(CNSNews.com) – “Pretty much everything’s been said, and now it’s time to get the job done,” Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said Tuesday as the Senate Finance Committee prepared to vote on the fifth and final Democratic health care bill to emerge on Capitol Hill.
The “Baucus bill” is expected to easily pass the committee, given the Democrats’ 13-10 advantage. With the possible exception of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), all committee Republicans will vote against the bill.
Before the vote – expected later Tuesday -- each committee member is having his or her say.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Finance Committee, outlined his objections after Sen. Baucus declared his health care bill to be “balanced,” timely and necessary.
“I wish I felt better about the substance of the bill,” Grassley said, noting that some provisions “raise a lot of questions.”
Grassley enumerated some of those concerns, including the “possibility of further leftward movement” when the Finance Committee bill is merged with the bill coming out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.
First and foremost, Grassley said the Finance Committee bill moves the nation to “more and more government control of health care.”
He mentioned that the bill would produce the biggest expansion of Medicaid since its creation; it will create an “unprecedented federal mandate” for insurance coverage, which the Internal Revenue Service would enforce; it increases the size of government by at least $1.8 trillion when fully implemented; it gives the Health and Human Services secretary the power to define benefits for every plan in America and to redefine those benefits annually. “That’s a lot of power over Americans’ lives,” Grassley said.
The bill “will cause health care premiums for millions to go up, not down,” Grassley said. He pointed to new insurance rating reforms as well as new fees and taxes that will end up raising premiums for million of Americans.
Grassley noted that Republicans were unsuccessful in their attempts to steer the bill in a different direction. “I still hold out hope that at some point the doorway to bipartisanship will be opened once again. I hope at some point the White House and the (Senate) leadership will want to correct the mistakes that they made by ending our collaborative bipartisan work.”
Deficit reducer, Democrat says
“Ours is a balanced package” that can pass the Senate, committee chairman Baucus said in his opening remarks.
“It starts reducing the deficit within ten years. By the end of the ten-year window, it’s moving in the right direction. It reduces the deficit by $81 billion over ten years. And our package will control health care spending in the long run…All Americans should have access to affordable, quality health care coverage,” Baucus said.
Baucus noted that his bill would boost the share of Americans with health insurance coverage from about 83 percent to 94 percent.
He said the bill will lower prescription drug costs dramatically for seniors; allow people to keep the health plans they like; prevent insurance companies from denying coverage because of pre-existing health conditions; bar discrimination on the basis of gender or health status; and require policy renewals to continue as long as people pay their premiums.
Baucus urged his fellow committee members to “make history” by sending the bill to the full Senate.
No free lunch
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said all the hours of debate on the two Senate health care bills have been for nothing, since the “real bill” is being written behind closed doors. He said he hopes Americans will have a chance to read the final text of the final bill before a vote is taken.
“There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” Hatch reminded the panel, and he said American families are smart enough to see through all the promises being made by the Democrats’ various bills.