Thursday, September 17, 2009

Baucus Plan - Malice in Wonderland

Today Max Baucus (D-Montana), Montana senator, and leader of the Senate Finance Committee’s Gang of Six, three Democrat and three Republican senators ,who have spent months laboring to craft a bipartisan health reform bill, released the final version of his bill.

The bill’s contents drew immediate negative responses – from Democratic Senators Jay Rockefeller and Ron Wyden and Dr. Howard Dean, head of the Democratic Party. Nary a Republicans signed on . There was a collective sense that this thing was DOA and this pig wasn’t going to fly, especially among fervid liberals and fuming conservatives. Doom and gloom prevailed on both sides of the aisle.

This response caused me to wonder and to recall two verses from Alice in Wonderland.

“When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.' 'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.' 'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master - that's all.”

"The time has come," the Walrus said, "To talk of many things; Of shoes - and ships - and sealing-wax - Of cabbages - and kings - And why the sea is boiling hot - And whether pigs have wings."

The question here is, who is going to be the master - Obama, Democratic liberals, or the Republican opposition?

President Obama has staked his domestic reputation on the success of health reform. He wants to be master of health reform. Many say the Baucus plan achieves Obama’s overall objectives - extending coverage, affordable care, and a major overhaul to achieve “fairness” under government rules and regulations. Obama wants the plan to be “bipartisan,” which I interpret to mean he wants to get one or more Republicans to sign on. Olympia Snowe of Maine is everybody’s token candidate for Republican sacrificial lamb for the Democratic cause.

Republicans, meanwhile, are hoping Obama has met his political Waterloo, has aroused the anti-socialist grassroots, will end his first year in office empty-handed on the health care issue, and will be set-up for defeat in the November 2010 off-year elections.

What Baucus has done, it seems to me, is to throw a lot of proposals on the wall to see what sticks. Baucus is betting the collection of deals Obama has engineered with health plans, hospitals, drug makers, medical device manufacturers, the AMA, unions, business and the “Harry and Louise’ crowd have enough concessions and new protections to keep the “special interests” at bay. At the heart of these deals is the bet that 30 million new customers from the uninsured ranks will bring enough new business to offset news fees of $93 billion to be inposed on these industries.

As the Walrus said, “The time has come to talk of many things, of tax credits for small businesses; prohibiting denial of coverage for pre-existing illnesses; allowing premiums to vary with tobacco use, age, gender; establishing of competition via health exchanges; catastrophic coverage for young adults; individual mandates; business mandates for those with 50 or more employees; limits on HSAs and other flexible savings accounts; and annual fees on profit-making health industries to help fund the whole kit and caboodle.

It’s enough to boggle the mind , goggle the media, toggle the political switches, and boondoggle the health system.

No comments: