Health care negotiators finding common ground, Democrat says

Sen. Max Baucus will reveal his compromise health care reform plan this week.
Increased awareness of the details of a possible compromise health care bill is boosting the comfort level of both Democrats and Republicans, a key Democratic senator claimed Monday.

“As senators on and off the committee, [including] Republicans, begin to know more about all of this, their comfort level is starting to come up a bit,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said. “I do believe that in the end we will have some significant bipartisan support.” Baucus, D-Montana, heads a bipartisan group of negotiators at the center of the Senate’s health care talks. Members of the “Gang of Six” — a group of three Democratic and three Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee — are realizing “there’s much to agree on,” Baucus added. He said he intends to unveil a compromise plan this week, with the full Finance Committee set to begin debating the proposal next week. The Finance Committee is the last of five congressional committees that needs to approve health care legislation before it can be taken up by both the full Senate and the full House of Representatives.

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Baucus stated that the Gang of Six had discussed several issues in a meeting Monday morning, including medical malpractice, ensuring a denial of benefits to illegal immigrants and expanding federal support for Medicaid. He said the group was working toward meeting the widely shared goal of reducing the rate of growth of health care spending. The bipartisan group is to meet again at 4 p.m. ET today, and Democrats on the committee are to meet at 5:30 p.m. The Finance Committee bill as currently drafted would cost roughly $880 billion over 10 years and be fully funded, he added. It would not add to the federal deficit, he claimed. I’m “confident we’re bending the cost curve in the right way,” added North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad, another Democratic member of the Gang of Six.