Baucus, Obama Differ on Health Care

By Beacon Staff

Democrat Max Baucus, Montana’s senior U.S. senator and chair of the über-powerful Finance Committee, called on President-elect Barack Obama to make health care his No. 1 priority in 2009.

Baucus unveiled a plan Wednesday that he says could cure what ails the health care system. Many of Baucus’ suggestions mirror Obama’s, with one giant exception. This, according to the Associated Press:

Baucus goes beyond Obama’s plan by requiring everybody to purchase health insurance once affordable options are available.

The plan will stop the shifting of costs for care of the uninsured onto those who have health coverage, Baucus said, and it will bring down the average cost of insuring each American — which can help to make many individual premiums more affordable.

“Coverage of all Americans will also make reforms work better, from insurance market reforms to a cost-saving focus on preventive care,” he said. “Those who cannot afford coverage will not be required to purchase it — there will be other options for them.”

During the primary campaign, the glaring difference between Obama’s and Sen. Hillary Clinton’s health plans was the issue of mandates. Clinton would require that everyone be covered and Obama, while making coverage affordable for all, would only require children to be insured.

Obama’s response to Baucus’ call for mandated health care was vague. Through spokesman Tommy Vietor:

“President-elect Obama applauds Chairman Baucus’ work to draw attention to the challenges of the health system and looks forward to working closely with the Chairman and other Congressional leaders, as well as the American public, to make quality, affordable health care a reality for all Americans.”

Health care will definitely be at the forefront of the new administration, but I doubt Obama does much to address it until the economy is propped up.