Sen Baucus Calls for Universal Health Coverage In New Plan

by Lesley Politi on November 12, 2008



WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus urged quick action on his plan to provide health insurance for all Americans through a new pooling arrangement intended to reduce health-care costs and expand access to Medicare and Medicaid.

Baucus, D-Mont., on Wednesday unveiled the proposal, which would create a pooling scheme called the Health Information Exchange that is intended to foster competition in the health insurance market. Health insurers participating in the exchange would be regulated by an independent health council, according a white paper released by the Senate Finance Committee.

Under Baucus’ plan, individuals at or below four times the federal poverty level would qualify for subsidies to buy insurance in the exchange, while small businesses would receive tax credits based on earnings and the size of their firm to participate in the system.

To ease the transition to the exchange, the plan would also temporarily allow people aged 55 to 64 to buy into Medicare coverage and would allow all those at or under the federal poverty level eligible for Medicaid.

“The health-care system in this country is broken for individual Americans, and it’s straining our economy,” said Baucus.

Baucus said he wants to see speedy passage of the health-care plan in the Senate.

“I’d like to see, frankly, the legislation acted on in the first half of the year,” he said.

Baucus said he had several conversations with Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., in recent weeks. Kennedy shares jurisdiction with Baucus on health-care issues, and Kennedy’s staff has pledged an aggressive approach on health-care legislation.

At least for now, the two appear to be taking a joint approach to crafting health-care legislation.

“I want to work with Sen. Kennedy, and I want to work with the Health Committee and all my colleagues,” Baucus said.

In a statement, Kennedy said Baucus’ proposal is “a major contribution to the debate on health reform.”

“I look forward to working with Sen. Baucus, our colleagues in Congress on both sides of the aisle, and the Obama administration to see that we at last achieve the goal of quality, affordable health care for all Americans,” Kennedy said.

-By Patrick Yoest, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-862-3554; patrick.yoest@

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Sen Baucus Calls For Universal Health Coverage In New Plan

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