Health

Senate Finance Committee Bill Lacks Public Option And Employer Mandate

The Senate Finance Committee may be closer to a deal on health care reform legislation. According to the New York Times, three Democrats and three Republicans have crafted an agreement that replaces the employer mandate with a free rider provision, establishes a cooperative in place of the public option, and partly funds reform by taxing ‘Cadillac’ health care benefits.

While Senate officials are stressing that “no agreement has been reached on a bipartisan measure, and…there is no guarantee of one, with numerous key issues remaining to be settled,” Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) who is part of the negotiations, confirmed that Senators are moving away from a “broad based mandate” and explained that “it is safe to say it [a non profit cooperative] is probably one that will remain in the final document.”

Last night, during an appearance on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, former Gov. Howard Dean (D-VT) criticized the “so-called compromise” for not going far enough to reform the health care system:

You know, this is going to be a hell of an issue in 2010 cause honestly, what’s the point of having a 60 vote majority in the United States Senate, if you can’t produce…health care reform. You can get health insurance reform. This bill is going to cost us a lot of money and it isn’t going to do anything, if this so-called compromise is true. This compromise does nothing, except it will reform insurance. That’s a good thing to do, but they ought to strip the money out of it cause we reformed insurance like this in Vermont 15 years ago. It’s a fine thing to do, but it doesn’t insure more people

Watch it:

The compromise has changed little from June, when the Washington Posts’ Ezra Klein first leaked details of the emerging proposal. That draft replaced the public option with Conrad’s co-op compromise, offered subsidies to Americans making up to 300 percent of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL), expanded Medicaid to children and pregnant women up to 133% of FPL ($28,200 for a family of four) and parents and childless adults up to 100% of FPL ($10,800 per year), and also included the free-rider provision.

Unlike the employer-mandate, which requires all large employers to offer coverage or pay a fee, the free-rider provision only targets employers whose workforce is eligible for subsidized coverage in the Exchange or through Medicaid. Under the provision, employers who drop coverage for employees would “have to cover the cost of any government subsidy their employees would qualify for under reform.”

Most progressives will likely be disappointed, but as Jonathan Cohn points out, “I’m not sure it makes sense to kick and scream about all of this right now. Getting a bill out of Finance, any bill, will move things along. There’s always the Senate floor–where the Finance bill must be merged with the bill from Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee–and then conference committee.” In other words, this “deal” isn’t at all surprising, and it’s by no means the final word on health care reform.

Transcript:

MADDOW: We’ve heard a lot of reports along the way about what’s going to be in the bill and not going to be in this bill. What’s your take on this latest news?

DEAN: Well that’s all very nice. I’m glad they’re bipartisan, but that’s not health insurance reform. That is insurance reform, but it’s not health reform. It’s not going… what it will do, I assume there is guaranteed issue and so forth in there, and if that’s true, if the guaranteed issues in there and community rating, then its insurance reform. It’s not going to do anything to curb expenses. It’s not going to change the health care system. It’s not going to insure anybody extra. That’s what I call the fake public option. And it’s a shame really because the Democrats are going to end up being responsible for killing this bill. If we stick together, like the Republicans are, then we can get this passed. But, unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

MADDOW: I feel like its not surprising to see the industry, the people who profit from the system being the way it is now, trying to stop anybody from changing the system. It’s working great for the insurance companies right now. But, how do they get politicians, Democrat or Republican, to make that case for them. Is there an ideological fit here or is it just campaign contributions or what is it?

DEAN: It’s just about money. It’s about money. When you have 72% of the American people thinking that they should have the choice instead of Congress, this is about money and they love… the health insurance industry gives out a lot of money. You know, this is going to be a hell of an issue in 2010 cause honestly, what’s the point of having a 60 vote majority in the United States Senate, if you can’t produce health insurance reform out of it? I don’t… excuse me health care reform. You can get health insurance reform. This bill is going to cost us a lot of money and it isn’t going to do anything, if this so-called compromise is true. This compromise does nothing, except it will reform insurance. That’s a good thing to do, but they ought to strip the money out of it cause we reformed insurance like this in Vermont 15 years ago. It’s a fine thing to do, but it doesn’t insure more people.

MADDOW: If the problem is…

DEAN: It does make it fair. It’s not worthless because it makes it fair, but it’s not health care reform and nobody should pretend that it is.

MADDOW: As you said, the Republicans, as you implied, the Republicans are very unified on this. And it seems to me like their strategy is that they don’t want anything to change. And as you point out, it’s not just a Democratic Republican divide. There is also a divide within the Democratic Party and you can trace that divide down to where the insurance industries influence is. SO what can happen within the Democratic party to hold the Democrats together. To make the conservative democrats and those allied with the insurance industry, do the right thing?

DEAN: Well, some conservative Democrats are doing the right thing. I don’t mind the Blue Dogs holding the feet to the fire on issues like fiscal responsibility. I think that’s good. What’s bad is coming out against the public option cause that’s what their constituents want. This is,again, not a conservative liberal divide. The constituents want a choice. They are tired of politicians telling them what to do. They are frankly tired of insurance companies having bureaucrats their own doctors what to do, which is what is happening now. The Republicans are completely bankrupt on the issue. Half the things they say are just not true and made up by spin doctors. So the question is , will the Democrats reform health care or will they not reform health care? The House did a great job. The Health, Education, Labor and Pension committee did a great job. The Senate Finance committee is really in trouble. And, if this is true about this so-called compromise, I really, I fear for the future of health care reform cause that’s not health care reform.