Even as the ink was drying on the Senate Finance Committee's health care reform proposal reactionary thoughts were being formed by almost everyone. Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., placed the bill's cost at $856 billion over 10 years, while the Congressional Budget Office put the price tag at $774 billion. Labor unions said it was too harsh on middle-income Americans who could pay up to $3,800 in penalties if they did not purchase insurance. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said this isn't a mirror of what the President was talking about.
Many businesses were warm to the bill. It wouldn't require employers to provide insurance. Still, it would require businesses that have more than 50 workers and don't offer insurance to reimburse government for part of the cost of any federal subsidies the workers receive. The president of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, Dan Danner, said the bill makes significant steps toward making it cheaper and easier for small businesses to buy insurance. Health-care providers reacted cautiously to the proposal. Meanwhile, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the bill still needs tremendous improvement.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., says there are aspects of the Baucus health care legislation she likes, such as the expansion of insurance coverage and allowing Medicare to negotiate drug discounts. But she says without a public option the Democrats' effort will fall short. Pelosi thinks the public option is necessary to hold insurance companies accountable.
Pelosi expected the House to pass it's version of health care reform this autumn and the public option will be in the bill that passes the House. Pelosi's goal is to get a health care overhaul on President Obama's desk this year. Whether the House or Senate versions will be passed first is yet to be seen.