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Max Baucus' "America's Healthy Future Act"

September 16, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus [D, MT] has been working for months in his committee, and specifically with a bipartisan “Gang of Six” negotiating senators, to produce a healthcare reform bill that would appeal to Democrats and Republicans alike. Today he released a 223- page Chairman’s mark of the bill, which you can download here (pdf) or read online at OpenCongress.

It’s definitely worth taking a look at. Unlike the bills we’ve seen come out of other committees in Congress, the draft released today by the Finance Committee is written in plain language, so you can actually read it and understand it pretty easily. The Finance Committee will hold their mark-up session of the legislation next week. That’s when the bill presented in the document released today will be put into full legislative text and expanded to 1,000+ pages. Shortly after that, we’ll have it posted on OpenCongress like the House bill, so the process of public mark-up and review can begin.

In many ways, the basic framework of the Baucus bill matches Congress’ other healthcare bills and President Obama’s outline for reform. It would put in place new consumer protections, for example banning insurance companies from denying patients because of pre-existing conditions. It contains an individual mandate requiring all Americans to get some form of insurance. It would expand Medicaid and provide subsidies to help low-income people buy insurance. It would set up new state-wide marketplaces, or exchanges, to help people comparison shop for insurance plans.

How does the Baucus bill released today differ from the healthcare bills form other committees?

First off, it doesn’t contain a public insurance option. Instead, it sets up the Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (CO-OP) program. Under the program, the government would allow and provide seed money for the creation of private, non-profit healthcare co-ops. The co-ops would be government by majority votes from its members, and all profits would have to be used to lower premiums, improve benefits, or otherwise improve the quality of healthcare delivered to its members.

Secondly, the Baucus bill contains fewer subsidies to help middle income people buy health insurance as it would require them to do.. Under the bill, people making above 300 percent of the federal poverty level would be expected to spend about 13 percent of their income on health insurance. And people in that income range would be subject to out-of-pocket limits. For example, a family of four making abover 300 percent of FPL would have an out-of-pocket limit of $11,600 on top of their $10,800 in premiums.

Third, it costs less. While most of the other bills coming out of congressional committees had price tags above $1 trillion over 10 years, Baucus’ bill has been scored by the Congressional Budget Office at $856 billion. The savings come from a combination of the reductions in subsidies for middle-income people and a plan to tax some of insurance companies’ most expensive plans.

Though the bill was specifically written to attract Republican support, no Republicans have said they are willing to vote for it. For example, Sen. Olympia Snowe [R, ME], the Democrat’s most likely Republican ally said yesterday that she could not back the bill, citing “concerns” that have yet to be addressed. On the other side of the spectrum, Democrats are beginning to come out against the bill. Finance Committee member Sen. John Rockefeller [D, WV] said today that he can’t support the bill because of its plan to tax insurance company’s premium plans. Rockefeller said that the tax will simply get passed down to the middle class in the form of higher premiums. He has also cited the lack of a public option as a reason for his opposition to Baucus’ bill.

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Comments

Anonymous 09/17/2009 2:07pm

Interesting to read so many comments about the bad insurance companies. Hopefully those writers were also NOT the ones yelling to keep the government our of healthcare.

Anonymous 09/16/2009 8:50am

Do I have this correct, a couple with two kids with each adult making around $12 an hour will have to pay at minimum $10,800 a year and a maximum $22,400 per year or between $900 and $1,866 a month, that seems like a lot of money for a family with a monthly take home pay of around $2,900 a month.
If you take 22,400 from a 35,000 take home pay(after taxes) that only leaves the family with $12,600 a year or around $1000 a month to pay for their housing, car, food,clothing and other living expenses, that does not seem very practical to me for most families.

Anonymous 10/12/2009 10:28pm

Who does Senator Baucus represent?

Insurance companies?

The Insurance industry has given Max Baucus $1,196,463

The HMO’s gave Max Baucus $466,350 and Blue Cross/Blue Shield alone has given him $67,949 with 60% ($41,100) just in his current term (2005-2010). I wonder what they expect in return for their money?

Wall Street Banking and Finance?

TARP beneficiary AIG gave Max Baucus $91,000, other TARP beneficiaries and counter parties Goldman Sachs gave him $87,900, JP Morgan Chase gave him $77,402, Citigroup $72,000, Morgan Stanley $66,500, Wells Fargo $65,700, American Express $55,950 and Bank of America $50,250.

How much money have you given Max Baucus? Do you have a half million dollars or more to pay him to represent you?

