Friday, April 24, 2009


Senate Finance Committee chair Max Baucus offered several clues today about features he hopes to include in his committee’s version of a health care reform bill.

Backing off somewhat from earlier strong backing of a public plan option to be included among insurance exchange offerings, Baucus told reporters at a breakfast meeting hosted by Health Affairs that he wanted to focus first on preserving the insurance structure for larger employers while expanding private insurance and public programs like Medicaid and SCHIP.

Baucus did express considerable support for the insurance exchange structure, citing Massachusetts’ Connector as a model, but emphasized that the benefits to be offered would have to meet (or, presumably, exceed) national—rather than state—standards.

Baucus emphasized his desire to retain much of the present system, and especially to minimize the impact of reform on employers that currently have insurance. However, his remarks focused almost entirely on self-insured companies covered by ERISA. It was not clear if he intended to exclude only current ERISA employers from the potential requirements of reform, or would also exclude any employer wishing at any future time to self-insure.

Among other comments, Baucus noted his intent that reform legislation should provide for guaranteed issuance and elimination of pre-existing conditions. He also remarked that he had not abandoned the public plan concept and might return to it.

A much more detailed presentation of Baucus’ proposals is expected to be provided when he meets in closed-door session with other Finance Committee members on April 29.

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