Sunday, October 4, 2009

Senator Baucus Weighing Changes to Make Insurance More Affordable

Posted by Rico K. Setyo

By David M. Herszenhorn

In a push to lock down votes, Senator Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is pulling together a last-minute package of changes to his health care legislation aimed at addressing the chief concern among his fellow Democrats: that health insurance be made as affordable as possible for moderate-income Americans.

“There’s an effort to solve people’s problems,” said Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia, who has been a critic of the bill. “How far that’ll go, we’ll see.”

Among the proposals under consideration is an amendment by Senator Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington, that would create a “basic health plan” for Americans earning less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or $44,100 for a family of four. The proposal would let states develop or expand various existing insurance programs that now typically cover people who qualify for Medicaid. Small states could develop plans jointly.

The Baucus bill would already expand Medicaid to Americans earning up to 133 percent of poverty, and Ms. Cantwell’s proposal would effectively expand it further. But because her plan is expected to be cheaper than providing subsidies to those low-income people to buy their own insurance, it could save money that could be used to make other provisions of the bill more generous.

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