Wednesday, September 16, 2009

“The Baucus framework is just an absolute joke,”

So, who said that? Pelosi? Ezra Klein? digby? Nope!

It was Wendell Potter. And who's Potter? Well, let's see:
Wendell Potter, the former Cigna executive-turned-whistleblower, told a small group of reporters Monday that the Baucus health care plan is an “absolute gift” to the industry.

“The Baucus framework is just an absolute joke,” said Potter, Cigna’s former head of corporate communications who has been speaking out against insurance industry practices. “It is an absolute gift to the industry. And if that is what we see in the legislation, (America’s Health Insurance Plans chief) Karen Ignagni will surely get a huge bonus.”

Potter said the proposal would not provide affordable coverage. It gives the industry too much latitude to charge higher premiums based on age and geographic location, fails to mandate employer coverage, and pushes consumers into plans with limited benefits, Potter said.

Private insurers “want to have ‘benefit design flexibility.’ Those are three very worrisome words,” Potter said at a briefing arranged by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. “By being able to have benefit design flexibility, they will be able to design plans that are so limited that more and more people will be in the ranks of the uninsured.”

Several Senate Finance Committee Democrats have raised similar concerns, saying the health care overhaul could mandate Americans to buy coverage that isn’t affordable and doesn’t offer adequate coverage.

This issue has dominated behind-the-scenes discussions, and several members pledged Monday night to address it with amendments in the Finance Committee markup next week.

"It's very clear, at this point in the debate, the flashpoint is all about affordability,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). “I personally think there’s a lot of heavy lifting left to do on the affordability issue.”

Finance Chairman Max Baucus said the bipartisan group was "doing our very best to make an insurance requirement as affordable as we possibly can, recognizing that we’re trying to get this bill under $900 billion total.”
Well, hey, let's hope it works!

I bolded that early section, because it shows the path that America's headed down if Baucus' courtesy-of-WellPoint plan becomes law. We always knew it was going to be bad. We always knew it was going to be a terrible bill. We always knew it was going to be a gift to the health insurance industry whose manifold failures led to this debate in the first place.

But, you have to admit, none of us were expecting a former health insurance exec to call them out on it!

Never mind the Senate, I'm wondering if Baucus even has the committee votes for this. Rockefeller is out, Schumer wants a public option in reconciliation, and the Republicans are all probably going to bail out, including Snowe. That doesn't leave him a lot of latitude, and this new embarrassment is only going to make it tougher.

Not that I'm complaining, mind you. This thing deserves to die in committee. It shouldn't even hit the floor. Harkin's HELP committee is producing the only bill that should see the reconciliation table. Anything that helps that happen is fine with me.

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