President Obama is set to give an address on health care to a joint session of Congress tonight, but in the blogosphere, the day-time spotlight is on Sen. Max Baucus, the Finance Committee Chairman from Montana.
Sources obtained copies of an overhaul bill framework that Baucus distributed to his bipartisan “gang of six” negotiators yesterday. The framework would establish health insurance exchanges in 2010, require health plans to report the amount of money they spend on items other than health care and require insurers to cover pre-existing medical conditions.
The American Spectator’s Philip Klein zeroes in on the proposal for an individual mandate to purchase insurance:
What the Baucus proposal means in real terms is that a family of four with a household income above $66,150 would face a tax of $3,800 if they do not obtain health care, while an individual with income above $32,490 would face a tax of $950.
Heritage’s Stuart Butler thinks a tax on insurers providing plans over a certain dollar amount will be passed onto consumers:
A few liberal Senators attempting to redistribute corporate wealth to fit their idea of “fairness” in reality means more regressive taxes passed down to you the consumer. To understand why think about this. When you buy something that is subject to a sales tax who pays the tax – you or the vendor? If you need a clue just look at the line “sales tax” on your bill. And if you tax insurance companies the cost is passed through in the same way. Under the proposal, the regressive tax would simply be attached to the costs of more expensive health care plans.
The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein is cheered by the framework (“much that’s in Baucus’s plan is encouraging”), but points to some shortcomings:
To put it more starkly, it really will be the most important progressive policy passed since Lyndon Johnson. The subsidies should probably sit at 400 percent of poverty, and the employer mandate should be reworked, but such failures are relatively easy to fix, and may well be patched over by the time the legislation arrives on the Senate floor. The fact that a bill of this size and scope can still be considered disappointing is evidence that the doors of the possible have been thrown wide open.
The main disappointment is that insofar as you see the bill as a vehicle for moving us towards a better, more efficient, less costly system, there are some problems.
And Wonk Room’s Igor Volsky drew up a table comparing the framework to the Senate HELP Committee’s and the House Tri-Committee’s bills.
National Journal’s Marilyn Werber-Serafini queries her experts: “What is the best thing Obama could say in his speech to Congress Wednesday night to improve chances for health reform legislation this year?” Responders include John Goodman, Uwe Reinhardt, Nancy Brown of the Heart Association and Donna Shalala.
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich on The Health Care Blog says Obama needs to give lawmakers “far more leadership and more cover” in his address tonight: “Obama can’t rely solely on his exceptional rhetorical skills. He’ll need to twist arms, cajole, force recalcitrant members to join him, threaten retribution if they don’t come along.”
Chris Jennings and Mark McClellan take to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Health Reform Galaxy to encourage bipartisanship.
And Jaan Sidorov of the Disease Management Care Blog takes a page from Obama’s and “humbly offers up a similar text that the President can use to record a speech that can be televised to persons sitting in physician waiting rooms.”