Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has circulated his own health reform plan, apparently tired of waiting for the rest of the "Group of Six" to come around.
Baucus's plan would cost between $850 billion and $950 billion over ten years, and would help pay for itself by imposing a new fee on insurance companies, the NY Times reports.
The plan does not include a public option, or even a "trigger" to implement a public option under certain conditions.
While that omission is likely to anger liberals, the new health insurance company tax is likely to alienate Republicans. For example, take a look at this explanation from the Times:
Mr. Baucus’s plan, expected to cost $850 billion to $900 billion over 10 years, would tax insurance companies on their most expensive health care policies. The hope is that employers would buy cheaper, less generous coverage for employees, thereby reducing the overuse of medical services. [emphasis added]
Conservatives are already claiming that Democratic reform would lead to healthcare rationing. A tax like that is unlikely to assuage those concerns.
The missing public plan is interesting. Key Democrats, including Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), have expressed support for a trigger, and the White House was reportedly using the "trigger" to entice at least one moderate Republican--Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine)
More from the Times on Baucus's plan:
Another section of Mr. Baucus’s proposal would help pay insurance premiums, co-payments and deductibles for people with incomes less than 300 percent of the poverty level ($66,150 for a family of four). It would also provide some protection for people with incomes from 300 percent to 400 percent of the poverty level (up to $88,200 for a family of four), so they would generally not have to pay more than 13 percent of their income in premiums.
Coverage under Mr. Baucus’s plan would, by some measures, be less extensive than the least generous of three levels envisioned in a bill approved by three House committees.
To compare health plans, experts often focus on the percentage of medical expenses paid by insurance, on average, for a given population. This figure ranges from 70 percent to 95 percent under the House bill’s options, but it would be less than 70 percent under Mr. Baucus’s proposal.