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Finance Panel on Health Reform, Day Seven

The Senate Finance Committee reconvenes this morning to consider ever-more attachments to its $900 billion plan to overhaul the nation’s health care system. It’s been difficult to guess which amendments will come up when, for reasons that usually revolve around sponsor efforts to find offsets or get the Congressional Budget Office to estimate the cost. But Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has said that today’s deliberations will focus primarily on health care financing reforms.

Yesterday, the panel considered 23 amendments, including some big ones. The highlights:

– Democrats shot down several amendments placing stricter prohibitions on federal funding for abortions.

– Democrats also killed several GOP proposals requiring Medicaid recipients to show photo IDs in order to enroll — an additional burden, Democrats said, that would only act to keep poor citizens (not illegals) from getting coverage.

– Members of both parties approved a $7 billion proposal reducing the cost burden on seniors. The original Baucus bill hikes a tax exemption on out-of-pocket medical expenses from those exceeding 7.5 percent of gross income to those exceeding 10 percent of gross income — a provision saving the government $22 billion. Under the change approved yesterday, the 7.5 percent threshold would remain for those older than 65.

–Democrats also shot down several creative efforts to kill the proposed Medicaid expansion to 133 percent of poverty.

Baucus hopes to complete the amendment process today. Afterward, the CBO will score the final bill — a process expected to take three days — with the committee voting on final passage afterward.

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