Baucus bill under fire

The most talked-about bill aimed at reforming the nation’s health care system is expected to be voted out of the Senate Finance Committee today.

What happens to it after that is anybody’s guess, since the measure is already under attack from various quarters.

The Baucus Bill, named after Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana, does not include a government-run public option for health insurance. But, some of the more liberal Democrats in Congress have said they won’t support any bill without a public option, setting up a potential fight on that score.

Meanwhile, America’s Health Insurance Plans, an insurance industry group, issued a report saying that the 10-year cost of a typical family insurance plan under the Baucus bill will be “approximately $20,700 more than it would be under the current system.”

That claim was quickly disputed by the White House, but it provided more ammunition for opponents of the bill.

Supporters of the Baucus Bill received good news last week when the Congressional Budget Office said the bill would be revenue neutral over the next 10 years, even though it will cost an estimated $829 billion in that time. The reason is the bill is expected to raise an offsetting amount of revenue from various fees and taxes attached to it.

Some of those taxes, however, on medical devices such as pacemakers, hip-joint replacements and powered wheelchairs, are also being sharply criticized by opponents and consumer advocates.

We continue to believe that health care reform is needed because the current system is unsustainable, with its millions of uninsured people and endlessly skyrocketing costs. But the efforts of Max Baucus and others on the Senate Finance Committee demonstrate just how difficult it is to craft an acceptable compromise on this incredibly complex issue.

Still, we hope this bill can become the foundation for real health care reform, even if it ends up being more modest reform than was originally envisioned.


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