Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Why the Baucus Bill Sucks

Let's say you go to the movies with your family. You want to see the new Sam Raimi horror-comedy, your older artsy brother wants to see a documentary about the exploitation of the natives of Papua New Guinea, and your little sister wants to see some faux-Pixar animated film. None of you can stomach each other's tastes, and all the movies start at different times, so no compromise seems possible—until your mom steps in and declares you're all going to see a romantic comedy starring Jennifer Aniston. You all hate the film, of course, since it has Jennifer Aniston in it, but at least you all hate it equally.

Does that situation sound awful? It sure does, but that's exactly what happened last week with health care reform: Senate Finance Committee Chairman (that title means he is extremely powerful, for some reason) Max Baucus introduced the Jennifer Aniston of bills—hated by nearly everyone, but because all the alternatives are hated even more by segments of the population, it's impossible to get rid of.

The Baucus bill is extremely complicated and I don't pretend to understand all of it. But basically, the idea is to create “co-ops,” which would be like private health insurance companies but a little different; fine people who don't have health insurance; and subsidize poor people who don't have health insurance. The government wouldn't be in charge of insuring people, but it would still cost 800 billion dollars somehow. And illegal aliens wouldn't be able to get health insurance (but aren't almost all of them uninsured anyway?).

Maybe that doesn't sound so bad to you, but if you take this bill apart, the more reasons you have to hate it. If Baucus had introduced the Mandatory Heroin Use Act of 2009, at least heroin addicts would support it; under this bill, they'd be fined for not having insurance.

Here's why you should hate this bill:

If you're a liberal, you were holding out for a public option or a full-blown government health insurance takeover (and a pony, while you're dreaming). This ain't that. You're saying, “This is the best those motherfuckering Democrats could do with the White House and Congress? That's not change, that's more of the same!”

If you're a Republican, you hate that this bill costs a lot of money. To break down Republican opposition further, there are four three camps:

1.Libertarian: “I want to get rid of Medicare and Medicaid, so double-fuck this! I'm going to go smoke some weed and fire my guns at some cans!”
2.Fiscal Conservative: “We shouldn't be spending this much money during a recession, plus I probably already have health insurance so I don't really care about insurance reform.”
3.Racist: “This will give my money to those lazy--”
3.Career politician: “Any bill that gets passed looks like a victory for Obama, so we're just going to vote down anything that comes up.

If you're a policy nerd, you are probably concerned about something in the bill that will make it cheaper for employers to get rid of health insurance altogether, destroying the current health care system.

If you are concerned about the influenced of business on politics, you won't like that this bill seems to complete a deal made between the health industry, the White House, and Congress.

Oh yeah, and Obama should hate this bill too, since it contradicts his goals by scrapping the employer-insurance system (see above) and basically screwing the middle class.

Even Baucus's fellow Senate Democrats have a variety of problems with this bill.

And even Baucus shouldn't like this bill too much, as there's evidence that all this hemming and hawing about health care reform is killing his poll numbers (and numbers of other senators). 50 percent for an incumbent senator who runs an important committee is about as bad as it gets, unless you got some woman pregnant and lied about it.

Whoops, one more: speaking of committees, who hates this bill the most? That's right, Baucus's own Finance Committee, who submitted 534 amendments to the bill. Yeah, 534—more than a 16-year-old boy masturbates in an entire week. Basically, Republicans on the committee wanted to do add some vague language in order to take shots at the idea of government health care (and ACORN, while they were at it), and Democrats wanted the bill to turn into the public option. So I guess only God and whatever talk show hosts have His home number know what's actually going to happen with this bill.

And I guess I should add that as an uninsured American, I hate this bill too. So I'm forced to get health insurance, which will involve a lot of choices and paperwork that I won't be able to understand? I don't even know how these mystical “co-ops” or “marketplaces” will function. I guess I'm around the poverty line, so I'll get some subsidies, but I'd rather just have the straight cash as long as the government is committed to giving me money anyway. (If insurance is so great, by the way, shouldn't not having it be punishment enough?)

Does anyone have a reason to enjoy the Baucus Bill? Well, there's only two groups that I know of. First, headline writers, who picked up a free alliteration opportunity (“Baucus Bill Bombs” is the low-hanging fruit here, and some people went for it). Secondly, Native Americans probably aren't too pissed, because they won't have to pay a fine for being uninsured, thanks to their own tribal (underfunded) insurance system. So that's the upside here: Max Baucus did not oppress Native Americans any further by introducing his terrible, terrible bill. And this bill won't directly lead to another Jennifer Aniston movie so I guess that counts as an upside.

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