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Baucus touts 'fully paid for' health plan

From NBC's Ken Strickland
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus today said his panel has reached a significant milestone in writing its version of the health-care reform bill. He said the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has given cost estimates that will allow the bill to come in at $1 trillion without increasing the deficit.

"The CBO now tells us we have options that will enable us to write a $1 trillion bill fully paid for," Baucus told reporters after a closed-door committee meeting. But Baucus refused to divulge key elements or details of those "options" such public/government-run insurance plan, taxing employer-provided benefits, or employer mandates to provide coverage.

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Baucus said he and ranking Republican Chuck Grassley won't share specifics on the bill "until we're sure we have it right. … I expect to ready sooner now that we have CBO numbers."

What does this "news" mean in the grand scene of things? It means we're must closer to finding out some of those key details about what their bill will look like: things like who will get taxed, what income levels will get subsidies, and if the panel will choose the "public option" or "co-op" plan to compete with private insurers.

It also means the committee has the "scoring" or cost estimates on enough different elements that it can begin to negotiate with hard numbers. The notion that the bill be "paid for" and not increase the deficit has been almost a universal support in Washington.