Citing the economic imperative for fixing a broken healthcare system that is "killing the economy" and calling on Congress to take up and act on "meaningful" reform legislation in 2009, the chair of the Finance Committee, Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.), yesterday released an 89-page blueprint that outlines specific options and goals for reforming healthcare. Under the Baucus proposal, access to healthcare coverage would be achieved through a mix of options including a "play or pay" mandate for employers of a certain size; tax credits for individuals and small employers who purchase private insurance coverage; a nationwide "exchange" similar to President-elect Obama's proposal that would provide individuals who cannot obtain healthcare benefits through their employers, and small businesses with the opportunity to purchase coverage from a range of private insurance options; a buy-in coverage option under Medicare for individuals aged 55-65, Medicaid coverage for individuals at or below the federal poverty limit, and SCHIP coverage for uninsured children in families at or below 250 percent of the poverty level. Additionally, the Baucus plan would prohibit insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. With regard to improving healthcare quality and controlling costs, the Senator stated in his remarks that, "Starting with Medicare, we can change payments to encourage the right care -- the best care -- for every single patient, rather than procedures they don't need." Senate leaders have spoken repeatedly about creating a unified bloc of support behind a single bill strategy on healthcare reform. The Baucus "Call to Action" plan, dubbed by bloggers as "Obama Plus," could form the basis for reform legislation considered by the Senate next year.

The Baucus "Call to Action" plan and the Senator's remarks on healthcare reform are available online at the Senate Finance Committee's website.