from private insurers. He has been advocating the establishment of "cooperatives" of private insurers.
Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, a Republican, has proposed such a “trigger mechanism,” which could allow the creation of a public plan in some states as early as 2014. And the White House has been receptive.
Democrats may need Ms. Snowe’s vote to pass the bill.
Senator Jon Kyl (R) of Arizona, proclaimed Monday that “The chairman’s bill is a tangled web of federally dictated insurance regulations, which would control every aspect of health insurance from covered benefits to permissible premiums,” . “It would centralize the power of medical decisions with politicians and bureaucrats. It would result in higher premiums, less consumer choice and ultimately the rationing of health care.” This may be the key to the Republican's opposition.
The changes could add $28 billion to the 10-year cost of his bill, which was originally estimated at $774 billion by the Congressional Budget Office. The revised bill, though, could still meet President Obama’s stipulation that health care legislation not add to the federal budget deficit.