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Max Baucus opens his kimono

Democrats will need at least 2 Republican votes to get the Baucus plan past a filibuster. That's the math that counts.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

Shortly before the President's address last night, Senate Finance Committee chair Max Baucus (right) released a draft of his "bipartisan" health plan and said he would have it voted on next week, passing along party lines.

The draft, posted to the committee's Web site, features a "co-op" plan that was immediately attacked by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a committee member who prefers a public option.

The plan includes mandates for both employers and individuals, with tax credits aimed at guaranteeing affordability and some strict rules on rates.

Plans could be age-rated, with older workers paying up to five times more than a baseline, some paying as much as 750% more than others, and a "young invincible" plan available to young workers at low cost.

A key Republican demand, that carriers be allowed to compete across state lines, is phased-in, and there are incentives for wellness placed in both the government-funded Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Boiling down the deal, insurers get millions of new customers in exchange for rate regulation, doctors and hospitals can keep Medicare reimbursements where they are but must meet quality standards, and patients get subsidies but must participate in the market.

Liberals immediately called the plan a sell-out, charging it was written by a former Wellpoint executive named Liz Fowler. Wellpoint has been accused of telling its employees to lobby against health care reform.

Republicans refused to support the Baucus draft, calling it rushed and saying they want to deal with the problems piecemeal. On the left Firedoglake is already calling the bill the "Max Tax," claiming a middle-class family of four would have to pay 31% of its income to health insurers under the plan.

But at least the game is now seriously afoot. With Sen. Kennedy's passing, and Sen. Byrd's continuing illness, Democrats will need at least 2 Republican votes to get the Baucus plan past a filibuster. That's the math that counts.

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