Baucus Stands Alone to Deliver Health Care Bill

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) formally unveiled his long-awaited health care bill to a packed room of journalists this afternoon. The chairman stood alone at the podium without support from any colleagues, Democrat or Republican.

The "Gang of Six" has been meeting for months for what amounted to over 100 hours of meetings according to Baucus. Yet none managed to make it to the press conference to support the bill.

And for good reason.

Some of the more interesting parts of the legislation include the $500 billion in cuts to Medicare without detailed explanation of how the proposal will compensate for that void for the nation’s seniors.

The bill mandates coverage for every individual with penalties for failure to buy insurance, including a $750 per person per year assessment (capped at $1,500 for families) for those making between 100 and 300 percent of poverty level. Over 300 percent earnings would be assessed $950, capped at$3,800 per family.

The bill would not require employers to provide health insurance but would allow for tax credits if they do so. It would also penalize those who do not offer coverage.

It would tax higher-end medical insurance plans which will be met with a great deal of resistance from unions.

There is no tort reform included in the bill only a "sense of the Senate" that there should be tort reform.

The bill would also change the way doctors are compensated under Medicaid and Medicare. No more per-service charges.

State-based insurance exchanges would be created as well as the government option "co-op" federally funded (thus controlled) by the federal government.

This bill retains the option to grandfather in private insurance currently enjoyed by folks around the country but would end the sale of non-government approved insurance thereafter — in other words, a government takeover.

Those who qualify for tax credits to purchase health insurance would not be able to use them to keep their current insurance.

As with the House bill, this bill doesn’t fully take effect until 2013 — the year after the Presidential election — which makes it difficult for the President to be accountable for any of the consequences of the bills. Should either of these bills pass, Obama will already be voted out of office or elected to a second term by the time any of the plans would come into effect.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t like much of what he saw.

“This partisan proposal cuts Medicare by nearly a half-trillion dollars, and puts massive new tax burdens on families and small businesses, to create yet another thousand-page, trillion-dollar government program," McConnell said. "Only in Washington would anyone think that makes sense, especially in this economy.”

More tomorrow.