Senator Max Baucus’s goal was to construct a bipartisan healthcare reform plan. In this he certainly succeeded: both parties hate it. Baucus, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, unveiled legislation last Wednesday designed to remake the nation’s costly health care system. Although he eliminated the public option entirely and kept the insurance mandates, no Republican is willing to vote for his bill – so far.
If the bill passes as is, citizens would have to buy a private insurance policy or be penalized by the federal government. So individuals would be forced to purchase insurance from the same companies that have refused to cover preexisting conditions, canceled policies if someone does get sick, denied claims, refused to pay for lifesaving procedures, or, as we read about this week, randomly hike premiums for 114,000 Michigan residents by around 30% without notice—effective immediately. Penalties for failing to get insurance would start at $750 for year for individuals and $1,500 for families. Households making more than three times the federal poverty level (about $66,000 for a family of four) would face the maximum fine of $3,800 for families and $950 for individuals.
For those of you who wonder who Sen. Max Baucus (D, Montana) is and why he is so powerful, here’s the story: Baucus controls the Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over any legislation involving Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and health care in general. As Chairman, the senator enjoys a remarkable degree of power. The Senate will be debating this plan the week of September 21.