Senators Air Concerns Before Baucus Drops Health Bill

(AP)
Partisan divisions over health care reform continue to mount the closer a key Senate chairman gets to releasing a bill that will attempt to find common ground.

Sen. Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and leader of the "gang of six" Republicans and Democrats working on a health care compromise, released a framework for legislation last week, and he intends to introduce an actual bill to his full committee on Wednesday. The gang of six is meeting once more this evening.

According to various reports, however, Baucus' proposals have spurred fresh concerns from both Republicans and Democrats.

Two of the Republicans in Baucus' gang of six have a host of issues they want addressed in the proposal, the New York Times reports. Senators Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) have requested changes to address hot-button issues like coverage for illegal immigrants and abortion coverage. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), the other Republican in the group, has requested a provision allowing for nationwide insurance plans.

Grassley is also reportedly displeased with the individual mandate included in proposal -- a central tenet of health care plans that have so far introduced in Congress.

While the cost of the bill has been a major concern for conservatives and moderates, Enzi and Grassley reportedly object to the fees that the proposal would impose on insurance companies, clinical labs and medical device manufacturers. Enzi also reportedly wants to relieve states from any burden of paying for Medicaid expansions.

Even as those key Republicans express concern about the fees levied to pay for reform, Democrats are worried the bill does not dedicate enough resources to help those who need it, the Washington Post reports. The bill is expected to cost around $880 billion over 10 years -- less than the $1 trillion price tag for the House bill.

"Additional steps are going to have to be taken to make coverage more affordable," Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) reportedly said about Baucus' framework.

The Post reports that under Baucus' plan, as many as 4 million people who are currently uninsured would have to purchase health insurance without any government assistance. Millions more could reportedly receive tax credits but still be responsible for insurance premiums that amount to as much as 13 percent of their income.

Finance Committee Democrats are prepared to insurance a number of amendments to the bill once it is introduced, the Hill newspaper reports.

"There'll be some big fights over different components of this," committee member Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) reportedly said.

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