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Congress: Baucus' changes

As the Senate Finance Committee today begins marking up its health-care bill, the Washington Post looks at the changes Chairman Max Baucus is making to the legislation. "Baucus … came under fire last week from fellow Democrats and Sen. Olympia J. Snowe …, the only Republican still at the negotiating table, for a mandate that people buy health coverage, at a price they may not be able to afford. To address that concern, Baucus said Monday that his revised bill would offer more generous subsidies to low- and middle-income people to buy coverage through a network of private insurance exchanges. He also said he may cut the maximum penalty facing middle-class families who do not buy insurance."

"Baucus said he is considering substantial changes to one of his primary sources of funding: a proposed tax on high-cost insurance policies. Some Democrats complained that the tax would strike hardest at residents of expensive urban areas and those with risky jobs, such as coal miners, firefighters and other public safety workers."

The New York Times: "The changes could add $28 billion to the 10-year cost of his bill, originally estimated at $774 billion by the Congressional Budget Office. The bill could still meet President Obama's stipulation that health care legislation not add to the federal budget deficit."

"Baucus faces the difficult task of keeping the 13 Democrats on board without moving so far to the left that he alienates Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, the only one of the panel's 10 Republicans considered a possible vote for the bill," according to the AP.

During the mark-up, the Los Angeles Times writes, Baucus and his committee will be keeping an eye on the price tag.

During a forum with Democrat Bobby Scott, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor was pressed on a GOP alternative to health care. "The telegenic GOP lawmaker said Republicans and Democrats agree on 80 percent of fixing the nation's healthcare system, but could not show the crowd a detailed plan that has been endorsed by House Republicans," The Hill writes. "Cantor earlier this year said House Republican leaders would release an alternative healthcare plan, but have not done so yet. House Republicans have introduced several different health bills, as opposed to one concrete alternative."

"Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants to make final decisions this week on the healthcare reform bill that will hit the House floor, but some centrists in the lower chamber want her to hold off until the Senate Finance Committee acts."

Hey, Blue Dogs might like it… "Sen. Max Baucus's (D-Mont.) proposed healthcare compromise is 'an idea worth serious consideration,' a key centrist Blue Dog Democrat said Monday. Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.) said that nonprofit health cooperatives proposed in the Senate Finance Committee's healthcare bill are a good alternative a the public (or "government-run") healthcare option, against with Ross had come out."