More than 560 amendments have already been tacked onto the latest health care reform bill which goes before the U.S. Senate’s Finance Committee today. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley has worked with two other Republicans and three Democrats on the panel for months on crafting what they’d hoped would be a bipartisan measure.
Grassley says the bill Montana Democrat and committee chair Max Baucus introduced is anything but bipartisan. “Finding bipartisan consensus on a bill that affects one-sixth of the American economy is not a quick and easy task,” Grassley says. “There’ll be a lot of things that I can support in the bill that will be presented to the Finance Committee today, but there are also some very significant unresolved issues and that would cause me not to support it.”
The Baucus bill includes what’s being called an individual mandate, meaning, single people who don’t have health insurance could be fined up to $900 by the federal government, while an uninsured family of four would be fined $3,800. Grassley says the fine is one area of the bill he strongly opposes.
Grassley says, “I put an alternative on the table that would not have had a mandate but it would have set up a re-insurance program so that people that fell into this low-income category could’ve afforded insurance to a better extent than they have in the past.” He says his alternative was “left on the table” and not included by Baucus in the legislation he introduced last week.
While months of negotiation went into creating the bill which ended up being a big disappointment to Republicans, Grassley says he does not think all of the effort was a waste of time. He says he met with a number of Iowans just Monday who had positive things to say.
“These Iowa constituents said to me it’s a much better bill because of my involvement and what we’ve done to bring us to this point,” Grassley says.
“It may not be perfect but they say it’s a much better bill and I got complemented for that.” Grassley counts among his victories the fact the bill would not increase the deficit while also controlling health care inflation. Still, the bill before the Finance Committee would cost 900-billion dollars over ten years. Grassley says Democrats are focused on getting the health care reform bill done right now, instead of getting it done right.