Friday, October 16, 2009

Baucus Health Care - Bad for America:

The Senate Finance Committee voted out the “Baucus Plan” for universal health care on October 13, and the Democratic Leadership in the Senate is now writing a bill which combines the Baucus Plan and a bill reported by the HELP Committee, which they plan to bring to the Senate floor as soon as they can overcome procedural hurdles that will surely be raised by Republicans. There is much to dislike in the Baucus Plan, some of which has been widely discussed.

ACTION: We urge you to contact your Senators and tell them that the Baucus plan is not an acceptable way of reforming healthcare for the reasons outlined below, and to join any of the public rallies & bus tours in your area.

ISSUE-IN-BRIEF: There is much more to dislike in the Baucus Plan than the most obvious. Here are a few:

1. No Bill and no Transparency. The Baucus “Bill” is no bill at all but a 300 page outline and summary of what a bill would look like. The actual bill will contain over 1000 pages and is yet to be written. Democrats have voted down an amendment to make it available for 72 hours before a vote, so when it is brought to the Senate Floor for a vote, no Senator will have read it.

2. Higher spending. The Baucus “summary” is a big spending bill rather than health care legislation. The cost has been estimated at $829 billion over ten years (and will surely go much higher), and the legislation would raise taxes on everybody, including the middle class. Plus the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) also says that the takeover would still leave 25 million people uninsured.

3. Higher Taxes. The Baucus summary includes at least $327 billion in new taxes -- a tax on high-cost insurance plans ($210 billion), penalties for not having insurance ($27 billion), and "indirect offsets" (whatever they are -- $83 billion). In addition, state taxes will surely rise as costs are fobbed off on state governments in the form of more Medicaid spending.

4. Higher Health Insurance Premiums. According to an independent study done by an actuary and the Council for Affordable Health Insurance: Health insurance rates will almost double for most American families who buy their own policies if Congress passes universal coverage, guaranteed issue and modified community rating! These are all main features in both versions of the Senate bill. On top of this families will be fined $759--$1500 if they do not buy insurance, even if they cannot afford it.

5. Hidden Employer Mandate. The Baucus summary includes an employer mandate -- watered-down, but still there. There is no specific requirement for employers to provide insurance, but any employer who fails to do so would have to pay the cost of all subsidies that the government provides his or her workers to help them pay for insurance on their own, up to $400 per worker. Since it will ultimately be the employee who pays the cost of the mandate, through reduced compensation or reduced employment, the government will be giving the worker a subsidy with one hand and taking it back with the other.

6. Tax Dollars for Abortion. Current federal law protects American taxpayers from paying for abortions as part of the health benefits given to federal employees—not one of the insurance plans offered includes abortion coverage. To maintain the “status quo” on abortion any health-care bill would have to explicitly prevent federal dollars from being used for elective abortions. Provisions that would have done that were defeated by all five committees that have handled health-care reform bills this year.
7. Big Cuts in Medicare Advantage. The Baucus summary cuts payments to the Medicare Advantage program. In response, many insurers may stop participating in the program while others could increase the premiums they charge seniors. Millions of seniors (the bulk will be lower income elderly and minorities) will be forced off their current plan and back into traditional Medicare.

8. No More Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). The bills that each committee has approved in the Senate and House would eliminate HSAs as an affordable health insurance option for Americans. The government would determine what each health insurance plan looks like, and after all the requirements, mandates, and regulations, the high deductible health plans that accompany tax-free HSAs would not qualify as an acceptable health insurance product.

9. Invades Patients’ Privacy. The Baucus summary would eliminate patients’ rights to health privacy and a patient’s right to control sensitive health information in electronic systems. Every American would be required to have an electronic health record by 2014 and all electronic health records will be data mined without legal and ethical informed consent.

10. Ignores Tort Reform. Despite the fact that medical malpractice litigation adds billions of dollars to healthcare bills and results in billions (some estimate as much as $100 billion) being spent on defensive medicine, the Baucus summary makes no attempt to fix this curse on our system.

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