“We want to make sure that this package that's voted out of Finance Committee next week provides for insurance coverage that is affordable—especially to middle income and lower income people,” Baucus told reporters Monday evening.
One revision would adjust the tax on expensive, or “Cadillac,” health plans. Right now, the legislative package calls for taxing plans that top $21,000, though that number is expected to increase by several more thousand.
Democratic senators, who met last night to go over the amendments, also favored cutting the financial penalties that would be levied against a family who doesn't buy insurance.
For those families making more than 300% of the federal poverty level ($66,150 for a family of four), they would be hit with a $3,800 penalty. But that fee will likely be cut in half to $1,900, said Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.). Individuals, however, would still be on the hook for $950.
Senators are also expected to lower the cap on the percentage of health coverage a person or family is required to pay out of pocket. Right now, the cap is at 13% of income for those making 300% of the federal poverty level. The percentage is expected to come down a bit, though by how much is still in question.
Part of the problem is that for every change made, the cost of the legislation tends to increase, Conrad said.
“All of this has to add up,” he said. “All of this has to be part of the package.”
Baucus has put the price tag of his bill at $859 billion over 10 years. As written, it gives the committee about a $49 billion surplus. But lawmakers cautioned that only about $29 billion of that could be used for the measures now being discussed.
“All of these things are a challenge,” Conrad said.