Health Care Talks Slog Along; Botax No!

As Senate Finance Committee negotiators continued to slog along at a seemingly glacial pace, a few things became clear on Monday: there will be no employer mandate and there will be no tax on your Botox.

What top committee Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa has insisted on for weeks appears to be a done deal: no employer mandate on coverage.

The committee will get at this through a back door penalty system known as "free rider." No longer will employees be able to get federal government subsidies, like Medicaid, without their employer pitching in some cash (no more 'free rides' for employers). They will help bear the burden of an ever-expanding, always cash-strapped system.

Sen Olympia Snowe, R-ME,a key negotiator, confirmed all of this tonight, though Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-MT, continued the mantra- "nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to."

There would be a cap on any amount an employer would have to pay out ultimately, this according to committee sources.

Of course, the chairman might still be stinging from a bit of a tongue-lashing by his fellow committee Dems last week as they voiced their fear that he might give away the farm to Republicans. (Of course, this is always the fear whenever Baucus is in talks with Grassley and vice versa. Heartburn all around.)

Any so-called "deal" among negotiators is not a deal, though. It would have to satisfy Democrats on the committee. Baucus reiterated as much after his meeting with Democrats, promising to bring his colleagues any compromise product first.

On the creative ways the committee is trying to devise to pay for their $1 trillion bill, Finance Cmte Chairman Max Baucus, D-MT, said taxing elective surgery, like pastic surgery and hair restoration, is not likely to fly. Baucus confirmed that the idea did come from the White House, but he indicated that the proposal has not been under serious consideration.

Snowe said tonight that she and her fellow negotiators have "mountains to climb" still.

Of course, the pressure is on for Finance to produce a compromise, as both houses of Congress are roiled by efforts.

Baucus did get a bump up, though. The Chamber of Commerce signaled support for his compromise talks in a letter to both he and Grassley today.