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Senate Finance Committee Live Blog

Bad Max Baucus

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10:20 – Here is what I wrote yesterday about the public option amendments for today.

Various Public Option Amendments – Schumer, Cantwell, Rockefeller :

What it hopes to do:
Add a public option to Baucus’ bill.

Background:
Senators Rockefeller and Schumer have been the most vocal supporters of the public option on the Senate Finance Committee. Rockefeller is likely to introduce a robust public option tied to Medicare, while Schumer plans to introduce a “level paying field” public option which must negotiate its rates independent from Medicare. Schumer and Rockefeller have been working closely on the issue and have not yet decided on the best political strategy. They may choose to only introduce Schumer’s weaker public option in an attempt to show that the idea of a public option has strong support. They also might introduce two public option amendments hoping to give conservative Democrats the cover of voting against the robust public option while supporting the weaker “compromise.”

What to look for:
First watch to see how many public option amendments are debated. Pay close attention to the CBO scores each public option gets. Baucus’s use of the second lowest cost plan as the benchmark for determining tax credits may prevent the CBO from scoring the public option as saving money. Secondly, pay attention to how conservative Democrats (Baucus, Carper, Lincoln, Conrad, Nelson) vote on Schumer’s “level playing field” public option.

10:21 – Rockefeller is now introducing his robust public option amendment first. Schumer’s public option will be introduced next

10:24 – Rockefeller quoted in his defense of the public option former Cigna excutive Wendell Potter who called Baucus’s bill the, "the Insurance Industry Profit Protection and Enhancement Act."

10:33 – Rockefeller pointed out that while the private insurance companies will receive a half trillion dollars in federal money, there is no requirement in the Mark for the private insurance companies to spend that money on care. The House bills has an minimum 85% medical loss ratio. Baucus’s bill has no minimum medical loss ratio

10:37 – Rockefeller is putting the private health insurance industry on trial. He is going through all the different ways private insurance companies screw over their costumers and deny claims.

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12:34 – Schumer thinks Rockefeller’s public option would save much more than the $50 billion the CBO predicts. He claims a marketplace with a public option and private plans would be the middle of the road solution.

12:30 – Schumer: Baucus’s bill does not get to the fundamental problem of market concentration. We need a public option to create competition and bring down price.

12:25 – Schumer: many of us don’t believe that you can just leave it up to the market to produce more competition. There is not a real market in health care because regular people can’t know what medicare care they really need or what it cost.

12:20 – Bingaman thinks it is clear that there needs to be more competition. Bingaman does not want a public option tied to Medicare. Rockefeller thinks it is important to give it that two years to help get it started. Bingaman thinks the co-ops have promise but a better idea is a public option like the one in the HELP committee.

12:10 – Bingaman (member of the gang of six) is confused about how Rockefeller’s plan would be run. Rockefeller says his plan’s administrator wouldn’t have anything to do with running the plan.

Bingaman makes it clear that Rockefeller’s amendment is only tied to Medicare for the first two years and after that it would be run similar to Schumer’s plan.

CBO scored Rockefeller’s public option as saving $50 billion. It would start off with about 1/3 of the market in the first few years and slowly lose market share until it only has about 1/4 of costumers on the exchange.

12:08 – Rockefeller and Conrad bicker about who first brought up co-ops. Rockefeller does not want to have the debated about co-ops right now.

12:05 – Bill Nelson claims most people in this country do not know what a co-op is. It should be called a mutual non-profit insurance company.

12:04 – Ensign claims that Conrad’s chart are misleading. Ensign claims we do much better at preventing preventable deaths, because of gun and car deaths. Conrad says that is nonsense.

12:02 – Conrad is really upset that Rockefeller’s public option would be tied to Medicare rates.

11:58 – Conrad is against the government run single payer model (England and Canada). He prefers countries with an employer based system with universal coverage using not for-profit insurance funds. Conrad loves the French health care system. Claims again it is "not government-run."???

Conrad: If you want a better, more cost effective, universal health care system you don’t want a government run system, but one with government involvement. There is an important government role, but not a need for government run.

11:55 – Conrad says there is a lack of competition in the market place, but favors his idea of non-profit co-ops. Conrad attacks Rockefeller’s public option because it is tied to medicare rates for the first two years. It would hurt his state (ND) because it has one of the lowest Medicare reimbursements. 

Conrad says he has looked around the world at different health care models. He brought up T.R. Reid book. WOW here comes the charts out of nowhere.

11:49 – Kyl and Menendez have a back and forward about Rockefeller’s lack of an opt out for doctors who accept Medicare. There seems to be some confusing about whether doctors can opt out. The amendment will would not allow doctors to opt out only for the first two years.

