Washington » Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has 51 ways he wants to change the latest health reform proposal including one amendment that would ease a tax on high-end insurance plans for "any state with a name that begins with the letter "U."
Hatch is a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, which kicks off its deliberation of Chairman Max Baucus' reform plan Tuesday
This is the last committee to take up a health reform proposal before it goes to the full House and Senate. But before that can happen, the committee will wade through more than 560 proposed amendments, including those of Hatch and other Republican opponents, who will use the hearings to make their case against the Democrat's plans.
"This bill is just another expansion of government with more taxes and more spending being pushed as a solution to a system that already spends more than $2 trillion a year," Hatch said. "We are headed in the wrong direction."
Most of Hatch's amendments try to gut the Baucus bill, add ideas he has long championed or point out what he perceives as inequities.
He is pushing amendments that would eliminate the requirement for individuals to have insurance and the requirement for companies to offer it. Hatch will try to kill health care co-ops and planned expansion of Medicaid.
All of these ideas are key ways Democrats say they will insure most Americans and try to keep long term costs in check, while Republicans see them as proof of unnecessary government intervention.
With Democrats holding 13 of the 23 seats on the committee, these amendments will likely fall short. But in many cases, the goal for Utah's senator is not to mold the bill, but to use the amendments to make a political point.
Hatch proposals would stop the reform from going forward unless the government can certify that it wouldn't increase premiums for 1 million people, or cause 1 million people to lose the "current coverage of their choice." Another would make sure that no tax increase hit a family making less than $250,000 a year.
He hits hot button topics like abortion, medical malpractice and the recent scandals involving ACORN, an embattled community organization.
And then there is that tax on Cadillac insurance plans.
Democrats argue the tax will help cover the poor and keep health costs in check.
It would only affect plans that cost at least $8,000 for an individual or $21,000 for a family.
Some senators have complained the tax will hit their states harder than most because insurance generally costs more there. To that end, Baucus has proposed "a transition period" for the 17 states with the least affordable care, such as Maine, New York and Massachusetts.
This means the tax would be phased in over four years, an idea that Hatch thinks is not fair to the rest of the nation, hence his suggestion for allowing any state that starts with the letter U to take part in the transition period.
"The transition relief provided in [the bill] for the 17 states with the least affordable health care is obviously arbitrary and unfair," Hatch argued in submitting the amendment. "What about the 18th state? This amendment would add further transition relief in another, but no less arbitrary way."