Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has circulated his own health reform plan, apparently tired of waiting for the rest of the “Group of Six” to come around.
Baucus’s plan would cost between $850 billion and $950 billion over ten years, and would help pay for itself by imposing a new fee on insurance companies, the NY Times reports.
The plan does not include a public option, or even a “trigger” to implement a public option under certain conditions.
While that omission is likely to anger liberals, the new health insurance company tax is likely to alienate Republicans. For example, take a look at this explanation from the Times:
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. [emphasis added]
Conservatives are already claiming that Democratic reform would lead to healthcare rationing. A tax like that is unlikely to assuage those concerns.
The missing public plan is interesting. Key Democrats, including Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), have expressed support for a trigger, and the White House was reportedly using the “trigger” to entice at least one moderate Republican–Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine)
More from the Times on Baucus’s plan:
Another section of Mr. Baucus’s proposal would help pay insurance premiums, co-payments and deductibles for people with incomes less than 300 percent of the poverty level ($66,150 for a family of four). It would also provide some protection for people with incomes from 300 percent to 400 percent of the poverty level (up to $88,200 for a family of four), so they would generally not have to pay more than 13 percent of their income in premiums.
Coverage under Mr. Baucus’s plan would, by some measures, be less extensive than the least generous of three levels envisioned in a bill approved by three House committees.
To compare health plans, experts often focus on the percentage of medical expenses paid by insurance, on average, for a given population. This figure ranges from 70 percent to 95 percent under the House bill’s options, but it would be less than 70 percent under Mr. Baucus’s proposal.
The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes said Obama will probably opt for a trigger.
WALLACE: I mean, that clearly is the kind of linch point here, Steve, that — where does he come down on the public option, the idea of a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers.
As a practical matter, it would seem, especially in the Senate, that he has to throw it off and go with either co-ops or a trigger, but we are hearing that this weekend he got fierce pushback from the left.
HAYES: Yeah, that’s to be expected, though. And I think he’s not going to — it is inconceivable to me that the left will actually fight him on this if he decides to go the route of a trigger option, I mean, which is exactly what I think he’s going to do.
I think he’ll propose some kind of a trigger. He will hold up Olympia Snowe as the Republican idea behind this trigger so that he can call it bipartisan, however implausible that might be.
And if he were really smart, I think he would embrace some limited tort reform. Then he can say, “Look, I’ve been listening to Republicans. This is too important not to include, not to have a broad health care reform bill, and we’re going to make this compromise.”