Thursday, November 13, 2008

Can Max Baucus Be Trusted With Crafting Health Care Policy?


I'm in a quandary over Max Baucus' health care proposal, unveiled today. Kennedy, Krugman and a bevy of dependable supporters of universal health care (from SEIU to Health Care For American Now) have said Baucus' proposals are good. Baucus is not just a conservative Democrat-- which he is-- but, worse, a total corporate shill. And here's where the quandary part comes in. Most of corporate America is demanding universal healthcare for workers and their families. That's good. But then there's Big Insurance, Big Pharma and HMOs.

Since 1990 HMOs have bribed members of Congress to the tune of a cool $59,090,991, the biggest year of all being... 2008 ($10,342,979). Not counting presidential candidates, the biggest recipient of their largesse is none other than Max Baucus (both this year and cumulative years). In the same period, Big Pharma ponied up $162,360,555. Take out the defeated and the retired and the presidential candidates and Baucus was the 5th biggest recipient (cumulatively) and second biggest recipient this year-- right after Mitch McConnell. And in that period from 1990 the uber civic minded Insurance Industry showered members of Congress with $304,486,143 in bribes, $38,231,774 alone this year. Same stipulations and we find Senator Baucus the 4th biggest recipient over-all and the 5th biggest for 2008 (sandwiched comfortably between notorious Insurance industry shills Norm Coleman and John Sununu). Notice a pattern?

I hate to be the skunk a the picnic but... Baucus' proposal doesn't smell right to me. In fact it smells like some industry lobbyists came up with a way to weasel out of H.R. 676 and paid Baucus to wrap up nice and present it as a "uniquely America" reform. This is what H.R. 676 wants to accomplish:
• Every resident of the US will be covered from birth to death.
• No more pre-existing conditions to be excluded from coverage.
• No more expensive deductibles or co-pays.
• All prescription medications will be covered.
• All dental and eye care will be included.
• Mental health and substance abuse care will be fully covered.
• Long term and nursing home services will be included.
• You will always choose your own doctors and hospitals.
• Costs of coverage will be assessed on a sliding scale basis.
• Tremendously simplified system of medical administration
• Total portability-- your coverage not tied to any job or location.
• Existing Medicare benefits for those over 65 will remain the same or be vastly improved in many cases.

The bill is was introduced by John Conyers (D-MI) in January, 2007 and has over 90 co-sponsors, including progressives, moderates and conservatives. Based on discussions I've had with candidates during the election cycle, it will surely go past the 100 co-sponsor mark in January.

Baucus' proposal sounds like a vague amalgam of plans put forward by Obama, Clinton and Edwards during the election. At best it's a springboard for discussion-- although that's a two-edged sword and somehow the prior conditions clauses most insurance companies use to exclude anyone who needs healthcare, could wind up back in a "compromise." Can't blame that on Baucus... yet.

D-Day summed up some of some of what's lacking in the untrustworthy Baucus' proposal pretty well.
Mandates can be a forced market for insurance companies-- in fact, they favor it in exchange for health care reform. Baucus' proposal is not a single-payer system. He came right out and said today that "I don't think a single payer health care system makes sense in this country, we are America, we will come up with a uniquely American health care system that's a combination of public and private." That kind of exceptionalism just makes no sense against economic reality. If the insurance industry can pawn off the sick onto the public plans, those costs will rise while insurers take in record profits. There is a clause in the proposal that "Private insurers offering coverage through the (Health Insurance) Exchange would be precluded from discrimination based on pre-existing conditions," which is great, but insurers have used other means, like rescission (retroactively kicking people off the insurance rolls when they file a claim because they "lied on their forms"), to get out of paying for treatment. There also doesn't appear to be any language that insurers must spend a significant portion of their premiums on actual care. As for the cost controls, there's this clause, "The plan also considers careful reforms of medical malpractice laws that could lower administrative costs and health spending throughout the system, while ensuring that injured patients are compensated fairly for their losses," which sounds like another round of [GOP-style] tort reform to me.

Just about everyone I know is cheering this move by Baucus. We'll just watch and see how it rolls out for now. The further it gets from H.R. 676, the worse off working families will be-- and the better off Max Baucus' campaign contributors.

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At 9:12 AM, Anonymous Jason Rosenbaum said...

Single payer just isn't the way to go on this. Though it may be best from a pure policy angle, the insurance industry is a trillion dollar industry. When was the last time we eliminated a trillion dollar industry overnight, as single payer would?

Obama's health care plan (which Baucus is basically supporting, with a few extras like moving towards a mandate) is a step towards single payer in that it introduces a public health care plan available to everyone. Once that proves successful, single payer is the next step.

As for Baucus, well, everyone I know is surprised and pleased with the Baucus proposal. It seems Baucus feels the momentum Obama is bringing on health care reform and he's serious about moving forward. Now, we hold him to his plan.

At 11:07 AM, Blogger Daniel Jimenez said...

Hey Howie -

Care to explain yourself?

At 11:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The health care "so called" industry is not an industry at all as it actually provides nothing. It is a bunch of scam artists who have found a way to rake off huge amounts of profits by grabbing on to health care and running a gambling operation where they let you bet through premiums on whether you need or will be covered. The actual care is provided by doctors, nurses,hospitals and other health care professionals. The insurance companies are Just a bunch of middlemen getting in on the action while actually doing nothing. Much like a bunch of stock brokers selling stocks back and forth to each other and taking fees off the top. The brokers and the insurance gamblers could all stay home and we'd be better off. They are both non wealth producing enterprises. Others in this category are tax preparers, politicians and pundits. It's a miracle the country didn't go broke long ago when you see all the folks engaged in nothing of real value. But with a make believe paper money world no worthless endeavor needs to go unrewarded. Let's have Conyers bill it's the best by far and have it administered by Social Security and
get rid of this trillion dollar loser gambling operation. What to do with employees? Sen them home and give them a check each month. At least they won't waist their lives driving to work and back polluting up the atmosphere and looking a computer screens ruining their eyes and health. Time to go to the health gym or whatever they please.

