A bipartisan group of senators from the Finance and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees are set to meet Wednesday to discuss plans for comprehensive health reform, Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) told reporters.
The sooner we address this, the better, said Baucus, indicating that he wanted to move aggressively in early 2009 on legislation. He wouldnt predict whether the end result would be one or two bills, only that he planned on working with HELP Committee Chairman Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking member of Finance, HELP ranking member Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and others on bipartisan reform.
Baucus said the first step is to meet and delegate assignments to staff before working out the next steps to craft a bill.
In a related development, Kennedy announced that he was appointing Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) to lead three separate working groups under his committee, each of which will focus on a specific area of healthcare reform.
Baucus said Kennedy has been very complimentary of his 90-page proposal to fix the healthcare system, which includes a Medicare buy-in for 55- to 64-year-olds and a public-plan option to compete with private-plan options in a health insurance exchange. Kennedy, however, has been outlining his own ideas for healthcare reform.
Theres also the proposal from President-elect Barack Obama, which unlike Baucus plan, has no mandate for adults to buy insurance. -- by Jennifer Lubell
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