Daily Pulse: Dissecting the Baucus Bill

11/17/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium Blogger

Yesterday, a long and pathetic spectacle came to an end. Sen. Max Baucus
(D-Mont.) released the first draft of the Senate Finance Committee's health
care bill.

After months of fruitless negotiation in search of elusive bipartisanship,
Baucus delivered a bill with no Republican support. You'd scarcely know it
to read the bill. As Tim Fernholtz observes on TAPPED, the Baucus bill
looks like a retread of the href="">Republican
alternative to Clinton's health care plan.

Sure enough, the Baucus bill is a boon to the insurance industry. The
government would force people to buy more of the same expensive, crappy
private insurance that necessitated reform in the first place. Instead of
driving down costs through competition with a public option, Baucus wants
the government subsidies to help people buy bad insurance they can't
afford. That's not the free market. In capitalism, if your product is too
expensive, people don't buy it. Under Baucusism, the government forces you
to buy insurance and kicks in some money to help you afford it.

As expected, the bill contains no public option. Instead, the bill calls
for 50 state insurance co-ops to bargain for better rates -- but the bill href="">hobbles
the co-ops by restricting their enrollment and bargaining power. If
the goal is to drive down prices, you want the biggest possible co-op to
drive the hardest possible bargain. So, anything that keeps co-ops smaller
or restricts their ability to negotiate undermines the exercise. Which
proves once again that the Baucus and the Blue Dogs only care about
holding down costs when the money is coming out of the pockets of the big
business contributors.

Individuals must have insurance, but employers are href="">under
no obligation to offer it. Companies would pay a fee if they did offer
insurance and workers and the workers ended up getting public subsidies
instead, but not the full cost of the subsidy. So, the taxpayers would be
subsidizing employers who won't do right by their employees.

The Baucus bill throws down the gauntlet on organized labor by calling for
a 35% tax on high-quality health insurance plans. The tax could raise $200
billion, but as href=""big,_big_tax"_on_the_middle_class_?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=alternet">McJoan explains at AlterNet, it's a giant middle class tax hike that hits
union workers the hardest.

Luckily, nothing is set in stone. This is just the first draft of one of
the Senate bills. The Baucus bill will have to be combined with the much
more liberal bill passed by what was then Sen. Ted Kennedy's (D-Mass.)
Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee. Senate Majority Leader
Harry Reid is already signaling that the final bill will look very
different by the time the full senate is called to vote on it.

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