Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tapped: The Group Blog of The American Prospect

July 28, 2009


Like Dana, I'm extremely dismayed by what I see coming out of the Max Baucus committee. But TAP alum Ezra Klein cautions that this isn't the final version of the bill and that there may have to be some concessions for liberals to go along too:

The question is whether Baucus's final product will matter. Rockefeller and the other Democrats on the committee have felt excluded from the negotiations and will want major changes before they can sign onto the final product. Then the Finance bill will have to be reconciled with the more liberal legislation built by the HELP Committee. Then it will have to go to the floor, where it will need the support of people like Russ Feingold and Bernie Sanders and Sherrod Brown just as much as it will need Ben Nelson and Evan Bayh. And then, if it passes those tests, it will have to be reconciled with the House's legislation.
It's frustrating to see this group of conservative senators having so much influence on the health-care bill, not only because the states represented make up a tiny proportion of the population relative to their influence but also because their political interests lie in making reform as ineffective as possible in order to ensure reform doesn't pay political dividends for their opposition. But Klein adds some useful context to think about as Baucus and friends strip almost everything useful out of the finance committee's version of the bill.

-- A. Serwer

Posted at 11:57 AM | Comments (1)


The AP has an anonymously sourced report on the compromise health-reform legislation emerging out of the Senate Finance Committee. It isn't looking good. Some features of the bill:

No government-funded public-insurance option, and no national health-insurance exchange. These features of the House tri-committee and Senate HELP bills are intended to bring down costs by fostering competition on the largest scale possible. Instead, Finance is suggesting regional health co-operatives in which private insurers compete without government intervention. This is likely to lower premiums somewhat, but the smaller size and geographic reach of the co-ops will make them far weaker than a national exchange. And no for-profit company is likely to offer a plan as inexpensive as national public insurance.
An individual mandate to buy health insurance, but no employer mandate. This is regressive. Large employers that refuse to offer health coverage to their workers will have to reimburse the federal government for part of the cost of subsidizing those workers' coverage....
BUT Finance also drastically reduces the number of people eligible for subsides, to only those within 300 percent of poverty ($32,490 for an individual or $66,150 for a four-person family). Senate HELP subsidizes those within 500 percent of poverty and the House bill subsidizes those within 400 percent. Those plans are far more supportive of middle-class families and the self-employed.
Like the House and HELP Committee, Finance would prevent insurers from denying coverage or charging higher premiums because of pre-existing conditions.

House moderates -- like the Blue Dogs -- are likely to grasp on hard to whatever the Finance Committee suggests and run with it, calling it the only politically viable compromise. That's why Finance's proposal is so important. We don't know yet whether Finance, like the House and HELP, will aggressively expand Medicaid coverage. But probably the most worrying aspect of this compromise is how drastically it weakens competition, by asking insurance companies to compete only on a regional basis, and only with one another. This is a plan that leaves employers and insurers in the power seats, while giving consumers far less support than either of the other reform proposals on the table.

--Dana Goldstein

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