WASHINGTON BUREAU — Sen. Max Baucus is gearing up to release a health reform bill proposal that calls for making a network of nonprofit health coverage cooperatives an alternative to a government-run health plan.
The office of Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has prepared a preliminary outline of the bill for a meeting of the committee’s 6-member bipartisan health reform subgroup.
The proposal, as described in a version of the outline obtained by National Underwriter, would impose a tax on the health carriers that offer the most expensive plans. This apparently is an alternative to proposals to impose a direct tax on the people who have the so-called “Cadillac plans.” The tax would raise about $180 billion over the next 10 years, according to the preliminary bill outline
The proposal would also impose a fee on all health insurance companies according to their market share.
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The preliminary outline obtained by National Underwriter does not include the “Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act” or CLASS Act, which would create a long term care insurance entitlement system. A CLASS Act provision is included in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee health reform proposal.
The Senate Finance Committee draft would require health insurance plans serving the individual market to offer coverage on a guaranteed basis starting Jan. 1, 2013. It would prohibit insurance companies from excluding coverage for pre-existing conditions.
Moreover, limited benefit plans and lifetime limits would be prohibited, and health insurance companies would be prohibited from rescinding health coverage.
Health insurance premiums would be allowed to vary based only on tobacco use, age, and family composition, according to the draft. Premiums could also vary to reflect geographic differences. Taking all these factors together, premiums could vary by up to 7.5 to 1.
Individuals with current coverage in the non-group market would be allowed to keep what they now have.
The rules for the small group market would be the same as those for the non-group market, except that they would be phased in over a period of up to 5 years beginning Jan. 1, 2013.