Baucus Bill: Public Option Out; Co-Ops And High-Risk Pools In

What's included and what's out of Senator Max Baucus's bill?

senator max baucus.

Senator Max Baucus. Getty Images hide caption

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Well, you won't find any public option. President Obama may be disappointed but probably won't be surprised. In the public option's stead as a choice in state insurance exchanges are the health co-ops we've been hearing were a favorite in the Senate.

The bill would make available $6 billion in loans and grants to get co-ops rolling. They're more concept than reality in most parts of the country as it stands now.

Just to be crystal clear these co-ops wouldn't be a stealthy government-run alternative, the language stipulates the non-profit co-ops can't be "sponsored by a state, county, or local government, or any government instrumentality." [Our emphasis added.]

In a statement, Baucus called the legislation "a balanced, common-sense package" that wouldn't "add a dime to the deficit." Check out the release for a road map to the bill.

What else is in? Well, President Obama embraced the idea of a high-risk insurance pool for people whose preexisting conditions lead to denial of insurance coverage. Now Baucus has too.

Within a year of a health overhaul becoming law, a person with health barriers to coverage could enroll in the pool. He or she would have to be without insurance for at least six months to qualify for the back-up plan. Baucus proposes $5 billion in subsidies to help with the premiums.

In time, insurance companies would be prohibited from excluding people on the basis of their health status, and the high-risk pool proposed by Baucus would only be around until 2013.

The Baucus bill does require Americans to have insurance, but it doesn't force employers to offer coverage. Still, large employers that don't make health insurance a benefit would have to pay into a fund to help cover their workers who get government subsidies. Lots of fine print, of course, that will make for further debate.

One area where Baucus goes further than his House colleagues is on insurance exchanges, as the Washington Post's Ezra Klein notes. Employers with as many as 50 workers could shop on the state insurance marketplaces for coverage. At their discretion, states could loosen that up to let companies with as many as 100 employees in. Statescan also combine forces to make regional exchanges, if they like.

Add it all up and the tab for the overhaul outlined by Baucus comes to $856 billion over a decade, less than the president's $900 billion figure and the $1 trillion that had kicking around not too long ago.

In a briefing with reporters, Baucus called the proposal a good, balanced bill that will pass the Senate. He predicted the bill will draw Republican support:





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