Congress works on healthcare plan

WASHINGTON, D.C. (NBC) - A key Senate committee got down to the nitty-gritty Tuesday, plowing through hundreds of ideas to come up with a plan to fix the nation's health care system.

Senators on the Finance Committee began their give-and-take in hopes of signing off on a plan that can at least come up for a vote.

Washington won't pay your doctor in the latest Senate plan but to help low income families buy mandatory insurance, aides say Senator Max Baucus, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee will agree to another 50 billion dollars in subsidies.

He's also willing to cut in half the top penalty for those not buying insurance and get rid of an insurance tax for some high-risk workers but raise that tax on others to compensate and back off taxing consumer products like thermometers.

"These modifications will improve and strengthen the package," said Baucus.

Those ideas are among 564 amendments the committee's considering.

Some republicans say consumers should share the cost of unhealthy choices.

"People need not just have skin in the game regarding their health care. They need skin in the game regarding the cost," said Republican Senator John Ensign of Nevada.

Companies like Virgin Healthmiles agree they're paying workers to stay healthy.

"What we're doing is eliminating the demand for care by getting ahead of these preventable diseases," said Sean Forbes of Virgin Healthmiles.

The Vice President told state insurance commissioners Tuesday that consumers need help.

The White House reports in the last decade, premiums went up three to five times faster than consumer prices.

"The soaring premiums are not only hurting families and killing small businesses, they're killing our competitive position all around the world," said Vice President Joe Biden.

The Senate could start debating this plan next week.

Republicans are already worried democrats may try to shorten the debate, and rush this through.