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Baucus: Senate Health-care Bill Costs Less than $880 Billion

BY Lea Winerman  September 14, 2009 at 4:30 PM EDT

Sen. Max Baucus speaks to reporters; Getty Images

Baucus and his “gang of six” Senators — three Democrats and three Republicans — are still trying to negotiate the details of the only bipartisan health care reform bill in Congress. Four other congressional committees have passed bills with Democratic support only.

The six Senators met this morning and plan to meet again this afternoon.

“As senators on and off the committee, [including] Republicans, begin to know more about all of this, their comfort level is starting to come up a bit,” Baucus told reporters. “I do believe that in the end we will have some significant bipartisan support.”

But the three Republicans on the committee, Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, have still not made it clear whether they will throw their weight behind the bill.

Today Snowe told reporters she and the others were not yet prepared to back the legislation.

“We can’t say that yet. We’re still working through a number of issues and there are others remaining,” she said.

Baucus told reporters Monday that the group had discussed several issues in its morning meeting, including reducing medical malpractice lawsuits, ensuring that illegal immigrants don’t receive health benefits and expanding federal support for Medicaid.

He also said that the Congressional Budget Office had indicated that the proposal under discussion in the committee would cost less than $880 billion over 10 years. He also said it would not increase the federal deficit.

Baucus has said that whether or not there is a bipartisan deal, the full committee will begin considering legislation next week — although bipartisan talks could still continue at that time.