Baucus Unveils Health Care Plan Without Public Option

September 7, 2009 4:56 a.m.

After months of frustrating deliberations, and a threat from the White House that President Obama would write his own legislation, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus has finally circulated a draft of a health care bill–one that does not create a public option, but allows for the creation of health care co-operatives.

According to the New York Times, Baucus’ plan is calculated to win the support of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME). But Snowe supports a public option affixed to a so-called “trigger mechanism,” raising questions about why this plan doesn’t at least propose something along those lines.One potential answer is that this legislation–if it passes the Finance Committee–will have to be reconciled with Senate HELP committee legislation, which does include a public option. And it can be argued, perhaps, that the half way point between a public option and no public option is a triggered public option.

The Baucus plan also includes weaker subsidies than the HELP committee proposed, raising some concern that, if enacted, it would require uninsured people of modest means to spend a significant percentage of their income on expensive private insurance.

Late update: Just a few more details on Baucus’ plan. It is expected to cost somewhere in the vicinity of $850 and $900 billion, to be paid for with efficiencies wrung from Medicare and Medicaid, along with a tax on insurance companies aimed at their high-end health care policies.

According to the Times, “[t]he hope is that employers would buy cheaper, less generous coverage for employees, thereby reducing the overuse of medical services.”

It would also provide some protection for people with incomes from 300 percent to 400 percent of the poverty level (up to $88,200 for a family of four), so they would generally not have to pay more than 13 percent of their income in premiums….

To compare health plans, experts often focus on the percentage of medical expenses paid by insurance, on average, for a given population. This figure ranges from 70 percent to 95 percent under the House bill’s options, but it would be less than 70 percent under Mr. Baucus’s proposal.

Thirteen percent of $88,200 is just a hair under $11,500 a year–a ceiling of sorts on the vulnerability of the 2.7 million uninsured people, between 300 and 400 percent of the poverty line, who would be mandated to buy private health care with no subsidies.

Later update: An earlier version of this post reported that the Baucus plan would create neither a public option nor private health care co-ops, but, according to CNN, it would allow for the creation of private health care co-ops.

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