Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Baucus Accepts Numerous Republican And Democratic Amendments, Brings Cost Of Bill To $900 Billion

The Wonk Room has done a good job explaining many of the more important modifications made to the Baucus bill.

Sen Max Baucus (D-MT) has just released a Chairman’s amendment to his mark. The new amendment enhances the bill’s affordability measures and increases the threshold on so-called Cadillac health care plans for ‘high-risk’ Americans. The modified amendment also preserves a subsidy to certain Medicare Advantage plans.

Read more at the Wonk Room

Firedog Lake list improvements to the Baucus bill some amendments created:
Better Ombudsman Office Baucus decided to significantly strengthen the new ombudsman office by basically adopting the Bingaman amendment I discussed the other day. Originally the consumer would need to fully exhaust all internal appeals before being able to seek help from the ombudsman's office. Now, if the appeals last longer than three months, they can get professional help from the ombudsman's office. Access to the ombudsman's services still needs to be improved, but this is a step in the right directions.

No Multiple Exchanges The bill would no longer allow states to create multiple exchanges. Originally, states could allow “other entities” to operate multiple exchanges in the state. This was a bad provision that would not only dilute the bargaining power of individuals using the exchanges, but could easily have become a way for insurance companies to game the system.

National Plans Restricted Baucus's bill would have allowed insurance companies to sell “national plans,” which would be exempt from state benefit mandates. This has been a long time goal of the health insurance industry, and would have effectively gutted most states' insurance regulations. Fortunately, this provision has be changed to allow individual states to opt-out of allowing national plans to be sold in their state. States with very good benefit mandates can now at least prevent their state from being flooded with lower quality “national plans.”

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