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Baucus Kicks Off Health-Care Reform Debate with 89-Page Memo


Sen. Max Baucus speaks about healthcare at news conference in Washington, D.C., today. (Jay Premack/Bloomberg News)

By Ceci Connolly
The early positioning over health-care reform has begun and -- almost -- everyone's making nice.

Despite significant policy differences between them, President-elect Barack Obama and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) had nothing but happy talk Wednesday on their ability to revamp the nation's $2.1 trillion health system.

Baucus, whose committee has jurisdiction over much of health legislation, unveiled a 89-page position paper today outlining his vision for granting every American coverage within the next few years.

Even before formal release of the proposal, Obama's transition team had issued a statement saying how eager the president-elect is to work with Baucus, Congress and everyone else "to make quality, affordable health care a reality for all Americans."

In a well-attended news conference, Baucus downplayed the fact that Obama does not support a requirement that every American purchase health insurance. Baucus supports the such policies, known as individual mandates, after certain changes are made, such as offering subsidies to low-income families, giving tax breaks to small businesses and expanding some government health programs.

"Our bills are much more similar than they are different," he said. "It's very similar in approach."

Nevertheless, he did not back down on the mandate question.

"For this to work, every American's got to be included," Baucus said. "I do believe we'll work that out with the president-elect very satisfactorily. I don't think that's going to be an issue."

The only sour note of the day came from Baucus' Republican counterpart on the committee, Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, who is clearly suspicious of how Democrats might pay for a broad expansion of health coverage.

"It's not a time for rosy scenarios," he warned.

Add up the present deficit, the Wall Street bailout and perhaps a new economic stimulus package and "we're heading toward a deficit that's 10 percent of the economy," he said. "So paying for health-care reform needs to be done in an intellectually honest way."

Posted at 6:24 PM ET on Nov 12, 2008  | Category:  Health Care
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These are encouraging steps. From my experience as a MD, affordable health care for every citizen should be a top priority. Since the US health system is somehow undemocratic and overly profit-oriented, the government could create a basic insurance for each individual, or alternatively create better rules for the different players in this field. Our system (Switzerland) rests on both government and freelance health care providers. An insurance is mandatory for everibody, but there are plenty of them to choose on a competitive market. These private insurances and other parts of the system are regulated by laws to prevent financial abuses and discrimination towards high-risk and poor patients. Our main accident-insurance is provided by the government and works just as efficiently. Besides, private accident insurances are free to compete. Pharmaceutic firms, insurances and health care providers compete, but laws regulate the system to insure overall quality and cost effectiveness. This system has been growing for the past decades and it is impossible to decrete it or set it up from scratch. Your unique approach will be interesting to observe. Detractors argue with the immense costs, true, but health is a fundamental right of every human being and the basis for a working economy, it is no luxury. Wars and chaotic bubble economics we are wittnessing are a waste of human and economic resources, to say the least.

Posted by: supporter | November 13, 2008 7:07 AM

The news is, thousands of children are deformed in Iraq, because of President Bush and his illegal bomb and Awe. Well, The sad part also is many of your brave young men and women will be coming home with the same health issues because of all the air pollution from these bombs. I being a dad and grandfather would want your kids back NOW. They voted for you President Obama, for change. Senator Palon and all her religion fanatics, best save their ass for it is they whom brought on the evil in the campaign, and this very immature caricature of a future President four years from now.
Give us all a break. To all, especially the well wishers and voters of your, could be, great country. May your god bless you. You can do it.
The sad truth is if not for oil we would not be there. There will never be change for we are hated and History does not tell lies. Bombs away until January. Oh man, what have we done?? God Bless you Sir, start the impeachment's before January, and start counting the pennies left. Leaving Iraq will do the trick. From a white Canadian. What shame I have to say that, but it is a fact. Lot's of brave dudes in Canada that don't need a six pack nor six gun. We will be there for the right President, and we can take care of ourselves.

Posted by: justada56 | November 12, 2008 11:37 PM

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