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Scoring Wyden's modified 'Free Choice' amendments

Jon Cohn reports that Ron Wyden has gotten a CBO score (pdf) for a heavily modified -- and compromised -- version of his Free Choice Act. The amendment would no longer open the exchanges to everyone. Now, it would simply open them to people whose employer-based coverage would cost 8 to 10 percent of their income. These folks would get a voucher for part of the cost of coverage from their employer, and they'd also be eligible for the exchange's subsidies if they qualified.

According to the CBO, the new amendment would help one million people and cost about $5 billion (because they could use the subsidies on the exchange). By the standards of this bill, that's a lot of people being helped for very little money. Meanwhile, 10 Senate Democrats -- including Evan Bayh, Bill Nelson, Barbara Boxer and Bernie Sanders -- have signed a letter to Harry Reid supporting Wyden's “Free Choice” proposal, although the letter is purposefully vague on which version it's advocating.

By Ezra Klein  |  October 30, 2009; 5:38 PM ET
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This proposal is preposterous. How many employees feel secure enough about their jobs that they'd be comfortable demanding a voucher?

This is not just what I think. The Chamber of Commerce admitted that these employees would be at high risk of being fired.

The history of this legislation shows that whenever real reformers agree to compromise, they end up getting screwed. Better to just vote NO.

Posted by: bmull | October 30, 2009 7:22 PM | Report abuse

We're playing for inches, here, boys and girls.

We're in shameful need of comprehensive overhaul, and, once this bill passes, we're still going to be in shameful need of comprehensive overhaul, but a decade away from being able to talk about it.

This is a national disaster unfolding in slow motion and all that may be said about it is that it's better than nothing.

Posted by: adamiani | October 30, 2009 7:37 PM | Report abuse

I prefer Wyden's original Free Choice Amendment. I hope that he sends the original to the floor as well.

Posted by: maritza1 | October 30, 2009 9:10 PM | Report abuse

This is the first time that a legislative event of this magnitude has been subjected to the detailed scrutiny that the internet allows and brought to the attention of so many people.

For me, it's been a revelation - a horrible, disheartening, heart-breaking revelation. This country is rotten to its very core with foul, festering pestilent corruption. The members of the US Senate are the moral equivalents of rapists and contract killers.

It's always been this bad - and worse - but to see it unfolding every day in such lurid detail is really sickening.

Posted by: akmakm | October 31, 2009 7:37 AM | Report abuse

I kind of fail to understand the Hoopla here. Both the original version of the House Bill (HR3200) and the new version (HR3962) already have opt-out provisions with employer subsidy for employees to purchase insurance through the Exchange, including the PO. It is not exactly presented in that straightforward way, you have to piece together the language but it is there. To me it seems like the Wyden Bill is a solution in search of a problem. It doesn't seem to be crafted to respond to the HELP Bill which doesn't have 'Exchanges' (instead it has state based 'gateways' which operate on a slightly different principle), instead it seems oriented against what he thought would emerge from SFC and then get to the floor.

I would urge people to take a closer look at HR3962 and see to what degree it, and indeed its predecessor already took care of the problem the Free Choice Act is addressing. Most of the generalizations I see floating around about how horrible current proposals are, how half-hearted, how garbagey, how whatever metaphor people like seem oddly disconnected from the nuts and bolts of the bill language of at least the House version. Or maybe someone can tell me what I am missing with the following:

Posted by: BruceWebb | October 31, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

It's a bit demoralizing to see even an initiative as bold as Ron Wyden's reduced to a prop. Let's admit it: a meaningful public option -- the sort that a Dem like Harry Truman could get exited about -- was purged before the current debate began. A long time will pass before it's resurrected. A wink-and-nod public option of the sort being currently debated, destined to fail, will only serve to handicap a genuine public option the next time around -- the next time the stars align and we see a Democratic "unity" government. And when that day comes... just maybe... if the Dems hold SEVENTY seats in the Senate...

Posted by: Don32 | November 1, 2009 4:48 PM | Report abuse

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