And it is every bit as bad as you thought it would be.
I don't see how this is an improvement on the status quo. Sure, people will be forced to purchase insurance, and private insurers will be forced to accept all applicants. However:
- No Public Option:
The proposal by Mr. Baucus does not include a public option, or a government-run insurance plan, to compete with private insurers, as many Democrats want.
Two of the Baucus measures reflect the group's long-standing goal to find common ground on highly contentious issues. Instead of a government insurance option, the Baucus proposal would create a network of non-profit cooperatives -- an alternative that Grassley, the lead Republican negotiator, has backed.
- Not even much of a trigger:
Mr. Baucus's proposal does not include a "trigger mechanism" of the type recommended by Ms. Snowe, who would offer a public insurance plan in any state where fewer than 95 percent of the people had access to affordable coverage.
- More people covered, but with worse coverage:
Mr. Baucus's plan, expected to cost $850 billion to $900 billion over 10 years, would tax insurance companies on their most expensive health care policies. The hope is that employers would buy cheaper, less generous coverage for employees, thereby reducing the overuse of medical services.
- Paid for through Medicare:
In addition to the fee on high-cost plans, the proposal also would extract about $400 billion in cost-savings from Medicare, cuts that are stirring unease among lawmakers in both parties, due to the potential backlash among senior citizens, and Medicare's own precarious fiscal state.
- Fewer subsidies for people forced to buy insurance, and companies required to offer worse minimum coverage plans now that they will be forced to accept all applicants:
Baucus' plan also is expected to be less generous in terms of subsidies and coverage than those bills - which, along with the absence of the public option, is sure to rankle more liberal Democrats.
If this is an improvement over the status quo, right now I don't see how.
- Cost: There is no public option, not even a real trigger, and fewer subsidies to purchase insurance than in the House bills. Hard to imagine would that will hold down the costs of health insurance premiums.
- Coverage: Employers will start offering people who have coverage worse coverage, and insurers don't have to offer much at all in the way of minimum plans to people who currently do not have coverage. Even if more people receive health insurance, it might result in a net drop in the quality of health care the country receives.
This moves the ball into the Progressive Block's court, not into President Obama's. This draft proposal from Baucus is nowhere close to the type of health care bill they have said they can support. Off hand, it seems perfectly justified to send this bill down to defeat. However, as activists, we only have power to defeat or change this bill if the Progressive Block decides to hold the line. They are going to be asked to fold and compromise, so it is their time to demonstrate leadership. Let's see what happens.
No matter what happens, it is imperative that there is at least a vote on a robust public option in both branches of Congress. We need a roll call indicating who opposes a real public option, and is instead looking to force this crappy bill on us. Otherwise, there will be no way to hold Congress accountable.