If his position is that the health care program he is participating is not good for America then perhaps he should introduce legislation to end the same program he has so he and the other Congresspersons and Senators can have the same options we have.

Moderated Comment

Anonymous 09/17/2009 4:56am
in reply to Anonymous Sep 16, 2009 8:50am

and they keep saying the middle class is not going to have to pay more? Those that choose to have insurance are already “insurance” poor and if they have a medical event in their family the end up with a huge debt because of the deductible they now owe, so what have we gained? I can’t believe how many versions of “healthcare” reform are out there and not one addresses what the people need.

burlingk 09/17/2009 5:58am

I personally am not inclined to support any bill that penalizes a person for being poor. That is exactly what is going on when you include a clause to fine people for not having insurance. If you can’t afford insurance, they will insure that you cannot afford anything else either.

Anonymous 09/17/2009 9:42am
in reply to Anonymous Sep 16, 2009 1:59pm

Okay…this is meant as funny right?

Anonymous 09/20/2009 8:09am

I am confused about the 13% “tax” on employed middle income families. My husband is employed, I am retired. My husband’s employer pays for his BCBS health insurance. My husband pays for me. Will he now have to pay for his own as well? Will our cost of being insured rise? How will “co-ops” work in states where there is effectively only one insurer? Why are co-ops better than a national available public option? Since the insurance companies celebrated when this bill was announced and their stocks rose significantly, I’m inclined to believe that this bill favors “them” not the American people. That is morally wrong!!!!

Anonymous 09/21/2009 12:23pm

Did any of you read this crazy bill? It really punishes seniors on Medicare.
The whole bill is based on cutting Medicare to pay for everything else. You will not look forward to becoming a senior if this bill passes. And, our president had promised the seniors he wouldn’t be taking everything away from them. I agree with the posting above. This is morally wrong!!!! Shame! Shame! Shame!

Anonymous 09/17/2009 7:19am

Thankfully we have the internet and sites like this because the media is AWOL on all this. Let them all go out of business it seems we can do without them just fine.

Anonymous 09/16/2009 1:59pm
in reply to Anonymous Sep 16, 2009 8:50am

You need to consider food stamps and public housing, if the insurance is required by law and that leaves your family with only $1050 (12,600/ 12 is 1,050 not 1000) a month you should qualify for food stamps at $386(in my state) per month and the ability to move into government housing or section 8 housing where you can get a $600 month government subsidy for part of your rent. If the Government pays for your food and housing $1,050 a month is plenty to live on. If you only have to pay the $900 a month for insurance and it gets you $968 in housing and food you actually come out ahead by $68 a month.

Anonymous 09/16/2009 9:10am

“Within a year of enactment, any uninsured individual who has been denied health care coverage due to a pre-existing condition can enroll in a high-risk pool…Currently covered individuals must be uninsured for six months before gaining access to the high-risk pool…”

Can someone please tell me how this is good news? Six months uninsured?? So, someone like myself, who needs continuous care and medication (one can only get a max of 3 months’ medication prescribed at a time, at least with my plan in CA), must drop my current coverage for 6 months to get insured in this (presumably lower cost—I am on COBRA) ‘high-risk’ plan? So, during that 6 months interim, I would have to pay full price for 3 months’ meds, full price for doc appts, and if I need my appendix out or get in a serious car accident, well, that’s tough crap? I’d be better off continuing to fund my insurance company’s executives’ Cancun trips.
‘High-risk’, indeed.

Someone please tell me I am misreading something here.

Anonymous 09/28/2009 4:22pm
in reply to dre Sep 18, 2009 2:19pm

Saving money is not an effective way of paying medical bills. A middle class family that has to pay for living expenses and is trying to put money away for their children’s college will never be able to save enough money. Cancer treatments and surgery following traumatic injury can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. I don’t know any middle class families that have that kind of money saved.

Anonymous 10/12/2009 5:50am

How about a trial run of these so called Health CARE programs? I propose that EVERY person employed in the government, especially in the White House, Senate and Congress be required to live with the plans they propose for 2 years. NO cheating by personally paying for what you REALLY NEED and can’t receive, {to even the experience}, then see how “good” they believe it to be. THEN cast your vote.

Anonymous 10/12/2009 2:08pm

Democrats operate on the assumption that Health Care is a “right” each and every American is entitled to. They say so on the official Democratic Party website. So at what point did a “Right” become obligatory?

Every “right” involves a choice. To either act in a way that takes advantage of that right or to abstain from action, thus denying yourself that right. When government says you must…or else…, we loose our true “Right” – The Right to choose for ourselves.

