The Senate Finance Committee will consider a 10-year, nearly $900 billion health care reform plan Tuesday by Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont.
Baucus had spent months striving for bipartisan common ground, but when he presented the bill last week, he stood alone.
He has to keep 13 Democrats on board without moving so far to the left that he loses Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, the only Republican on the panel considered a possible vote for the bill.
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The Baucus plan would:
- Extend coverage to about 29 million Americans who lack it now;
- End insurance company practices, like charging higher premiums for women and denying coverage to people in poor health;
- Make almost everyone buy insurance or pay a fee;
- Expand Medicaid to cover more low-income people and provide subsidies to many in the middle class;
- Create new online exchanges where small businesses and people without government or employer-provided insurance could shop for plans and compare prices.
A number of Democrats on the committee questioned whether subsidies in the bill are generous enough to make insurance affordable for low-income people.
There also are concerns about a new tax on high-cost insurance plans - as much as 35 percent, which critics fear would hit some middle-class workers, including many union members in risky occupations such as mining and police work.
Snowe shares those concerns. Her support is critical if legislation makes it to the Senate floor, where Democrats need 60 votes to pass the bill.