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Gang of Six Death Watch: Moving Forward

The "Gang of Six" convened yesterday to consider Max Baucus's health reform framework. After the meeting, Baucus released this statement:

“Today’s meeting was productive. We discussed the framework I sent the bipartisan group last weekend -- a framework that was fully paid for and under $900 billion. It reduces the deficit and expands coverage for tens of millions of Americans. I asked my colleagues for specific feedback on the framework so we can move forward. We discussed the framework at length in the meeting and I expect additional feedback tomorrow as well.

Over the next week or so, the Finance Committee will move forward with health reform legislation. We will deliver on our promise to lower costs and ensure Americans have quality, affordable health care. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Committee to make that happen.”

So that's the timetable, then: the next week or so.

By Ezra Klein  |  September 9, 2009; 9:06 AM ET
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Next: What Would Olympia Snowe's Trigger Look Like?


You sound suspicious. Why would that be?

Posted by: simmonslcsw | September 9, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Senator Specter headed back to Washington from Philadelphia and made a pretty strong statement supporting the public option, and encouraged the President not to back away from it. He was seen off at the train station by union folks and others supporting health care reform that includes a public option.

Posted by: bdballard | September 9, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

I appreciate that Baucus probably got the Finance post in part because he probably brought a lot of money to the party coffers from health insurance and pharmaceutical lobbies.

But what are the odds that Baucus loses his chairmanship next election cycle if he bungles this one?

Posted by: JPRS | September 9, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Nobel Prize-winning scholar Jimmy Carter recently remarked that his health care reform efforts were quashed because they were not "up to the standards of perfection" of a certain faction of his own Democratic Party. The health reform proposal of every President, Democrat and Republican alike has met similar rejection from self-proclaimed reform advocates: it is the feigned promise of health care reform that is the campaign rallying cry of a certain faction of the Democratic Party. As long as an unrealized need for health care reform exists, the faction has appeal to its voting base; conversely, as soon as the need for health care reform is satisfied, the faction ceases to have an issue appealing to the voters it desperately wants to impress.

By denying that which the left-wing extremists of the Democratic Party proclaim to want, that left-wing faction gains favor with its voting block: by fully satisfying its feigned pleas for health care reform, it looses power. The goal of the faction is re-election, not sound and sustainable public policy; therefore, there will never be a policy which meets its standards of perfection.

A President would be wise to realize the goal of the long-time opponents of health care reform - the left wing extremists of the Democratic Party - and to attempt to build a coalition, however fragile and however short-lived, which can implement meaningful, sustainable health care policy despite such Democratic obstructionism.

Klein has said we're "going to have to follow through on one of these strategies" and Baucus has said we "will move forward with health reform legislation. We will deliver on our promise", both capturing a useful spirit: forging good public policy regarding health care is an uphill bike ride, not a crowd-pleasing downhill sprint.

Posted by: rmgregory | September 9, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Funny the position supported by 'left-wing extremists' consistently polls with more than two-thirds public support.

Why do Americans hate America this way?

This is not been a downhill sprint, the rushed process the opposition claims it has, Dingell has been working this by introducing legislation every years since 1955, and Kennedy and Waxman and Brown all equally having spent decades on this. Anyone who has read the HELP or Tri-Committee Bills can see that the details were carefully crafted, the staff work that went into them didn't start in March, it started probably decades ago. The claims that this is just a cobbled together piece of legislation that few have read and fewer understand is just a right talking point.

The policy portions of this bill are just not that difficult to understand, nor do they take up that much of the bill language (which is in bulk more devoted to the minutiae of Medicare). Baucus is clearly slow-walking this and Grassley has publicly predicted a "miniscule" bill by Christmas.

The claim that Democrats are obstructionist is silly. The House passed a bill, Senate HELP passed a bill, Baucus himself put out a plan last September called "Call to Action: Health Care 2009" which itself would be a fine place to start a final compromise, But for reasons of his own Max Baucus just decided to say "No".

That is NOT a useful spirit to forge good public policy, at this point arguing that Baucus is operating in good faith is a fools game.

Posted by: BruceWebb | September 9, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

BTW it is my opinion that the stalling point is not the Public Option but the potentially very strict profit controls built into Sec 116 of the House Bill. The wording seems deliberately innocuous but its effect would be to gut the current insurance industry model of making money by denying care. The insurance companies are already publicly gunning for Sec 113 which limits the premium gap you can charge between young and old, but 116 is actually more deadly to them. Watch for Finance to push out a bill against some deadline hoping nobody notices what they did to Secs 111-116 which together are the core of insurance reform.

Posted by: BruceWebb | September 9, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Sec 116: MLRs again

Trust me, insurers are not worried about having to meet an 85% MLR, which most of them did throughout the 1990s by the way.

It's like the problem of having so much money you don't know what to do with it. They'll figure out a way.

Posted by: bmull | September 9, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse


sorry but you're wrong. I've been privy to the communications from insurers about their efforts in reform and everything I've seen has been pro everything else in reform and anti public option. Whether warranted or not (and i believe it is) they truly believe a public option will put them out of business and that once you allow that into the system it can be easily manipulated just like Medicare has been manipulated over the years.

On top of that my state of NJ already has an MLR of 80% required and they not only met that on average this past year they met 85% and the largest insurer, Horizon BCBS representing 50% market share met an 88.2%.

The only thing NJ stands to gain from reform is a necessary individual mandate that even liberal bloggers like Ezra and Paul Krugman agree is a necessity. Once we get that we'll get a bump down in rates. The real change needs to come in reforms to the system that slow down utilization which would be forced upon us with a proposed trigger option.

Posted by: visionbrkr | September 9, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Gang of Sicks, more like it.

Posted by: Lee_A_Arnold | September 9, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

If there isn't a bill to vote on by Sept. 15 Max Baucus is either a stone liar, an incompetent, or a stooge. It doesn't matter which of the three is true, it's time to take away his gavel.

And Kent Conrad isn't covering himself in glory either, although he bought himself a lot of credibility with me for not excluding reconciliation in his initial budget report.

Posted by: jamusco | September 9, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

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