Max Baucus’s Healthcare Reform Bill – Is it better than nothing?

It’s nearly unanimous.  The Healthcare Reform Bill presented by Max Baucus and the Senate Finance Committee is not a good bill. 

No matter what the bill said, you knew the Republicans would rally against it.  That is what obstructionists do.  Republicans don’t even pretend to be bi-partisan.  This bill is fantastic for the insurance companies which, doesn’t fully eliminate pre-existing conditions and even introduces co-operatives.  All Republican backed these ideas though they are still coming out against it because just the mere fact that a bill passes into law with the words ‘Healthcare Reform” attached to it and it will be perceived as a Democratic Party victory.  Forget that this bill would be a victory for their corporate love interests.

Meanwhile, liberals and most progressives like the idea of a single-payer Medicare for All plan.  Anything short of that is failure.  They will bash whatever plan is out there (as I did with Baucus’s plan).  Their argument is that the Democrats control Congress and the White House so let’s just come up with the real liberal bill.

Blue Dog Democrats (or as I like to call them Moderate Republican) are in favor of many of the items in the Baucus bill.  That said, I still haven’t read one story of someone coming out in favor of the bill other than Max Baucus.

What surprises me is that Olympia Snowe (R-ME) is against this bill.  I figured that since it had co-opts in there, she would have approved.  Looks like she too is putting party before country. 

Don’t get me wrong.  Baucus’s bill doesn’t put country first.  It puts corporate interests first which is just as bad. 

Paul Krugman published an op-ed Thursday that further analyzed the reaction of this bill. 

“You see, it has been clear for months that whatever health-care bill finally emerges will fall far short of reformers’ hopes. Yet even a bad bill could be much better than nothing. The question is where to draw the line. How bad does a bill have to be to make it too bad to vote for?”

I disagree that a ‘bad bill’ is better than nothing.  This bill is good for the insurance industry and really doesn’t help people.  It doesn’t lower cost as it actually will cost more and it doesn’t offer better access.  It penalizes those who do not purchase coverage.  If pre-existing conditions are permitted for even one day, Americans would still suffer the risk of financial ruin.  Besides, who determines what exactly is a pre-existing condition?

“Now, the moment of truth isn’t here quite yet: There’s enough wrong with the Baucus proposal as it stands to make it unworkable and unacceptable. But that said, Senator Baucus’s mark is better than many of us expected. If it serves as a basis for negotiation, and the result of those negotiations is a plan that’s stronger, not weaker, reformers are going to have to make some hard choices about the degree of disappointment they’re willing to live with.”

Mr. Krugman said that this bill was better than he expected.  What kind of garbage was he expecting?  J

Krugman’s op-ed also provided examples of countries with universal coverage that utilize the private insurance system to achieve their goal.  He also cited the Massachusetts health reform that – though flawed – is far better than what currently exists in the U.S.

Krugman outlines the 3 major areas of inadequacy of the Baucus bill:

“First, it bungles the so-called “employer mandate.” Most reform plans include a provision requiring that large employers either provide their workers with health coverage or pay into a fund that would help workers who don’t get insurance through their job buy coverage on their own. Mr. Baucus, however, gets too clever, trying to tie each employer’s fees to the subsidies its own employees end up getting.”

“That’s a terrible idea. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, it would make companies reluctant to hire workers from lower-income families — and it would also create a bureaucratic nightmare. This provision has to go and be replaced with a simple pay-or-play rule.”

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, if my company offers me a less than adequate plan, I should be able to opt into the public option.  Without it, there is no incentive for my company to offer me any quality coverage. 

Additionally, if I were to opt out into the so called public option, I would expect my company to have to supply my employer contribution into the plan.  If they are permitted to keep the money, it would mean huge savings for my company. 

In my case, my employer contributes roughly $7,000 for my health coverage.  If they are not required to contribute it to the public option, they will save $7,000.  I work at a large corporation with more than 10,000 employees.  Let’s say 10,000 employees opt out, my company will save approximately $7,000 for ten thousand employees.  You do the math.

“Second, the plan is too stingy when it comes to financial aid. Lower-middle-class families, in particular, would end up paying much more in premiums than they do under the Massachusetts plan, suggesting that for many people insurance would not, in fact, be affordable. Fixing this means spending more than Mr. Baucus proposes.”

This plan is stingy when it comes to assisting the Americans who need it the most yet it calls for $349 billion in cash raised through taxes and fees. 

Look at Krugman’s last line in this paragraph – ‘fixing this means spending more than Mr. Baucus proposes.’  In my post from September 16th, I pointed out that this estimate is inaccurate predicting an estimate closer to $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion.  If Mr. Krugman is correct in his thoughts, the concern I have is that the final number may push past the $1.5 trillion mark. 

Third, the plan doesn’t create real competition in the insurance market. The right way to create competition is to offer a public option, a government-run insurance plan individuals can buy into as an alternative to private insurance. The Baucus plan instead proposes a fake alternative, nonprofit insurance cooperatives — and it places so many restrictions on these cooperatives that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, they “seem unlikely to establish a significant market presence in many areas of the country.”

Mr. Krugman is correct here.  From 1986-1991 I worked for the federal government.  Each year, for open enrollment, I entered the cafeteria to a plethora of insurance companies each seeking my business.  I spoke to representatives of the companies and brought home documentation to read describing each plan.  I selected the plan that best suited my needs at the time – a single man in my mid-20’s with no children.  I rarely needed the plan, just as I expected but when I did, it performed exactly as I needed it to. 

That is what we need.  If we cannot run with full Medicare for all, then the only other alternative is the Public Option for all.   Plans offered by insurance companies but managed and regulated by the government.  Insurance companies will still make nice profits, all Americans will receive coverage, all Americans will have choice through competition thus driving down price. 

“The insurance industry, of course, loves the Baucus plan. Need we say more?”

Of course they do.  The industry loves it – Republicans are afraid to support it – liberal Democrats hate it. 

Where Mr. Krugman thinks this should be a starting point, I believe we should start by shredding all 1000+ pages.

“It would be disastrous if health care goes the way of the economic stimulus plan, earlier this year. As you may recall, that plan — which was clearly too weak even as originally proposed — was made even weaker to win the support of three Republican senators. If the same thing happens to health reform, progressives should and will walk away.”

Mr. Krugman is spot on here.  Democrats are working very hard to appease Blue Dog Republicans Democrats and win over the love of Olympia Snowe.    That is a bad idea and I agree – progressives need to run away.

“But maybe things will go the other way, and Mr. Baucus (and the White House) will, for once, actually listen to progressive concerns, making the bill stronger.”

“Even if the Baucus plan gets better, rather than worse, what emerges won’t be legislation reformers can love. Will it nonetheless be legislation that passes the threshold of acceptability, legislation they can vote for? We’ll see.”

Read:  Baucus and the Threshold

Advertisements

Comments are closed.