Senator Max Baucus and the Finance Committee finally released their version of the healthcare reform bill. Here are a number of sticking points I see right off the bat.
This will cost $856 billion over 10 years. I have learned to essentially double estimates especially when the political process is involved. This clearly will end up costing over 1 trillion dollars and in my opinion would wind up close to 1.5 trillion.
There is a requirement in the bill that everyone MUST purchase healthcare coverage or be subjected to a fine. I have an issue with forced fines in this case especially since finances are tough. What does one do – purchase healthcare coverage or pay the rent? And levying a fine against someone who can’t afford to pay for healthcare coverage is also nuts.
The bill does stipulate that those unable to afford healthcare coverage would be excused from the fines. Now how is ones ability to pay determined? I suspect that someone will audit the income and expenses and reach a judgment. How will they determine what is a legitimate expense? Is the new flat-screen television a priority over healthcare for the family? How about leasing a Lexus when a Toyota will do?
There is no Republican backing. This is not critical for getting it passed through the House or Senate but as with every single bill that will be presented, it will generate fodder from the Grand Obstructionist Party’s Right wing noise machine. This bill doesn’t offer the single-payer or the type of public option that will pacify the liberal end of the Democratic Party.
There must be quality options since the single-payer option is not a possibility thanks to the corporate / corporate lobbyist stronghold on the industry. It is critical that everyone have a choice to either stay with the carrier offered by their employers or to join a national exchange.
Apparently this is in the Baucus plan. My question is – which is still unanswered –will my employer-based contribution carry over to the insurance carrier I select from the exchange?
If not then there are 2 serious issues.
- The costs by opting into the exchange will invariably be higher since I will have to foot the portion of the bill my employer would have paid had I remained with my employer’s carrier which for me amounts to about $7,000.
- If employers realize that they can save money by letting their employees opt into the national exchange, they will have no incentive to offer quality options to their employees. My company contributes about 75% of my plan costs or about $7,000 for the plan I specifically have. Imagine how much my employer could save if 10,000 employees opt out. ($70,000,000 per year)
If the majority of people remain with their employer offered carrier, you will only see people who are unemployed, self-employed, employed by small businesses or those who really detest their employer option. Since the volume of people would be relatively small, the cost of the options will be higher than if all Americans were to join. Worse, the pool will be smaller therefore Americans (through taxes) will have to help fund this public option.
If all Americans went into the public option and larger employers contributed to this public option the competition for all Americans would be great enough to offer lower costs. The pool will also be sufficient enough to better spread the cost of those who need assistance which will also significantly reduce the amount coming directly from taxpayers.
President Obama did say that he would veto any bill that raised taxes. According to the bill $507 billion will be paid for though cuts to government health programs. That leaves $349 billion which, according to the bill, would be paid through new taxes and fees, ‘including a tax on high-end insurance plans and fees on insurance companies and medical device manufacturers.’
It also looks like we’re going to be forced into this co-opt option as the Baucus plan proposes a system of nonprofit member owned cooperatives rather than the Obama preferred government-run insurance plan. This is a concession in order to win over Republicans. Of course, this bill will get ZERO Republican support regardless – so why don’t they submit a bill that does the right thing and screw the Congressional Republicans. They demand concessions – get them – and still vote against the bills.
The bill includes a provision to prevent illegal immigrants from obtaining coverage through these co-opts but their U.S. born children would be eligible for coverage.
This bill includes the requirement of a verification system that will cross reference Social Security data with Homeland Security files in order to determine citizenship status. The bill imposes penalties for fraud and identity theft which is interesting. One would think that fines involving fraud and identity theft already exists.
Another provision will prevent federal funds to be used to pay for abortions – EXCEPT in cases of rape, incest or endangerment of the life of the mother. Though the exchange plans may offer unrestricted coverage for abortions so long as no funds are provided by federal funds or government subsidies.
Of course, Republicans will rally saying that it will cover illegal aliens and abortion.
Are there any provisions preventing federal funds for paying for elective surgery such as tummy tucks, nose jobs, any type of enlargement or reduction, birth control, in-vitro, Viagra, or tattoo removal? Will there be any provisions to prevent ‘the gays’ from having coverage?
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was quick to weigh in:
“This partisan proposal cuts Medicare by nearly a half-trillion dollars, and puts massive new tax burdens on families and small businesses, to create yet another thousand-page, trillion-dollar government program. Only in Washington would anyone think that makes sense, especially in this economy.”
This bill protects the insurance companies, does not adequately offer a way to drive down the price of healthcare, does not guarantee that Americans will have quality coverage or offer real reform to provide quality healthcare coverage at an affordable price.
Congress needs to grow a pair and do what’s right for Americans. All other industrialized countries have accomplished this, why can’t we?
Oh yeah. Corporations won’t let it happen.