Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Baucus Bill A Shameless Shakedown

The Bill it (the Senate) sends to the President may as well be called "The Insurance Industry Profit Protection and Enhancement Act" ~ Wendell Potter, Former Vice President of corporate communications at CIGNA, testifying before Congress on 9/11/2009

First Representative Wilson called the President a liar, and now, Senator Max Baucus, after listening to the President's instruction request plea for the inclusion of a limited public-option in the health insurance reform legislation, submits a bill that says, in effect, "fu*k you" to Barack Obama - and to the American people.

Keith Olbermann and Wendell Potter discuss the health insurance reform bill - an excerpt from the September 16, 2009 broadcast of Countdown: (edited for brevity and clarity)

Keith: Good Evening from New York. If it were up to Senator Max Baucus, middle class families would be forced, literally forced to pay far more on healthcare than they already do right now. 13 percent of what they make could be deducted directly from their paychecks and mainlined to insurance companies. A so-called "Max tax", that would be handed over to the very industry that has given the chairman of the finance committee three million dollars in campaign donations. And that thirteen percent payroll deduction does not count co-pays and deductibles. See a doctor for any reason, or get sick, and you can expect to pay nearly $12,000 a year more.

Our 5th story in the countdown - only three million dollars to chairman Baucus? In exchange for a bill, in which the health insurance industry is guaranteed to make billions upon billions? We know what you are Senator Baucus, we're now arguing about the price.

Mr. Baucus today releasing his version of the healthcare reform bill that would give coverage to 30 million Americans who currently do not have any, first by extending Medicaid, the state federal insurance program for the poor, next by providing government subsidies to modest income families and individuals to help them buy over the counter coverage. Only those who make less than 300 percent of the poverty level would fall into either of those categories.

That means any individual making more than $32,500, or any family of four making more than $66,150 is on their own, subject to the "Max tax" of 13 percent. For a family making $66,150 that is $700 a month they'd have to pay. If the family does not buy insurance they would be fined nearly half that amount.

Some other nuggets in the Baucus bill - private insurers would be allowed to charge older individuals up to 5 times as much for coverage. You heard that right, 5 times. Forget about pulling the plug on Grandma, Max Baucus wants to help the insurance industry steal her purse. Also in the bill, anyone with pre-existing conditions would go into a high-risk pool. But the provision says they would need to be uninsured for 6 months before they could even gain access to that pool. Exactly what you want for those who are already sick.

For more on what's in the Baucus bill lets turn to a veteran of the insurance industry, Wendell Potter, former communications director at CIGNA, now senior fellow at the Center for Media and Democracy. Much thanks again for your time tonight sir.

WP: Thank you very much.

Keith: We anticipated the Baucus bill would be bad, it would be difficult to swallow - but a bill that actually makes healthcare more expensive for the middle class, and essentially taxes them off the start, 13 percent. And then starts talking about what you're actually paying to see a doctor. How could it possibly be this stunningly awful?

WP: You know, I can't imagine. I read the framework of the bill before this was actually released. That was bad enough, but to see what it really looks like... I got an email from a medical director I used to work with that said that Karen Ignagni must have been doing a jiggity-jig when she saw this. Karen is the head of the trade group for the health insurance companies. It really is just an absolute gift to the health insurance industry.

Keith: Was this bill more or less written by the insurance lobby, or did somebody just anticipate their needs and decide to double them?

WP: You know that's a good point. It looked at first like it might have been written by the lobbyists and the lawyers for the health insurance industry, but I don't think they would have been quite this audacious to have expected something like this.

Keith: If your family's income is in the $60,000 range and you don't hand over your 13 percent, the government could fine you $3,800 under Baucus' plan. You get no public option to turn to. You have no leverage to negotiate a lower price. Is this not exactly the opposite of the premise of the choices that President Obama discussed just last week, let alone in the entire buildup to this?

WP: Oh absolutely the opposite. And the President said during his address to the joint session of Congress that he wanted to make sure that no family would go bankrupt or lose their homes because of high medical expenses. This would guarantee that more and more of us would be in that boat. It's just absolutely ludicrous to think that this would be something that the President would sign.

Keith: You could go bankrupt without seeing the doctor. $13,000 subtracted from an income in the $60,000 range is often make or break for a family with that kind of an income in this kind of America.

WP: Right, it is. Another thing to keep in mind is that people who really can't afford those premiums will get subsidies from taxpayer dollars that will go straight to the insurance companies as well. So they win, win, win and we lose, lose, lose.

My Commentary: This bill is nothing more than a shameless shakedown by Max Baucus and the so-called "bipartisan six" on behalf of their corporate donors. Or, rather, an attempted shakedown. It was mentioned on Countdown that the Senate Democratic leadership is not happy, and that this bill is essentially DOA. And yet, according to the Washington Post, "the legislative dance is just starting". Senator "pull the plug on grandma" promises to "keep working until we get it right". I suppose that means he thinks that the bill isn't generous enough to the Healthcare Insurers?!

SWTD #22


  1. Give me socialism over fuedalism....

    So, where is the socialistic healthcare plan?

  2. This is what happens when you try to act in a bipartisan manner with assholes WD.

    The Republicans will not vote for anything Obama wants. They have shown this time and again. The Republicans on the committee that drew up this giant roll of toilet paper are against it.

    When will the Democrats learn to just do what needs to be done and to hell with these obstructionist clowns?


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