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Friday, May 22, 2009

Senators Udall and Bingaman Sign On to Demand Public Option in Health Care Reform; What Will Baucus Do?

This is certainly excellent news. According to a story on Politico, Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall have both signed on as cosponsors of a resolution introduced by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) demanding that any health care reform bill include a public insurance option. A total of 25 other Senators are also cosponsoring the bill.

The “sense of the Senate” resolution is the latest effort by a bloc of Democratic senators to influence the closed-door negotiations of the Finance Committee, where the bulk of the bill is being written. The group wrote a letter last month to Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Health Committee Chairman Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), calling the public option essential to reform.

Max Baucus, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, claimed yesterday that he thinks a public option will be included:

“I do suspect that a version will be there,” Baucus said. “Now, by saying that, I don’t want to frighten people, particularly on the industry side. … All I’m saying is, there are ways to skin a cat. There are ways to find a solution.”

Notice Senator Baucus doesn't seem concerned that the lack of a genuine and serious public option might "frighten" ordinary Americans. Instead he blurts out reassuring words to the "industry side" suggesting, in my view, that any public option will be devised in a manner that won't compete effectively with private sector insurers. Not to worry, health care industry profit vultures, we'll be watering down anything that might "scare" you!

This is even more distressing:

The debate, though, centers on exactly how to construct a public plan. Some members of the Finance Committee have been giving consideration to a “fallback” plan, which would trigger a public insurance option if private competition proves inadequate in a geographic region.

Right. Now I wonder who would decide whether private "competition" is "inadequate." Anything to weasel out of a public option that would push prices down on the private side.

Baucus and the Health Care Profiteers
I cringed when I heard that Baucus would be one of the main honchos shaping health care reform. I'm still cringing. As Open Secrets reports:

Campaigns Donors: Despite having no serious opponent in the 2008 election cycle, Baucus raised $11.6 million for his campaign, nearly twice the amount ($6.7 million) he raised for his previous re-election bid in which he faced a challenger with some real financial clout. Most of Baucus's top 10 contributors have remained the same since the 2002 election--predominantly health and finance-related industries--but nearly all ramped up their contributions this cycle, in the midst of an economic crisis and in preparation for impending health care reform. [emphasis mine] Absent a threat to his elected office, Baucus's surge in contributions is most likely a reflection of his rise to chair of the Finance Committee, a position that many industries will need to push in order to see their desired policy changes implemented.

Since 1989, Baucus's top donors have been American International Group (AIG), Goldman Sachs and New York Life Insurance--in the 2008 election cycle alone, these companies' employees and PACs contributed $148,550 to his campaign chest. After law firms, securities and investment companies and insurance companies, the most generous industries to Baucus's campaigns have been health professionals and pharmaceuticals. The health sector has given Baucus at least $2.8 million during his career, [emphasis mine] more than any other sector with the exception of finance, insurance and real estate companies, which have given him $4.6 million.

You can read more about the ties of Senator Baucus and other members of the Senate Finance Committee to corporate health industry profiteers on the Physicians for a National Health Program website. Example:

In 2008 the full [Senate Finance] committee received a total of $13,263,986 from industries affected by health care reform. Can we trust this committee to put the interests of the people before their donors?

Excellent question.

If you haven't yet done so, please sign the petition at StandingWithDrDean.com demanding that Congress include an effective public option in any health care reform bill. It's also important to call your Senators and tell them any "trigger" provision to justify a public option is unacceptable. Senate Switchboard -- (202) 224-3121. Report your call.

May 22, 2009 at 03:25 PM in Healthcare, NM Congressional Delegation, Sen. Tom Udall, Social Security | Permalink


"Most of Baucus's top 10 contributors have remained the same since the 2002 election--predominantly health and finance-related industries..."

Wish they would name the names!

Posted by: Ellen Wedum | May 22, 2009 9:34:39 PM

Ellen: Click through to the report via the link before the quote to get that info. I've also now put links in the quote you can click.

Posted by: barb | May 23, 2009 8:21:52 AM

The only Western Country with Health Care for -PROFIT-, think about that.

Posted by: VP | May 23, 2009 8:26:33 AM

The reform effort should be led by a committee connected to health care. What a cynical choice to allow Baucus and Finance to run the show. I have a bad feeling about this unless we keep pressuring Congress. We can't let fake reform happen!

Posted by: Health care worker | May 23, 2009 2:31:38 PM

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