What Happens When you Put Max Baucus in Charge of Healthcare Reform?

You get jack shit. Well, first you get a lot of secretive “bipartisan” meetings in which key players in the Democratic caucus are shut out. Then you get a bill that sucks. This is still based on anonymous sources, so take it with a bit of salt, but with Baucus and his merry band of concern trolls, it’s pretty much what you’d expect.

WASHINGTON – After weeks of secretive talks, a bipartisan group in the Senate edged closer Monday to a health care compromise that omits a requirement for businesses to offer coverage to their workers and lacks a government insurance option that President Barack Obama favors, according to numerous officials.

Like bills drafted by Democrats, the proposal under discussion by six members on the Senate Finance Committee would bar insurance companies from denying coverage to any applicant. Nor could insurers charge higher premiums on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions.

But it jettisons other core Democratic provisions in a reach for bipartisanship on an issue that has so far produced little.

That’s “insurance reform,” not healthcare reform. Without a public option to create competition, to keep the insurance companies honest, how many loopholes do you think they’ll find to restrict coverage and maximize profits. There’s, unfortunately, more.

In the Senate, officials stressed that no agreement has been reached on a bipartisan measure, and said there is no guarantee of one. They also warned that numerous key issues remain to be settled, including several options to pay for the legislation. They spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to discuss matters under private negotiations.

They said any legislation that emerges from the talks is expected to provide for a non-profit cooperative to sell insurance in competition with private industry, rather than giving the federal government a role in the marketplace. The White House and numerous Democrats in Congress have called for a government option to provide competition to private companies and hold down costs.

Officials also said a bipartisan compromise would not subject companies to a penalty if they declined to offer coverage to their workers. These businesses would be required to reimburse the government for part or all of any federal subsidies designed to help lower-income employees obtain insurance on their own….

Individuals would have a mandate to buy affordable insurance, but companies would not have a requirement to offer it.

It was not clear whether companies would be required to reimburse Medicaid, the government health care program for the poor, for the cost of covering any employees enrolled.

Nor was it clear what, if any, provision the proposal would include to make sure companies did not simply withdraw insurance as a fringe benefit to millions of workers who now have it.

Wow. It took this long for Baucus to come up with that little, and most of it really bad. In fact, possibly worse than what we’ve got now. If this is what the Senate Finance Committee really ends up with, and Finance takes the lead on the whole package, then it’s not worth doing at all. Worse to pass this half-ass, chicken-shit slap on the wrist to the insurance industry so that you can call healthcare reform done and leave it for another four decades, than to do nothing at all.

Progressive Democrats in the Senate need to do what those in the House have done; follow Bernie Sanders’ lead and say hell no to this crap. And it should start with the other Democrats on the Finance Committee, since  this isn’t their bill. It’s Baucus Gang’s bill, and has nothing to do with the rest of the committee. Given that, they should have no compunctions about rejecting it. And staying through August to come up with something real.

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