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Sen. Baucus Plan - No Public Option

Posted by Jane Akre
Thursday, September 17, 2009 11:33 AM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Health Reform, Health Insurance, Baucus, Obama, Public Option, Big Insurance

Sen Max Baucus comes up with a health reform plan that is the cheapest but does the least to challenge big insurance companies.



IMAGE SOURCE: Sen. Baucus/ Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana) Web site

After weeks of trying to win over Republicans, Senate Finance Committee Chairman, Max Baucus, (D-Montana) has revealed “The Baucus Plan” for reforming health care in America.

Ultimately, the senator had to go it alone as not a single Republican supported the plan.

The plan will cost $856 billion over 10 years, and will be paid for with cuts in government programs and new taxes and fees.

It involves insurance market reforms, but omits the “public” insurance option that would require major insurance providers to compete with government-supported plans.

Instead, the Baucus plan supports non-profit cooperatives to provide the lower cost competition to major health insurers.

Other key points:

  • Small business would shop for insurance options among state-based exchanges

  • The exchange would offer four categories of minimum benefits, including one for young adults who suffer a catastrophic event but are otherwise healthy

  • In 2013, insurance companies would not be allowed to exclude those with pre-existing conditions from coverage and would not be able to rescind coverage

Unlike the Obama and Democratic plan, the proposal does not compete directly with private insurance as a public option does, which is considered the key by many to keeping costs down.

Individuals would have to buy insurance or face a penalty, which would be applied even if the taxpayer fell between 100-to-300 percent of the poverty line. For those too poor to buy insurance, Medicaid would be expanded to include everyone up to 133 percent of the poverty line.

A representative from the insurance lobby, America’s Health Insurance Plans, went on Bloomberg Wednesday and complained that more than one-third of the bill will hit insurers. Robert Zirkelbach, says his group supports guaranteed access to everyone, even those with pre-existing conditions.

Reuters provides a Q & A on the Baucus plan.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said it would force employers to pay a tax they cannot afford for their employees. “Employers have warned this will kill jobs,” reports Associated Press.

Baucus even had lukewarm support from the White House. “I do think introduction of the legislation is an important building block, and it gets us closer to comprehensive health care reform,” says White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

The plan will be considered by the Senate Finance Committee and a vote is expected after debate and amendments. The Baucus plan is cheaper than four other proposals out of Congress.

The Need

If there was more evidence needed that the $2.5 trillion health care industry requires an overhaul, it comes in a new report which says the average cost of job-based health insurance for the family climbed again in 2009, for the tenth straight year.

The five percent hike to $13,375 means health care premiums have increased faster than wages and inflation, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust. #

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