"Under pressure from fellow Democrats, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee endorsed additional measures to defray the cost of insurance for working class families on Tuesday as the panel opened debate on sweeping health care legislation," The Associated Press reports. "Aides said the changes announced by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., would commit an additional $50 billion over a decade to making insurance more affordable." Among Baucus' list of changes were "several sought by [Sen. Olympia] Snowe [R-M.E.] as well as Democrats."
"The chairman announced he was revising his bill to increase the subsidies going to families with incomes of up to 400 percent of poverty. Baucus also exempted policies sold to workers in high-risk fields from a proposed excise tax. At the same time, to recover some of the revenue that would be lost, he proposed raising the tax from 35 percent to 40 percent. Additionally, Baucus called for a stricter limit on the additional charges that insurance companies may impose on older consumers seeking coverage." Another change "scaled back a proposed penalty on families who defy a requirement to purchase insurance, dropping them from a maximum of $3,800 to $1,900" (Espo and Werner, 9/22).
Dow Jones Newswires/The Wall Street Journal: "To pay for some of the changes, Baucus proposed new limits on itemized deductions for medical expenses. The Senate Finance Committee is moving toward a vote on the package as early as the end of this week." In an additional change to the excise tax on high-premium health plans, "Baucus changed the way the tax is indexed so its impact on Americans will grow more slowly. While the initial proposal was tied to the consumer price index, the revised draft uses an index of CPI plus 1%."Also, people in "high-risk professions such as coal miners and firefighters, and retirees over 55 would be allowed to have pricier plans before the excise tax kicks in" (Vaughan and Yoest, 9/22).
In a separate article, AP reports that "The Senate is backing away from a health care tax that would have affected consumer products like contact lenses, thermometers, condoms and even scented maxi-pads. Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus says he will exempt consumer products costing up to $100 from his proposed $4 billion-a-year tax on manufacturers of medical devices" (9/22).
Bloomberg: "Peter Orszag, director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, said that the Senate Finance Committee health bill will significantly expand health care coverage while saying the bill will be 'deficit reducing'" (Runningen, 9/22).