Here’s a selection of blogger’s initial reactions to Finance Chairman Max Baucus’ bill, released earlier this afternoon.
The Congressional Budget Office has released their preliminary analysis, and Director Douglas Elmendorf writes, “According to CBO and JCT’s assessment, enacting the Chairman’s proposal would result in a net reduction in federal budget deficits of $49 billion over the 2010–2019 period.” However, this is a discrepancy with numbers released from Baucus — Elmendorf explains: “You may notice that CBO’s letter does not contain a figure of $856 billion, which the committee has described as the gross cost of the Chairman’s proposal. As we understand it, the committee staff arrived at that number by adding up essentially all of the positive numbers in the draft tables we provided them earlier. Thus, their use of a different total figure from ours appears to reflect primarily a different method for aggregating the underlying figures rather than different underlying figures.”
These numbers have The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn bemoaning media headlines. Cohn says, “In fact, one virtue of the Baucus bill–perhaps its chief virtue–is that it won’t create red ink. On the contrary, projections suggest the combination of savings and revenues will pay for every dime of the program, as President Obama likes to put it, and actually start to generate small surpluses by the time the ten-year window is over. It’s also supposed to save money after that period, actually curbing our medical expenditures.”
The New York Times’ Room For Debate solicited reaction from experts. Economists Henry Aaron, Dean Baker, Jacob Hacker (widely recognized as the father of the “public plan”) and Michael Tanner, of the Cato Institute have responded so far.
Heritage’s Stuart Butler goes through the bill’s key provisions and concludes, “This is not the way to achieve bipartisan reform. The president needs instead to lead by meeting with key leaders of both parties and seek bipartisan reform around two key themes. Congress must remove legislative obstacles to states so that they can make reforms to health insurance rules and Medicaid to increase coverage. And it must reform the tax treatment of health care in order to provide tax assistance for Americans who have no tax relief for the coverage they want.”
Wonk Room’s Igor Volksy examines how the bill ended up resolving several controversial questions, including: Does the bill include tort reform? How is a Medicaid expansion financed? Will federal dollars be used for abortions? and Can illegal immigrants receive subsides and what are the verification requirements?
The New Atlantis’ James Capretta focuses on the individual mandate and is concerned about the “burden” it could place on workers offered employer-sponsored coverage: “ The whole point of the so-called “firewall” is to prevent these workers from accessing the additional federal assistance for premiums that are only available for coverage offered in the exchanges. That’s how Senator Baucus and other Democrats jam their $2 trillion schemes into $900 billion sacks. Full-time workers have to have insurance, and they really have no choice but to take what’s offered at work. Period. The Baucus plan says these workers will get a ceiling on their premiums too — set at 13 percent of their income. But where would the rest come from? Not from the federal government.”
Matthew Yglesias of Think Progress declares that Baucus got “nothing” from his negotiations and concludes, “In addition to the substantive concessions Baucus made in order to get nothing, it’s worth noting that Baucus made huge procedural concessions in order to get nothing. If he’d just stuck to the schedule, we would have been at this point in the process at a time when Barack Obama’s approval rating was considerably higher.”
Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey thinks starting over is inevitable — he predicts that Democratic lawmakers will “to go back to the drawing board in both chambers. The longer these versions are on the table, the more unpopular they become.”
And the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein has devoted a number of short posts to different sections of the bill in a generally pessimistic tone.