Senator Baucus to Take the Lead on Health Care Reform

Senator Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has unveiled his plan to guarantee health insurance for all Americans.  In contrast to the plan put forward by Senator John McCain during his presidential bid, which favored individual purchases of health care in the market rather than through an employer, Senator Baucus aims to encourage insurance through employment.  Senator Baucus also proposes to expand Medicaid and Medicare.  Senator Baucus’s plan would eventually require everyone to have health insurance coverage, with federal subsidies for those who could not otherwise afford it.

“Every American has a right to affordable, high-quality health care,” Mr. Baucus said. “Americans cannot wait any longer.”

Other Democrats, such as Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Representatives John D. Dingell of Michigan and Pete Stark of California, are also drafting plans to expand insurance coverage and contain health care costs.

Read more about Senator Baucus’s plan, after the jump.

Senator Baucus’s plan goes even further than the plan initially proposed by President-elect Obama;  Senator Baucus’s plan would eventually require that all individuals have health insurance coverage, whereas President-elect Obama’s plan would require only that all children be covered.  

In his plan, Mr. Baucus makes these proposals:

  • People age 55 to 64 should be able to buy Medicare coverage if they do not have access to a public insurance program or a group health plan.
  • Medicaid should be available to everyone below the poverty level.
  • The State Children’s Health Insurance Program would be expanded to cover all uninsured children in families with incomes at or below 250 percent of the poverty level ($44,000 for a family of three).
  • He would offer tax credits to small businesses to help them defray the costs of providing health benefits to employees.
  • To make insurance more affordable for those who buy coverage on their own, Mr. Baucus would offer tax credits to individuals and families with incomes at or below four times the poverty level ($70,400 for a family of three).

Mr. Baucus would also make it easier for many legal immigrants to qualify for Medicaid and the children’s health program. Under current law, such immigrants are generally barred from the programs in their first five years in the United States.

Additionally, insurers would no longer be able to deny coverage to people who had been sick, nor could insurers charge higher premiums because of a person’s age or prior illness.

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