Baucus Lays Down Marker on Health Care Reform

Posted November 12, 2008 at 12:43pm

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) on Wednesday laid out his version of a federal health care insurance plan for Americans, the latest in a series of moves by Senate Democrats to show they plan on making the issue one of their top priorities in the 111th Congress.

Baucus said he was in the process of putting legislation together that would address what he sees as a core economic issue. He said his bill would not only provide health insurance for millions of Americans, but also make the insurance industry more efficient. The Montana Democrat added that even though the economic crisis seems to be worsening, he would press ahead with universal health care because the costs would be even greater if Congress failed to act.

“American families and our economy are in crisis over health care. We can’t get coverage to the 61 million who are either uninsured or underinsured without a major overhaul of the system, and there’s no way to really solve America’s economic troubles without fixing health care for the long term,” Baucus said.

Baucus released a blueprint of the bill that outlined three objectives for the program, including insuring all Americans, improving health care quality and creating greater market efficiency.

The Finance chairman said he was working in coordination with Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who has been a leading proponent of the health care issue, as well as Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Kennedy, long a champion of health care reform, has similarly begun laying the groundwork for major legislation in the next Congress.

Senate Democrats feel newly empowered to tackle health care reform in the next Congress given they now control both chambers of Congress and the White House. President-elect Obama has targeted the issue as one of his top priorities.

Baucus cautioned that whatever bill Congress packaged together would not simply be a Democratic bill, even with the at least six seats Democrats gained on Nov. 4. He said he was hoping for a bipartisan, supermajority of support for whatever comes about.