Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Montana, unveiled a summary of his proposed health care plan Monday.
The main points include: Cost $856 billion over 10 years and mandatory insurance coverage for every American by 2013. Baucus claims the bill would not add to the federal deficit. The plan is financed by more than $500 billion in various spending reductions, including Medicare, while calling for almost $350 billion in new taxes and fees. Insurers would be hit with $6 billion in new fees, with another $4 billion coming from the medical device manufacturing sector. Smaller sums would come from drug makers and clinical laboratories. Changes to Medicaid/Medicare/CHIP Medicaid eligibility would be standardized for everyone who has an income of up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Individual Mandate The plan would require individuals to obtain health coverage or pay an annual penalty depending on their income level, though some exemptions are available. Employers Employers are not required to offer health care insurance to employees. Businesses with 50 or more employees that do not offer coverage will be required to reimburse the government for tax credits given to employees purchasing their own insurance. Public Option Instead of a government-run public option plan, Baucus’ proposal calls for the creation of nonprofit health care cooperatives. Pre-existing Insurance Conditions Would bar insurance companies from dropping a policyholder in the event of illness as long as that person had paid his or her premium in full. It would add new protections for people with pre-existing conditions and establish tax credits to help low-and middle-income families purchase insurance coverage. Insurance companies also would be barred from imposing annual caps or lifetime limits on coverage. Individuals, however, would be fined up to $950 annually for failing to obtain coverage; families could be fined as much as $3,800. Malpractice Costs States would be encouraged “to develop and test alternatives to the current civil litigation system” as a way to help reduce skyrocketing malpractice costs, the summary noted. Abortion According to the summary, the bill would not pre-empt state laws banning or requiring abortion coverage. Federal tax dollars, as under current law, would not be used to pay for abortions unless the pregnancy is due to rape, incest, or if the life of the mother is in danger. Also provides that abortion cannot be a mandated benefit as part of a minimum benefits package except in those cases for which federal funds appropriated for the Department of Health and Human Services are permitted. Illegal Immigrants Undocumented immigrants would not be allowed to buy insurance plans. The plan says that parents who are in the country illegally will not be able to buy personal insurance coverage through the state exchange, but will be able to buy insurance for their U.S. citizen or lawfully present children.
For individuals who do not claim to be U.S. citizens but claim to be lawfully present in the country, they would have to have their claim substantiated by the Department of Homeland Security. In order to prevent illegal immigrants from accessing the state exchanges obtaining federal health care tax credits, the plan requires verification of personal data — including Social Security information.