As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Finance Committee Follies

So how's that Finance Committee doing on health care?

Well, they did manage to beat back a requirement that people show a photo ID to use the exchanges or access subsidies, though the enforcement requirements in the bill still deny undocumented immigrants the ability to but insurance on the exchanges, which is pitiful, and restrict LEGAL immigrants from doing the same for five years. So it's a win without a victory.

In better news, Max Baucus continues to be pushed to the left on affordability.

In a push to lock down votes, Senator Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is pulling together a last-minute package of changes to his health care legislation aimed at addressing the chief concern among his fellow Democrats: that health insurance be made as affordable as possible for moderate-income Americans.

“There’s an effort to solve people’s problems,” said Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia, who has been a critic of the bill. “How far that’ll go, we’ll see.”

Among the proposals under consideration is an amendment by Senator Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington, that would create a “basic health plan” for Americans earning less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or $44,100 for a family of four. The proposal would let states develop or expand various existing insurance programs that now typically cover people who qualify for Medicaid. Small states could develop plans jointly.

The Baucus bill would already expand Medicaid to Americans earning up to 133 percent of poverty, and Ms. Cantwell’s proposal would effectively expand it further. But because her plan is expected to be cheaper than providing subsidies to those low-income people to buy their own insurance, it could save money that could be used to make other provisions of the bill more generous.

The Cantwell Amendment sounds pretty good at first blush. While not a public option, it's a proven idea (Washington state has this) that would reduce costs up to 200% FPL that can be used to increase subsidies above that level. UPDATE: Ezra Klein has a good interview with Cantwell about her proposal. She claims it would hit 75% of the total uninsured.

But I really like what Jay Rockefeller's cooking up - a legitimate floor for what insurance companies must spend on treatment and care.

This is delectable politics. Fresh off a meeting with Ob-Rahma, Jay Rock has come back to the Senate and demanded 90% loss ratio for any coverage the subsidies pay for. "Loss ratio" is insurance-speak for what they actually have to spend providing actual health care. That means the insurance companies can't steal 20% of our tax dollars to pay for executive salaries. They get 10%.

They're peeing their pants right now.

But I suspect Jay Rock has offered this as an outcome of his meeting with Ob-Rahma. I'm sure at that meeting they said, "Jello Jay, We'd like you to pitch other ways to save money. We'd like to come up with a way to keep costs down."

And voila!!! 90%!!! Insurance companies have to actually provide health care without gobs of executive subsidies. We're actually going to demand a certain amount of health care in exchange for the half trillion MaxTax!!!

There's no way to vote against this and still claim that you are on the side of the people instead of the insurance companies. With the cost savings in the bill, not to mention the ease of using the exchange to advertise services, insurers should easily be able to spend 90% of all premiums and still make a health profit. The only problem with this is enforcement, and how you get compliance from insurers who lie about loss ratios currently.

The Finance Committee will consider all these amendments and have a final vote on the bill next week, with Harry Reid bringing a merged bill to the floor the following week. We now know the schedule - time to make sure the best bill gets out.

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