Senate Finance Committee Schedules September 22 Drafting Session On Baucus Health Care Reform Proposal

The Senate Committee on Finance plans on Tuesday, September 22, 2009 to hash out how to convert into proposed legislation the health care reform proposal outlined in the “Chairman’s Mark America’s Healthy Future Act of 2009” introduced by Committee Chairman Max Baucus on September 16, 2009, the text of which may be reviewed here.

While the Chairman’s Markup outlining the health care reform elements that Chairman Baucus’ proposes for adoption by Congress, the specific legislation that the Chairman proposes to be used to implement these proposals has not yet been introduced.  Deciding the language and other features of such legislation -i.e., actually drafting the statutory language – is a primary purpose of the September 22, 2009 meeting.

Until actually reduced to specific legislative language, it is difficult for members of Congress and the Americans they represent to know and assess the changes proposed and their potential implications.  However, a review of the proposal outlined in the Chairman’s Markup indicates that the adoption of the proposed would impose significant burdens and costs on employers and their employees, while substantially curtailing their health coverage choices.  For instance, the Chairman’s Markup would:

  • Set up insurance “exchanges” through which some individuals and families could receive federal subsidies to substantially reduce the cost of purchasing that coverage;
  • Mandate that most legal residents of the United States obtain health insurance and impose an income based penalty for Americans failing to secure that coverage;
  • While not explicitly requiring employers to offer health insurance, the Chairman’s markup would among other things subject businesses with more than 50 workers that did not offer coverage to a penalty for any workers who obtained subsidized coverage through the insurance exchanges also to be established under the legislation. As a rule, full-time employees who were offered coverage from their employer would not be eligible to obtain subsidies via the exchanges but an exception to that “firewall” would be allowed for workers who had to pay more than 13 percent of their income for their employer’s insurance (in which case the employer would also be penalized). Under certain circumstances, firms with relatively few employees and relatively low average wages would also be eligible for tax credits to cover up to half of their contributions toward health insurance premiums.
  • Deter employers and their employees from investing in higher grade coverage that might otherwise be available for purchase in the marketplace by subjecting insurance policies with relatively high total premiums to a 35 percent excise tax on the amount by which the premiums exceeded a specified threshold. In general, that threshold would be set initially at $8,000 for single policies and $21,000 for family policies; after 2013, those amounts would be indexed to overall inflation.
  • Significantly expand eligibility for Medicaid;
  • Radically reduce the growth of Medicare’s payment rates for most services (relative to the growth rates projected under current law) and make various other changes to the Medicaid and Medicare programs and the federal tax code to reduce government program costs.  The Congressional Budget Office projects that among the proposed provisions that would result in the largest budget savings are:
    • Make permanent reductions in the annual updates to Medicare’s payment rates for most services in the fee-for-service sector (other than physicians’ services)
    • Set payment rates in the Medicare Advantage program based on the average of the bids submitted by Medicare Advantage plans in each market
    • Reduce Medicare and Medicaid payments to hospitals that serve a large number of low-income patients, known as disproportionate share (DSH) hospitals
    • Establish a Medicare Commission, which would be required, under certain circumstances, to recommend changes to the Medicare program to limit the rate of growth in that program’s spending. Those recommendations would go into effect automatically unless blocked by subsequent legislative action. Before 2019, such recommendations would be required if the Medicare Trustees project that Medicare spending per beneficiary will grow more rapidly than a measure of inflation (the average of the growth rates of the consumer price index for medical services and the overall index for all urban consumers). After 2019, recommendations would be required if projected growth exceeded the rate of increase in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita plus 1 percentage point. Because the proposal would prohibit the Commission from modifying eligibility or benefits, its recommendations probably would focus on changes to payment rates or methodologies. The Commission would develop its first set of recommendations during 2013 for implementation in 2015.

Other Recent Developments

If you found this information of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the following recent Solution Law Press Health Care Updates available online by clicking on the article title below:

For More Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.  If you need assistance with these or other health care public policy, regulatory, compliance, risk management, workforce and other staffing, transactional or operational concerns, please contact the author of this update, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Health Practice Group Chair, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, at (214) 270‑2402,, Ms. Stamer has extensive experience advising clients and writes and speaks extensively on these and other health industry and other reimbursement, operations, internal controls and risk management matters. 

Ms. Stamer has extensive experience in these and other health industry related representation.  You can review other recent health care and related resources and additional information about the health industry and other experience of Ms. Stamer here

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