Baucus Makes Changes to Health Bill to Address Democrats’ Concern

By Beacon Staff

WASHINGTON – Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus moved Monday to address concerns from fellow Democrats and one key Republican about his health care bill, tweaking the legislation to make newly required insurance more affordable.

The changes came a day ahead of a committee session beginning Tuesday to amend and vote on the bill, which Baucus hopes his panel will approve by the end of the week.

The Montana Democrat faces the difficult task in the days ahead of keeping his 13 committee Democrats on board while not moving so far to the left that he alienates Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, the only one of the panel’s 10 Republicans seen as likely to vote for the bill.

Snowe’s support could become even more critical presuming health overhaul legislation makes it to the Senate floor, where she would be the Democrats’ top target as they look for the 60 votes needed to advance the bill.

Snowe and a number of Finance Committee Democrats have raised concerns about whether subsidies in Baucus’ bill are generous enough to make insurance truly affordable for low-income people. There are also concerns about a new tax on high-value insurance plans, which some fear would hit middle-class workers even though Baucus is directing it at so-called “Cadillac” insurance plans that he says are enjoyed by a minority of U.S. workers.

Senators have offered a raft of amendments on both those issues and Baucus is incorporating some of the approaches in revised legislation he’ll unveil at Tuesday’s committee meeting.

Baucus was set to meet with his committee’s Democrats Monday evening to discuss and finalize the changes. Aides said the changes could add to the cost of the $856 billion bill, but since the bill would raise about $50 billion more than it spends over 10 years, there is some wiggle room.

Baucus’ legislation is the most conservative, and cheapest, of five health care bills in Congress. The four other bills have already passed committees in the House and Senate, but Baucus’ is the most closely watched because he tried for a bipartisan deal. In the other committees, majority Democrats passed legislation without GOP support that reflected mostly liberal priorities.

Also, the Finance Committee has a moderate makeup that resembles the Senate as a whole, so legislation that passes Finance could find favor on the Senate floor.

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