From McJoan of the Daily Kos:

Senator Max Baucus, finance committee chair and one of the lead players in the upcoming health care reform effort, is ready to introduce his plan:

Without waiting for President-elect Barack Obama, Senator Max Baucus, the chairman of the Finance Committee, will unveil a detailed blueprint on Wednesday to guarantee health insurance for all Americans by facilitating sales of private insurance, expanding Medicaid and Medicare, and requiring most employers to provide or pay for health benefits….

The plan proposed by Mr. Baucus, Democrat of Montana, would eventually require everyone to have health insurance coverage, with federal subsidies for those who could not otherwise afford it.

Other Democrats with deep experience in health care are also drafting proposals to expand coverage and slow the growth of health costs. These lawmakers include Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Representatives John D. Dingell of Michigan and Pete Stark of California.

The proposals are all broadly compatible with Mr. Obama’s campaign promises. But Mr. Baucus’s 35,000-word plan would go further than Mr. Obama’s in one respect, eventually requiring all people — not just children — to have coverage.

I’m with Krugman on this one:

But now Max Baucus — Max Baucus! — is leading the charge on a health care plan that, at least at first read, is more like Hillary Clinton’s than Barack Obama’s; that is, it looks like an attempt at full universality. (The word I hear, by the way, is that Obama’s opposition to mandates was tactical politics, not conviction — so he may well be prepared to do the right thing now that the election is won.)

So this looks very good for the reformers. There’s now a reasonable chance that universal health care will be enacted next year!

Krugman, and most health care experts and House Democrats working on health care reform, have pushed for mandated health coverage because it’s about the only way to really ensure the cost-savings to the whole system necessary to provide universal coverage. Not having it leaves too many in the gap that has helped to create this crisis. They’re not getting the preventive care that helps to keep costs down along the line. That Obama is signalling flexibility on this issue is key…and good news for the chances of reform.

That this is coming from cautious, conservative, DLC-esque Max Baucus does indeed mean, as Krugman says, that it’s looking much more likely that we have universal health care enacted in the next year.

More discussion in TomP’s and eugene’s diaries.