Creating a nationwide insurance pool and expanding public programs to achieve universal coverage is going to cost something over the next five years, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said of his new healthcare reform proposal.
At a news conference to release a white paper on his plan, Baucus wouldn't provide specifics on what this new system would actually cost, only that it would require an upfront investment. He also wouldn't comment on whether the money to finance his proposal would come from deficit spending or specific offsets. He appeared confident that the second five years of the plan would produce definite savings achieved from reducing waste in the system and making Americans healthier.
Baucus said he was holding off on introducing a bill in order to work with other lawmakers, including Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who's been crafting his own plan for major healthcare legislation, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the Finance Committee's ranking member. His staff in the meantime has been meeting with the staff of President-elect Barack Obama, whose healthcare proposal dovetails with my own, Baucus said. The Congressional Budget Office will estimate the cost of the plan once a bill is introduced, he said.
The cornerstone of Baucus' plan is a national insurance pool called the health insurance exchange. Under this system, those who already have coverage would get to keep what they have. But for those who need affordable, guaranteed coverage, the pool would be a marketplace where Americans could easily compare and purchase the plans of their choice, Baucus explained.
Healthcare stakeholders have shown early support for the plan, including the Federation of American Hospitals, the American Medical Association, and advocacy group Families USA. -- by Jennifer Lubell