Yesterday, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Democrat from Montana, stepped out all by his lonesome to unveil his own plan for health care reform. And, regardless of all the talk of “we” and “our,” make no mistake — the plan Baucus unveiled is the plan he developed. Among other issues, his plan includes a mandate for individuals and employers alike, and lays the groundwork for penalties to be assessed against those who don’t carry coverage.
Because it’s not the “public option,” some are calling it a compromise meant to assuage those concerned that a “public option” would naturally lead to goverment-run health care. It is not a compromise. In fact, late last night, I received the following e-mail message from South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint’s office detailing exactly how the Baucus plan would descend into nationalized medicine.
On Tuesday, Sen. Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, released his long-awaited health care proposal which will be considered by the full committee next week. The plan contains more of the same big government policies that have been proposed by this Congress and the Obama Administration for months. It does nothing to increase Americans’ access to affordable health care coverage. In fact, the Baucus plan includes several devastating provisions that hurt the ability of millions of Americans to keep the coverage they currently have (and like).
Moreover, the combination of tax increases, penalties, new government health care programs, increased fees on private health care entities, and destruction of current health care coverage products will force this nation into the grip of a government-run health care system. Here are 11 things you should know about Baucus’ proposal:
- It Creates FANNIE MED Health Insurance Entities That Will Lead to Government Takeover: This bill uses taxpayer dollars to subsidize cooperative health insurance agreements that will be overseen and regulated by federal bureaucrats and, overtime, could be bailed out by taxpayers. As Majority Leader Reid has said himself, this is simply the “public option” by another name, and is nothing more than a new path to a government takeover of health care. Like the public option, taxpayer-subsidized co-ops will force millions of Americans out of their current plans and into government-regulated care. This nation has seen a similar model in our government-run mortgage market and America has spoken out on this issue: no Fannie Med.
- It Could DOUBLE Health Insurance Premiums for Millions of Americans: The chairman’s mark will effectively raise premiums for millions of Americans who purchase health insurance in the individual health marketplace. In fact, the Council for Affordable Health Insurance has indicated that the proposed combination of risk adjusted premiums, individual mandates, and guaranteed issue coverage could raise premiums as much as 95 percent in the individual market, impacting millions of Americans who purchase health insurance outside of their employer or as small business owners. This proposal not only destroys the ability of Americans to purchase health insurance they can afford, own and keep, but also violates the president’s campaign promise that every American would be able to “keep their health plan.”
- It Regulates EVERY Americans’ Health Coverage, by PENALIZING Anyone Without a Government Approved Plan: The chairman’s mark will mandate that every American get health care coverage and, moreover, will define what benefits individuals must get to avoid government penalties on their income (as high as $3,800 per family) — again, violating the President’s commitment to the American people to not raise taxes on Americans making below $250,000 per year.
- It Does Little to Improve Competition Across State Lines: This bill does nothing to create a competitive national market in which uninsured Americans can choose from hundreds of health insurance plans in any state in the nation. Rather, the chairman’s mark allows states to build compacts for interstate purchasing — an idea that does little to eliminate the big insurance industry’s hold on insurance commissioners who for years have blocked consumer-friendly, interstate competition.
- It Expands a Broken, Bankrupt Entitlement Program: For the past several years, we have heard from states on the impact of Medicaid costs on state budgets. In fact, just this year, the federal government bailed states out in passing billions for Medicaid in the stimulus package to pay off states’ debt. Aside from the daunting fiscal impact on states, such an expansion would be a mistake because Medicaid does not provide high-quality health care. Yet, Sen. Baucus and his Democrat colleagues believe that adding millions more Americans to Medicaid should be considered health care “reform.”
- It Taxes Health Care Benefits for Millions of Middle-Income Americans: The Baucus plan proposes to further tax health savings accounts and caps the benefits of flexible spending accounts — impacting nearly 20 million Americans in the coming years. In addition, the Baucus plan proposes to tax comprehensive health insurance benefits that are valued at more than $8000 for the individual or $21,000 for families. Such a proposal will impact thousands of working Americans — again, violating the president’s promise to not tax individuals making less than $250,000 per year.
- It Increases Taxes on Small Businesses: The chairman’s mark places an annual penalty (per employee) if health coverage is not offered by an employer. Such a provision could deteriorate the employer market over time — forcing individuals into a government run health care program — as many employers might see the penalty as an opportunity to drop employees’ health care coverage since such a penalty is less than the average cost of employer-provided health benefits.
- It Creates a New Government ‘Institute’ Similar to Bureaucracies in Other Nations Used to RATION Care: The chairman’s mark creates a new institute for comparative effectiveness research that could, ultimately, contribute to the denial of coverage for certain health care services. The chairman’s mark is careful in clarifying that, “prohibited from denying coverage based solely on a study conducted by the Institute,” however, it is never made clear that such denials could be made in consideration of the Institute’s research and conclusions. A similar bureaucracy in the United Kingdom has been used to ration health care.
- It Contains NO Tort Reform, Protecting Trial Lawyers While Costing Patients Hundreds of Billions Each Year: The chairman‘s mark expresses the “Sense of the Senate” that health care reform “presents an opportunity” to address medical malpractice reform — however, the proposal does nothing to truly curb the devastating impact defensive medicine has had on our nation’s health care system. Independent analysts have estimated that defensive medicine used as a result of frivolous lawsuits adds more than $200 billion in unnecessary expenses to the cost of health care each year.
- It Negatively Impacts Seniors’ Ability to Access Medicare Advantage Programs: The Baucus plan makes adjustments to how Medicare Advantage plans are paid — consequently impacting the current Medicare Advantage market and potentially shifting beneficiaries from their current plans. Again, this is a violation of the president’s campaign promise to not impact Americans’ current coverage.
- It Creates New Government Bureaucracy to Oversee Medicare Reimbursements: The Baucus plan would establish a politically-appointed Medicare Commission that would develop and submit proposals to Congress that “would reduce Medicare spending.” While the chairman’s mark does make an attempt to limit the commission’s autonomy, it is important to note that the commission will act very much like a “Super MedPac” and will ultimately have the ability to impact provider reimbursements and appropriate category of services approved under Medicare.