What happened to Max Baucus?
Today, he's the biggest thing standing between us and a public option, but on November 12, 2008 he released a 35,000-word, 98-page health care proposal that included a public option.
Quoting from the Baucus proposal (pp. 26 and 27):
The Baucus plan envisions that the Health Insurance Exchange would offer a new opportunity for individuals and small businesses to easily compare private coverage options and a public plan and to purchase the policy that would work best for them.
The Exchange would also include a new public plan option, similar to Medicare. This option would abide by the same rules as private insurance plans participating in the Exchange (e.g., offer the same levels of benefits and set the premiums the same way). Rates paid to health care providers by this option would be determined by balancing the goals of increasing competition and ensuring access for patients to high-quality health care. A number of options could be considered to determine who runs the plan, who is eligible for it, and how to ensure that the public-private insurance competition lowers costs and improves quality. The Independent Health Coverage Council, described below, would inform these decisions.
Federal funds would be needed to start up the Exchange, but it would be self-sustaining within a few years.
The Baucus plan also contained a provision which would have allowed Americans to purchase Medicare if they were between the ages of 55 and 64 and didn't have access to the Exchange.
So less than twelve months ago Max Baucus was promoting the idea of a public plan option within a national Health Insurance Exchange.
Today, his committee is the only thing slowing it down.
What gives? Who got to Max Baucus?
There's a story here, and it's probably very interesting.