Baucus Still Hopeful of Bipartisan Health Care Support

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – U.S. Sen. Max Baucus remains optimistic he will get bipartisan support for his health care overhaul plan, and predicted it would cut in half the cost an average family would pay to buy mandated health insurance.

Baucus unveiled his proposal Wednesday, a step seen as significant step toward final congressional action. The Finance Committee chairman’s bill is considered a more moderate option that uses tax credits, incentives, and mandates to get more people on private insurance — while forgoing the government option sought by liberals.

Baucus, a Democrat, said Thursday in an interview that a family with the national average size of three, and the national median income of about $50,000 would pay half as much for insurance in the private market under his plan.

“That family will get a tax credit to buy some insurance, the effect of that tax credit for that family will be basically be about a 50 percent reduction,” Baucus said.

Almost everyone would be mandated to get health insurance. To make it easier, more low income people would qualify for Medicaid, and middle income people would be given a range of tax credits to buy insurance. And the insurance industry would face a series of new strict requirements, such as refusing insurance due to pre-existing conditions.

Baucus said predictions, absent any changes, are that by 2014 more than 34 million people will pay in excess of 13 percent of their income on insurance. Under his plan, that prediction is reduced to 4.5 million.

Baucus expects it will clear the Finance Committee largely unscathed — even though he stood by himself Wednesday in introducing the bill. And he says he also expects some Republicans in the end will vote for it.

“My goal is bipartisanship legislation that is more durable and more sustainable. That is still my goal,” Baucus said. “I expect that when we finally vote on the health care reform bill in the Finance Committee in the next week there will probably be Republican support.”

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