“We need to come together towards the middle and this is what the Baucus bill represents,” said the former Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, referring to the bill drafted by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., that the Senate Finance Committee will likely vote on tomorrow. “It represents a compromise that has elements that indeed I think all individuals, Republicans and Democrats can support. That’s what I’m urging.”
What was interesting was that the former HHS Secretary doing the urging is a Republican. Dr. Louis Sullivan, the HHS Secretary for former President George H.W. Bush, told ABC News that while he has some issues with the Baucus bill, it is far preferable to no health care reform passing at all.
“We’re not going to get a perfect answer,” Sullivan said. “There are a number of things (in the legislation) that I would not be enthusiastic about but I am not enthusiastic about the failure to enact health care reform. That would be the worst outcome.”
As the Senate Finance Committee prepares to vote, a new report by health industry lobbyists at America’s Health Insurance Plans, prepared by consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, concludes that health coverage costs for families would increase by 111 percent in the next 10 years under provisions proposed by the Senate Finance Committee. That means costs would jump, on average, to $25,900 for families by 2019, and to $9,700 for individuals.
But some experts say the report is flawed in many ways, pointing out that it does not take into account federal subsidies for lower-income families to help them pay for coverage. The report itself acknowledges that it doesn’t account for the advantages the legislation hopes to achieve from an excise tax imposed on employers who offer high-cost insurance plans, saying that although “we expect employers to respond to the tax by restructuring their benefits to avoid it,” the report does not factor in those hypothetical responses.
The White House assailed the report as inaccurate and biased.
“This is a self-serving report paid for by opponents of health reform and was prepared by a firm that specializes in tax shelters,” said Linda Douglas, spokeswoman for the White House Office of Health Care Reform. “It ignores all cost savings in the bill, such as tax credits, and ignores the conclusion of nonpartisan government analysts, who found that it will cover 94 percent of Americans and help to reduce the deficit.”
The bipartisan Congressional Budget Office last week gave the committee’s bill something of a green light, saying that the legislation, devised mainly by Chairman Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., would cover 29 million uninsured Americans, ultimately achieving 94 percent coverage and costing a total of $829 billion over 10 years. President Barack Obama had set $900 billion as the acceptable threshold for health care legislation costs.
“This report is untrue, disingenuous and bought and paid for by the same health insurance companies that have been gouging too many consumers for too long as they stand in the way of reform yet again,” said the spokesman for the Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee, Scott Mulhauser. “Now that health care reform grows ever closer, these health insurers are breaking out the same, tired playbook of deception to prevent millions of Americans from getting the affordable, accessible care they need. This report is pitching some seriously flawed analysis that nobody’s buying as it excludes all the provisions that will actually lower the cost of coverage – tax credits, grandfathering for existing policies, increased enrollment in private coverage and administrative savings from a more efficient mechanism for purchasing coverage. It’s a health insurance company hatchet job, plain and simple.”
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