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Max Baucus’s Plan Sucks

Senator Max Baucus is talking tough with Republicans, but he spent yesterday floating an abomination of a health care plan. Tabbing in at $900 billion over ten years, it guarantees coverage for almost everyone — but puts an incredible cost burden on patients.

It’s a bill sure to please no one but the insurance industry. Which should be no surprise, since it’s basically written by a former VP of WellPoint. Over at TPM Muckraker, Josh Marshall pronounces it “reform with all the cool political downsides but none of the reform.”

Oh, and it forces you to buy this shitty coverage. From the AP:

WASHINGTON — Americans who don’t get health insurance once the system is overhauled would be fined up to $3,800 under a proposal that circulated in Congress on Tuesday as Democratic leaders cast doubt on prospects for creating a government-run insurance plan.


Just as auto coverage is now mandatory, so would a requirement that all Americans get health insurance. Penalties for failing to get insurance would start at $750 a year for individuals and $1,500 for families. Households making more than three times the federal poverty level — about $66,000 for a family of four — would face the maximum fines. For families, it would be $3,800, and for individuals, $950.

You can read the plan yourself here (PDF). There’s no public option in it, which means you and I will, in Baucus’s idea of health care reform, be required to buy insurance from a private concern or else face a fine at tax season. I don’t know about you, but for me that kind of mandate’s a non-starter. Digby writes:

What they are going to do is force the currently uninsured to write a check to a private company for a large sum of money every month, the subsidies for which will show up as some kind of “credit” on their tax returns. How do you think most people are going to mentally and emotionally process that expense? As a good deal or a bad one?

What’s more, it’s incredibly inefficient. Insurance companies don’t add any value to our health care. Yes, the plan would provide money for any family income under four times the poverty rate — but the average family insurance plan costs $12,000. Insurance companies eat up about 20-30% of that in profits, admin costs, and fees.

So if we’re going to spend taxpayer dollars on health care, it would be a helluva lot cheaper for the government to skip the insurance company and pay your doctor directly — just like we already do with Medicaid and Medicare, which use only 3-4% of allocated funds for administrative costs.

In fact, a strong public option would make this whole enterprise about $400 BILLION CHEAPER. Max Baucus already knows this, but he’s too beholden to corporate interests to admit it anymore.

But let’s bear in mind that this is only one version of health care reform from one committee; it’s not definitive, or normative. And this process is really, really not over.

Socialize this!