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And it starts all over

Scott Jagow Sep 16, 2009

After all the bickering, lobbying, distorting and lying about the health care bill, a version is finally ready, uh… to debate. Montana Democratic Senator Max Baucus unveiled the 10-year, $856 billion bill today. It’s called America’s Healthy Future Act of 2009. But based on what I’m reading, the bill — as it’s presented — doesn’t have a healthy future at all.

For one thing, not a single Republican supports it. And some Democrats don’t either. George Stephanopoulos writes:

As one top Democrat told me, the fundamental problem is that Democrats “are being asked to support a bipartisan bill that doesn’t have bipartisan support.” The compromise without the cover.

You can flip through the bill at your leisure by clicking here, but here’s a summary of it from CNN:

The measure drops the public option favored by Obama and many Democratic leaders… as expected, the plan instead calls for the creation of non-profit health-care cooperatives.

As with other reform proposals, the bill would bar insurance companies from dropping a policyholder in the event of illness as long as that person had paid his or her premium in full. It would add new protections for people with pre-existing conditions and establish tax credits to help low- and middle-income families purchase insurance coverage.

But Democratic opponents of the bill say it’s still going to be too expensive for low-income people. Plus, the public option is gone, so what’s the point? One of those opponents is Oregon Senator Ron Wyden. The fact that he hates the Baucus bill is a big red flag to health care reform advocates. As the Washington Post points out, Wyden has been “the Energizer Bunny of health care reform” the past five years:

Now, a family earning three times the poverty level — $66,150 for a family of four — would have to pay up to 13 percent of their income for health insurance. And that’s just the premiums — not counting deductibles, co-payments and out-of-pocket expenses.

“I don’t know very many working-class families who you can look in the eyes and say: ‘Do you have that kind of money in your checking account?’ — because they don’t,” Wyden told me…

Those without coverage would face a fine of as much as $3,800, unless costs exceeded 10 percent of their income, in which case they would be given an “affordability exemption.” In other words, they wouldn’t have insurance, but at least they wouldn’t be penalized for it.

If the Baucus proposal passes, he said, “They’re going to say, ‘Huh? Health-care security means I pay a whole lot more than I’m paying today or I get to be exempt from it, or I pay a penalty?’ They’re not going to say that meets the definition of health-care security.”

As for Republicans, the New York Times’ Prescription blog sums it up:

Most Republicans have been deeply unhappy with the Democratic health care proposals so far, and Republicans on the Finance Committee were said to be bracing for two possibilities: a partisan proposal that they were going to oppose, or a bipartisan proposal that they were going to oppose.

I recommend Why Bipartisanship Matters by Kevin Drum at Mother Jones:

Take healthcare reform. Republicans used to be in favor of reining in Medicare costs, which normally means that this would be a fertile area for bipartisan cooperation. But the Republican Party has decided in recent weeks that its short-term political interests dictate unbending opposition to everything healthcare related. So suddenly they’re Medicare’s biggest defender, screaming about euthanasia and death panels and brigades of bureaucrats getting between seniors and their healthcare. As a result, no Democrat in his right mind will seriously touch Medicare. Instead, special interests are bribed to cooperate, Medicare is left largely untouched, and the can is kicked down the road.

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