There is a lot to dislike in Max Baucus's version of health care reform, released yesterday. But there's good news, too. Here, experts and columnists provide the five high points of BaucusCare, which are largely financial.
- Short-Term, Budget-Neutral The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn praised its budget neutrality. "One virtue of the Baucus bill--perhaps its chief virtue--is that it won't create red ink," he wrote. "On the contrary, projections suggest the combination of savings and revenues will pay for every dime of the program, as President Obama likes to put it, and actually start to generate small surpluses by the time the ten-year window is over. It's also supposed to save money after that period, actually curbing our medical expenditures."
- Long-Term, Reduces Deficit Noam Scheiber, also of the New Republic, argued that the bill performs even better in the long term. "According to the CBO score of the bill, Baucus produces about $50 billion in deficit reduction over the next decade (see p. 2), then potentially large savings after that," he wrote. "According to CBO's most recent forecast of GDP for the 2020 to 2029 period (see this document), that half-percent of GDP would translate to over $1 trillion. And that's before you really add in a lot of the so-called "game-changers" the administration has been pushing--things like bundled payments to give hospitals incentives to care for patients upon release."
- The Invisible Excise Tax Matthew Yglesias lauded an excise tax on high-value health care that will be "largely invisible to everyone outside insurance companies and corporate HR departments." Yglesias wrote that it will reduce costs by "encouraging people to consume less health care" but, in terms of care and costs, "the vast majority of people won't be impacted at all." For most consumers, it's like magic! "I think this is a great idea—very clever," he wrote. "This is good policy done in an impressive artful way."
- Allows Responsible Inter-State Competition Ezra Klein noted that Baucus included the most frequent Republican request, allowing consumers to buy insurance from different states, thus widely increasing free market competition between insurance provider. The problem, however, is this can encourage insurance providers to all just move to the state with the least regulations, as happened with credit card companies. But Baucus solves this by including provisions for federal regulations on any company that wanted to sell insurance across state lines, thus preventing the "all manner of chicanery" that credit card companies get away with. Klein wrote, "This could prove seriously transformative in the private insurance market."
- It's Not the Final Bill Mike Lux, making perhaps the one pro-Baucus case that was most agreed upon, reminded everyone that this is far from the the final word on how to execute health care reform. "It's not even close to the final bill," he wrote, outlining five keys reasons the bill could change dramatically. "Traditional media will act like whatever is in the Senate Finance bill will be the bill, that the deal is done. Not even close, folks."