A Quick Look at the Baucus Healthcare Legislation

Senator Max Baucus released the massive healthcare legislation package that his Senate Finance committee has been working on after he failed to negotiate any Republican support. The bill, which was released this morning, has many Republicans continuing to worry about costs and citing that Baucus made some concessions to Republicans, but has continued to ignore others needed for a truly bipartisan bill.

A quick look at the bill tells us this:
•    No public option would be offered, which has angered many extreme Leftists. Instead, Baucus has offered a “co-operative” plan to help win Republican support that would require every state in the Union to offer a health care cooperative, much like electrical cooperatives, and mimics some of the Massachusetts Commonwealth Care program.
•    Medicare coverage would be cut and Medicaid coverage would be extended to all families living at 150% of the poverty level.
•    All individuals must be insured or else face steep fines.
•    All individuals and families that are below or at 300% of the Poverty level will receive tax subsidies to help pay for insurance plans.
•    Insurance premiums could not be more than 13% of a family’s annual income.
•    $349 billion of the $856 billion dollar plan would be paid for in new taxes and fees.
•    Insurance companies would be required to pay a $6 billion dollar fee each year, and may be taxed more depending on what they offer.
•    All insurance companies must offer the same coverage (plans and packages are set by the legislation) in every state.
•    The plan is set to take approximately ten years to integrate uncovered individuals, small business employees, and then larger companies employees.
•    There will be a 35% excise tax on “high dollar” insurance plans that cost individuals over $8,000 a year and families more than $21,000 a year.
•    Abortion will not be mandated to be covered expect in the case of rape, incest or maternal life.
•    Illegal immigrants cannot be able to obtain insurance, however their children that are legally here can.

Republicans across the board have already begun to see the flaws in the legislation, including those in the infamous bipartisan Gang of Six that were unable to find common ground with Baucus. Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) said that few concessions were made to Republicans, and not enough would be done to reform medical malpractice laws. Enzi noted that he’d hoped that the legislation would have been rebuilt around areas of bipartisan agreement. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), a RRM ally, dropped her potential support of the Chairman’s mark due to unanswered concerns that citizens in states with higher-cost states to insure would pay the 35% excise tax, which would mean Maine would be faced with these higher taxes. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the Senate Minority Leader, noted that in the current economy, it made little sense to him to add an almost trillion-dollar program to taxpayer’s burdens.

The legislation will now be marked up in Committee, likely starting next week, and then to the Senate HELP Committee for reconciliation (HELP, or Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee has a bill with the public option included). If the bills can be reconciled, they will then go to the Senate for a vote. RRM will be continuing to follow this coverage and updating our members on the blog.

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