Consumers would be able to shop for health insurance, couldn't be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions and would face fines for having policies under a key Senate Democrat's $856 billion reform bill.
Max Baucus, D-Mont., who is taking the chamber's lead role in crafting health care reform, said his bill will be paid for in full by spending cuts and tax increases, and contains compromises that should bring both parties on board. But Senate Republicans were reluctant to back the draft, released Wednesday.
The plan would help pay for increased coverage with a tax on high-end insurance plans and fees on insurance companies and medical device manufacturers. It does not establish the new, government-run insurance plan — or public option — President Obama sought to compete with the private market. It proposes instead a system of nonprofit member-owned cooperatives, and would bar carriers from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions.
The measure represents the most moderate health care proposal in Congress so far, compared to legislation approved by three committees in the House and the Senate's health panel. Baucus' bill includes provisions to keep illegal immigrants from obtaining health coverage through the new insurance exchanges and would prevent federal funds from being used to pay for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or if the life of the mother would be endangered. I
Not carrying insurance could result in a steep fine, as much as $3,800 per family, or $950 for an individual. People who can't afford their premiums would be exempted from the fine.