11:44 – Menendez says the people overwhelming want a public option. It will not be government run insurance program. The public option is different than Medicare, because Medicare is an entitlement while the public option would only be an option.

Menendez claims health insurance is one of the least competitive industries. It does not matter how many insurance companies there are nationally, what matters is who controls the local market. The current system puts the private insurance companies between you and your doctor. Menendez supports both public option amendments.

11:39 – Menendez speaks strongly in favor of Rockefeller’s amendment and will strongly supports Schumer’s public option if Rockefeller’s fails.

11:36 – Hatch claims this public option is all a plot to get Washington run single payer. Says it will be a disaster.

11:28 – Hatch is against the public option because he claims it would add to the debt just like Medicare and Medicaid. Also thinks it is a trojan horse for single payer. Says the problems with Medicare is the reason he is against the public option.

11:24 – Schumer thinks Medicare and Medicare Advantage is a great example of a public option competing with private insurance plans. Claims their argument against a public option is really an argument to privatize all of Medicare. Grassley and Schumer are in a heated exchange.

11:21 – Bill Nelson sounds very skeptical of the idea that a public option would led to single payer. Grassley’s defense his claim with Heritage Foundation and Lewin Group.

11:20 – Schumer asked Grassley what he thinks of government run Medicare. Grassley claims it is part of the "social fabric" of America. Schumer can’t understand how you can support government run Medicare and be against a public option.

11:18 – Grassley claims a public option will need to rationing, because it will need to single payer.

11:12 – Grassley claims a government run plan will force private insurance companies out of business. (Grassley thinks this is a negative.) He brought up the quote of Obama supporting a single payer system years ago along with similar quotes from several Democrats. Grassley beleives there can’t ever be a level playing field plan.

11:08 – Grassley is spending his time making the point that he did tell Obama that he opposed the public option. Not surprisingly, Grassley opposes the amendment. He claims it is a slow walk towards government run single payer health care.

11:02 – Baucus is on the defense. Claims the half trillion in subsidies goes to the poor people. It is "not a subsidy to the industry."

11:00 – Rockefeller fires back that the insurance industry "never fails the rules." 

10:59 – Baucus claims to agree with the "intent" of the amendment. Baucus claims his mark does not go easy on the insurance industry. His mark "does hold the industries feet to the fire." Baucus wanted to "set the record straight."

10:56 – Rockefeller can’t understand why anyone would oppose his amendment. Said the health insurance industry is getting away with banditry.

10:48 – Bill Nelson thanks Rockefeller for his argument for a public option and ask him if he would support Schumer’s weaker public option, which would not set prices. Rockefeller says they are talking about his amendment right now and will get to Schumer’s later.

10:41 – Rockefeller is now going after the Mark’s plan to give the power to write regulation to the non-governmental non-profit NAIC

 10:37 – Rockefeller is putting the private health insurance industry on trial. He is going through all the different ways private insurance companies screw over their costumers and deny claims.

 10:33 – Rockefeller pointed out that while the private insurance companies will receive a half trillion dollars in federal money, there is no requirement in the Mark for the private insurance companies to spend that money on care. The House bills has an minimum 85% medical loss ratio. Baucus’s bill has no minimum medical loss ratio

10:24 – Rockefeller quoted in his defense of the public option former Cigna excutive Wendell Potter who called Baucus’s bill the, "the Insurance Industry Profit Protection and Enhancement Act."

10:21 – Rockefeller is now introducing his robust public option amendment first. Schumer’s public option will be introduced next

 10:20 – Here is what I wrote yesterday about the public option amendments for today.

Various Public Option Amendments – Schumer, Cantwell, Rockefeller :

What it hopes to do:
Add a public option to Baucus’ bill.

Background:
Senators Rockefeller and Schumer have been the most vocal supporters of the public option on the Senate Finance Committee. Rockefeller is likely to introduce a robust public option tied to Medicare, while Schumer plans to introduce a “level paying field” public option which must negotiate its rates independent from Medicare. Schumer and Rockefeller have been working closely on the issue and have not yet decided on the best political strategy. They may choose to only introduce Schumer’s weaker public option in an attempt to show that the idea of a public option has strong support. They also might introduce two public option amendments hoping to give conservative Democrats the cover of voting against the robust public option while supporting the weaker “compromise.”

What to look for:
First watch to see how many public option amendments are debated. Pay close attention to the CBO scores each public option gets. Baucus’s use of the second lowest cost plan as the benchmark for determining tax credits may prevent the CBO from scoring the public option as saving money. Secondly, pay attention to how conservative Democrats (Baucus, Carper, Lincoln, Conrad, Nelson) vote on Schumer’s “level playing field” public option.

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at http://pendinghorizon.com