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Welfare & Subsidiarity

US/ Health Care: A New Plan by Sen. Baucus Would Cut Costs

Sen. Baucus, a Democrat from Montana, presented a new health care plan to the Finance Committee which is the first to remove the "public option". The foreseen costs are much lower compared to previous Democratic bills.  


The latest U.S. health proposal has emerged from the Finance Committee and was authored by Sen. Max Baucus, a Democrat from Montana, and it is the first bill to remove the "public option". The previous four committee bills supported government-sponsored insurance, which is an essential for many liberal Democrats and advocacy groups, but which Baucus argues cannot pass the Senate with the opposition of Republicans and certain moderate Democrats. The Health Care for America Now (HCAN) , which with other groups have provided massive advertising campaigns in support of the President's health care initiative over the summer, rejects the proposal.

The Baucus plan incorporates some Republican proposals, including reform of medical malpractice, removing in-state restrictions on purchasing insurance and insuring a high-risk pool, even though Republicans are not endorsing the compromise. "The proposal released today still spends too much, and it does too little to cut health care costs for those with health insurance," stated Republican Michael Enzi of Wyoming, a member of the Finance Committee.

Baucus' proposal has trimmed original estimates while keeping a plan which would insure nearly all Americans for under $800 billion over ten years. Americans would be required to purchase insurance from non-profit coops or other insurance companies or else face large penalties, and fees on the health care industry would help insure the higher-risk pool. This proposal is the least intrusive to the insurance industry, compared to earlier versions of health care reform.

For Republicans, the reforms are too costly and there are too many unknowns. After the President's speech last week, House Republican Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia outlined the problems with the promises, particularly the high price tag, the lack of verification of citizenship and the failure of amendments which would have ensured against rationing care.

Newt Gingrich, writing in the Washington Examiner, asked the President to "prove it", regarding the assertion that illegal immigrants would not be covered, fraud would be redressed, tort reform would be undertaken and abortions would not be funded. "[N]o less than five amendments to prohibit funding of abortions under health care reform were defeated by Democrats in the House. House Republicans should resurrect one of these and see if the president is true to his word."

Republican plans, which may not have a chance to pass at this time but could influence a final health bill, would add more regulation to the insurance industry and offer tax deductions for individuals purchasing insurance, with increasing subsidies for additional family members and for low-income households.

Both sides are looking at the way Catholics will stand on health care reform as they consistently form a swing vote in presidential elections. According to Dan Gilgoff of U.S. News and World Report, "That antiabortion, pro-universal healthcare stance—and the fact that a full quarter of the U.S. population is Catholic—make the bishops and the wider Catholic community a key swing constituency in the escalating healthcare reform battle. If they can allay Catholic concerns on abortion, Obama and the Democrats stand to enlist the church as a powerful ally in the fight."

In a July 17th statement to the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, Bishop William Murphy, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, insisted that a health plan first must respect life and conscience rights. He went on to affirm that affordable health care is "not a privilege, but a right and a requirement to protect the life and dignity of every person." For immigrants, he asked for insurance for tax-paying legal immigrants and pregnant women as well as a safety net for illegal immigrants needing emergency care. He reiterated the Church's commitment to health care in the U.S., where one in six patients are cared for in Catholic hospitals, including the uninsured.

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