Anonymous 10/12/2009 4:14pm

Seems as though we are really in for it this time. If the bill, which isn’t even written, passes, then other “phantom” measures will be tacked onto the bill — behind closed doors. So, we don’t know WHAT will end up in the actual bill, which is what they want. {Love the transparancy}. I wouldn’t be surprised if much of H.R. 3200 and the “public option” ends up in the final bill. So, a bill that concerns each one of us will be up for a vote and what is in the bill will be a “secret”, even to those who are voting. As an Independent voter I am watching everthing that is going on. There is an election for governor in my state next month; you can bet “We the people” are going to send a message, loud and clear, with our ballots.

Spam Comment

Anonymous 09/18/2009 10:19am
in reply to Anonymous Sep 17, 2009 9:42am

All foodstamp programs and public housing programs look at gross income, not income after deductions.

Anonymous 09/16/2009 9:01am
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+ -1

This is the craziest bill I have ever heard of this stupid coop bill by Max Baucus…he is crazy period and must be working with the wolves….

Anonymous 09/17/2009 2:54am
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More craziness……I can’t believe we actually pay these people what we do, while we are out here struggling, and all they can come up with is crap like this. More catering to the insurance companies who ought to be run out of business. People cannot afford to live now let alone more be added…

srwyles 09/17/2009 5:50am
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+ -1

As I point out in my editorial on SpecialOpsAndNews.com, this entire “race” card issue – now anointed by Jimmy Carter – is part of the liberal plan to distract the American people from the failing Obama health care bill – which will cost Obama serious political clout when it’s finally taken off of liberal life support.

unemployed2007 09/17/2009 2:21am
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+ -1

Yay for the insurance companies who were out celebrating last night. This is not health care reform!!!!!!! If this passes, I’m leaving this country!

dre 09/18/2009 2:19pm
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How about not having insurance at all, and giving people the option to save money and put it away every month – that is your alternative. Insurance companies have certainly acted unjustly – but keep in mind they do nothing but force people to put away money for a rainy day – and pony up if that rainy day hits sooner than expected. No business can afford to lose money continually – and insurance is not a right – so I am a bit confused by some of the comments by folks who think that big brother ought take from some and pay insurance for others… and one of the elephants in the room – how can you have healthcare reform without addressing tort reform and malpractice??

dre 09/18/2009 2:23pm
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Oh yes – and has anyone tried to read any version of this bill?!?? It is almost impossible to digest even small parts of it. No wonder we have to pay for analysts and companies pay for specialists to “tell” the congressmen/women what is going on in the bill….of course that is why these get passed and we all end up wondering why there is so much waste, and pork – it is buried in here and the congressmen don’t read the bills.

I propose going old school and making the congessmen and women read every word, and not pass anything they don’t understand. Then we might get simpler, more understandable bills, with fewer loopholes, and a lot less of them, since members of congress would have to read and understand them!!

Anonymous 09/20/2009 7:59am
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Would someone please explain to me the following passage: “Under the bill, people making above 300 percent of the federal poverty level would be expected to spend about 13 percent of their income on health insurance. And people in that income range would be subject to out-of-pocket limits.” in terms of an employed person who has employer paid insurance. My husband’s insurance is paid by his employer. In turn, he pays a monthly premium to insure me. How will this portion of the bill affect us?

fkani 09/23/2009 9:16pm
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+ -1

I find it appalling that you will not give your own Representatives and Senators the time they need to read, analyze, and submit amendments.

When you finally wake up and realize that your constituents, the American people, are not the stupid fools you take us for it will be too late for you.

This bill is the same old scam you tired to pull on us with HR-3200. But guess what, we read it and realized what a SCREW JOB you a trying to give us and the town hall meetings were certainly reflective of that.

Elections are coming and we are documenting every single hose job you pull on the American people.

My mother and father were democrats so people are socialists from the word go.

flf23 09/25/2009 2:35am
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+ -1

The Democrats want to RUSH their mangled approach to Health Care for what purpose? It sounds more like a con game. Hillary had the same problem.

Why don’t they take a small piece for which they can get bi-partisan support and run with that, e.g. pre-existing conditions or allowing insurance to be written across state borders allowing true major-medical?

Why don’t they ramp up a Medicare/Medicaid enforcement program to ensure everyone entitled to the benefit gets the benefit and the US isn’t being ripped off?

The Utopians in the Democratic party need to realize Government can’t produce Utopia, just messy systems with many, many unintended consequences.

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