At 3:25 PM, Anonymous teach said...

The health care industry is just a middle man. And, they have decided that they are more important than Drs. or patients.

Might as well just funnel our money into a program the people can participate in. When was the last time the insurance companies were responsive to clients?

At 3:26 PM, Anonymous teach said...

Sorry Anon. I didn't see your post soon enough.

At 4:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Call to Action/Health Care Reform 2009 proposal released 11/13/08
( by Senator Max Baucus is a disaster.
The Bacus plan is an expansion and continuation of the status-quo
mixture of a government subsidized ineffective private health
maintenance insurance industry operating parallel to and within Medicare

7 Specific Reasons Why the Baucus Health Reform 2009 Plan Fails.....

1) The Baucus plan fails to enroll all Americans in a single payer
National Health Insurance such as the most efficient health insurance
plan (Medicare) which is already contracted with most doctors,
hospitals and clinics in the Country. Medicare has the lowest operating
expenses and the best morbidity (sickness rates) and mortality (death
rates) compared to all other insurance companies. The Baucus plan will
therefore divert $700 Billion to $1 Trillion per year away from
patients, hospitals, doctors, clinics, nurses, pharmaceuticals,
therapist and researchers into the overhead pockets of health private
insurance company administrators and executives.

2) The Baucus plan fails to technologically upgrade, integrate and
centralize medical billing and records systems in order to optimize
examination of clinical outcomes, pharmaceutical efficacies and monitor
fraud and abuse. In addition, by failing to centralize and
technologically upgrade billing and records systems within a single
National Health Insurance plan, America will be unable to instantly
monitor disease outbreaks and instantly respond to natural and man made
disasters or bio-nuclear terrorism..

3) The Baucus plan fails to control drug costs by failing to allow a
single efficient national health insurance company such as Medicare to
bid on pharmaceuticals. In addition, the Baucus plan by failing to put
all Americans on a National Health Insurance Plan such as Medicare does
little to shrink the 'risk pool' of insured, thereby failing to decrease
insurance premium expenses for all Americans.

4) The Baucus plan fails to provide funding for scientific, clinical and
epidemiological research and development by allowing private private
insurance companies to divert funds from medical research and
development to instead support their massive and profitable
administrative and executive bureaucratic overheads.

5) The Baucus plan fails to provide physicians with the same legal
protection from malpractice lawsuits which have been established for
commercial health insurance corporations during the last 3 decades.

6) The Baucus plan fails to explain where to find the 1.5 million new
health care workers which will be needed once 100 million new Americans
obtain health care insurance. Health care workers can be found easily by
shutting down the wasteful and inefficient private health insurance
companies, putting all Americans on National Health Insurance such as
Medicare. The 1.5 million former private insurance company bureaucrats
can then be remployed to actually deliver health care in hospitals,
clinics, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, pharmacies and home
health services such as Alzheimer family assistance.

7) The Baucus Plan fails to address this problem of disenfranchised
physicians. Many physicians in this country have left the practice of
medicine, or downsized their practices due to private insurance company
abuses, malpractice threats and direct pharmaceutical marketing. A
recent national poll of physicians based on the AMA database
demonstrated that 60% of physicians support a single payer National
Health Insurance such as Medicare. A continuation and technological
upgrading of our most fair Medicare Health Insurance for all based on
the concepts outlined above, would undoubtedly motivate those
disenfranchised physicians to return to the profession and bright
younger physicians to invigorate the field.

The Baucus plan is wasteful, inefficient, fragmented, creates a new redundant bureaucracy, and will continue to provide no potential future health improvements for America. Only an efficient National Health Insurance carrier such as a technologically upgraded Medicare Insurance company will be able to provide low cost health insurance and pharmaceuticals for all Americans while maintaining the quality of private physician practices and Hospitals.


At 3:53 PM, Blogger pdachicago said...


You are so right. David Sirota says that Baucus' pet name is "Senator K". "K" as in K street, the notorious Washington D. C. avenue of corrupt lobbyists. So we know where Baucus comes from.

The bigger picture I think, is the plan of the Dem party leadership, which sees a 1000 Reich. It gets all the votes of a population increasingly desperate for some crumbs from the Corporate table while the party leaders lasso huge donations from corporations grateful for being plugged into ever bigger streams of government money. Corporate socialism. Right now, it looks good for them, but in a year or two, it might be time for a 3rd party.

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At 8:05 AM, Anonymous crisis intervention said...

The proposal for a full coverage of benefits on people with substance abuse, makes life convenient for these drug addicts. This decision benefits both the addict and people as it creates a safer environment and crime free surroundings.

At 7:17 PM, Blogger said...

A call to action.

If you don't like a particular TV program, you call their sponsors and tell them you will boycott them until the program either goes off the air or changes to your liking. This works similar with
political parties, politicians and their sponsors (campaign contributors).

If you have a blog please post this on your blog. I want to get at least 100,000 people to sign these petitions, the first one which you can demand single payer health care and a fix to the Medicare prescription drug benefit.

Read and sign these legislative petitions please and get hundreds of people to sign them and they will automatically go to Republican minority leaders Sen. McConnell and Rep. Boehner right away once you sign the petiton.


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