Members of the pivotal Senate Finance Committee have offered 564 amendments to a broad health reform blueprint inked by Sen. Max Baucus and released Wednesday, Sept. 16.
The sheer number and scope of the amendments, though not unexpected, threatens to strain the demeanor and test the mettle of a committee that has always prided itself on its ability to be as cordial as it is efficient. Baucus said he expects the committee to begin considering the amendments as early as Tuesday, though it's unclear how long the process—known as a “mark-up”—will take. The amendments have been divided into three categories—those that affect the delivery system, those that affect the expansion of health coverage, and those that relate to how the bill will be financed.
Many of the amendments could potentially upset the fragile balance Baucus has tried to maintain in order to pick up a handful of needed Republican votes. Some amendments would essentially kill the idea of non-profit “co-op” groups, which would be developed to help lower insurance costs. Others would increase Medicaid eligibility, lower the age group for Medicare eligibility, and develop an employer mandate much stronger than the one already included in a bill.