Friday, September 25, 2009

The Public Option Amendments

Max Baucus seems to have just now pushed the debate and vote on public option amendments back to next Tuesday.

Here are the amendments:

-- First, the amendment of the honorable and physically attractive Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, which would place the strong public option from the bill passed by the House of Representatives into the Baucus Bill. This would be the amendment which would most directly and drastically reduce the costs of health care in America. Where amendments are involved, it is the Cadillac made of syrup-kissed, fluffy, golden pancakes -- but because it entitles the public option to negotiate for lower costs, it runs into opposition from those most directly funded by the insurance industry, namely Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, and Max Baucus, as well as those who believe in an unrestricted free market, which is some Republicans, and those who want reform to fail, which is the rest of them.

-- The other two are weaker public options without the ability for the government-run insurance company to use legal structures to dictate cost -- this means that it would essentially be a very large not-for-profit insurance company that would compete with private insurers on a 'level playing field'. This would still likely cut costs -- since the government's level playing field wouldn't include 30% overhead, corporate profits, or CEO overpayment -- but not quite so much. One is modeled on the Senate HELP bill and is offered by Senator Cantwell, the other by Senator Schumer and would only provide start-up costs for a government insurance co-op, which would then have to be self-sufficient.

Since the Republicans, even Olympia Snowe, are likely to be 'no on all counts', here are the critical votes according to Open Left: Baucus, Carper (Delaware), Conrad (North Dakota), Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, and Nelson (Florida). Blanche Lincoln increasingly looks bought-and-paid-for -- Baucus might vote no on amendments just to preserve his original bill, if he thinks it has the best chance of passing the whole vote -- Carper has claimed he'll vote no on anything but a trigger. Of those five, however, the public option needs four, which is long odds.

Keep in mind that if a public option passes here, it's in the bill -- if it fails, then something could still happen when the House bill and whatever the Senate passes eventually meet.

If you live in one of the states listed above, this is a good time for direct pressure -- more in the phone call/fax line than letters, of course. If you aren't represented by one of these committee members, maybe you'd be better off taking a walk outside and meditating on the fact that we are all just sentient meat.

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