Health Care Financial Burden to Be Eased for Middle-income Americans

Responding to critics on Capitol Hill who called the measure too severe, Sen. Max Baucus said he would revamp his health-overhaul proposal to ease the financial burden for middle-income Americans and pare back a key tax increase.

The Senate Finance Committee chairman was seeking to shore up support ahead of meetings by the panel this week to consider amendments to his bill.

The Congressional Budget Office said the Baucus bill would cost $774 billion over a decade and reduce the federal budget deficit by $49 billion in that period. The Montana Democrat said in an interview that $28 billion -- more than half of the funds now dedicated to deficit reduction -- could be diverted to pay for changes that would help shore up support. He hopes to attract the backing of all committee Democrats and at least one Republican, Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine.

Mr. Baucus also called for raising "additional revenue," likely from the health-care sector, but declined to offer specifics, The Wall Street Journal reports.
In the meantime, In an interview with The New York Times ahead of Tuesday’s 9 a.m. start of committee action on his far-reaching legislation to revamp the health care system, Senator Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat and chairman of the Finance Committee, talked about why medical care in the United States will only get better — and how a fall-back provision for a public health insurance plan could be the trick to push the bill through the Senate with 60 votes.

“This is an exciting time,” Mr. Baucus said. “We as a country are on the verge of making a major positive change in the American health care system. You know these are paradigm shifts, these are game-changers, this is really transformative but in a positive way so people are going to get better health care.” It’s the last point that he tries to stress these days, that he worries people aren’t grasping amid the searing political debate.

One of the biggest challenges in developing the health care legislation was to figure out a way to slow the steep rise in health care spending, to “bend the cost curve” as the budget wonks put it, and produce a bill that would not add to the nation’s staggering debt. In that regard, Mr. Baucus succeeded. The Congressional Budget Office said that his legislation was not only budget-neutral but would actually reduce the debt down the line, The New York Times reports.

It was also reported, the health bill drafted by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D., Mont.) would fine families up to $3,800 annually if they don't buy health insurance. In an interview with ABC's "This Week" that aired Sunday, President Barack Obama said he rejected the notion that the fee represents a tax increase. "You can't just make up that language and decide that that's called a tax increase," Mr. Obama told host George Stephanopoulos.

In describing the penalty, Sen. Baucus's proposal says: "The consequence for not maintaining insurance would be an excise tax."

The issue is emerging as a rallying point for Republicans, who are calling for Democrats to scrap the current health overhaul proposals and start over. Mr. Obama has pledged not to increase taxes on families earning below $250,000 a year, The Wall Street Journal reports.