The bad news on the Baucus bill

I’ve only scratched the surface of the 220 pages, but here are some lowlights:

  • No public insurance option, of course. Looks like not even a trigger for a public option to be created if private insurers don’t bring their premiums down.
  • The New York Times is reporting that Baucus “envisions middle-class American families having to pay” 13 percent of their family income “in health insurance premiums before co-payments, deductibles and other cost-sharing.” That’d be $1200 a month in premiums alone for a couple making $100,000 a year combined. Worse yet, what the bill actually says is that “individuals between 300-400 percent of [the federal poverty line] would be eligible for a premium credit based on capping an individual‘s share of the premium at a flat 13 percent of income.” If I’m reading that right, that means that insurers could still charge even more than 13 percent of income — just if they do, the government will pay anything above that limit. This is cost reduction?
  • The standards for health plans would be divided into Gold, Silver, Bronze, and (I am not making this up) “Young Invincible” levels, with varying degrees of coverage required for each. This is apparently based on Massachusetts’ Commonwealth Connector plan, and I’m still not clear how it’s supposed to represent real standards: If your plan doesn’t cover 90% of the average person’s health costs, for example, all that happens is that it gets tagged as Silver instead of Gold. Not that any of it is likely to matter anyway, as in Massachusetts nearly half of all Connector participants are choosing the cheapest Bronze plans, with a mere 7% coughing up for Gold — no surprise, given that insurance premiums there are still sky-high.
  • Even with the plan watered down to near-tincture levels, Baucus still couldn’t get a single Republican co-sponsor. This is working so much better than trying to pass a real reform bill in the first place.

UPDATE: Just saw that CJR has another good article up today on the failures of the Massachusetts plan and what it means for the nation as a whole if a Baucus-type plan passes. Required reading.

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