SUZANNE PRATT: One-sixth of the U.S. economy is getting a make-over today on Capitol Hill. The Senate Finance Committee has taken up an historic reform of the nation's health care system. And before the legislation was out of the starting gate, it was already being changed. Senator Max Baucus, the author of the bill has agreed to scale back the tax on so-called gold- plated health insurance policies. But as Darren Gersh reports, a key concern remains how much the average American will have to pay to buy coverage.
DARREN GERSH, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: From the very beginning, the hard work of the Senate Finance Committee came down to balancing the cost of expanding health care coverage with affordability. Striking that balance is the job of committee Chairman Max Baucus.
SEN. MAX BAUCUS, FINANCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: No one should go bankrupt because they get sick. This bill would fix that.
GERSH: Today, Baucus added billion over the next decade to help low-to-moderate income Americans buy health insurance. They'd buy it from the new exchanges the bill would create to organize the insurance market. The move was a clear nod in the direction of Maine's Olympia Snowe, the only Republican still on board with the effort.
SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (R) MAINE: There remains major outstanding issues that must be resolved to ensure that everyone, whether they're in an exchange or getting employer-provided coverage is able to afford a plan.
GERSH: The subsidies in the Senate Finance bill would help families earning up to ,000 buy coverage. But health care analyst Rick Weissenstein says some lawmakers think the help isn't enough.
RICK WEISSENSTEIN, HEALTH CARE ANALYST, CONCEPT CAPITAL: I think the members are concerned that, for a family or four making ,000 in most places in the country, you're largely paycheck to paycheck and the idea that you might have however much insurance for a family of four would cost 0, 0, 0 a month, I think is really questionable.
GERSH: For Snowe's fellow Republicans, like Arizona's Jon Kyle, the Baucus bill is unaffordable because it raises taxes, putting at risk those who now have private insurance.
SEN. JON KYL (R) ARIZONA: At least 85 percent, maybe a little over 90 percent of Americans have good care and insurance and don't want Washington to mess with it.
GERSH: In another nod to affordability, Senator Baucus slashed the proposed penalty on families who don't buy health insurance from ,800 to ,900. Many more changes are ahead. The committee hopes to work through this pile of 564 amendments in the next week or two. Darren Gersh,