In the 24 hours since Sen. Max Baucus released his version
of health care reform, experts and columnists have digested the 220
page document and are declaring the greatest strengths and most damning
weaknesses of BaucusCare. Below are what pundits have declared to be
the five worst parts, and later this morning we'll explore the five
best. Update: Here are the five best elements.
- Exchanges Too Limited Sen. Ron Wyden, Democrat from Oregon, wants to see greater access to exchanges, which would provide more options to consumers and thus drive down costs. "The problem with these bills, however, is that they would not make the exchanges available to all Americans," he wrote. "Only very small companies and those individuals who can’t get insurance outside of the exchange — 25 million people — would be allowed to shop there. This would leave more than 200 million Americans with no more options, private or public, than they have today." Wyden proposed a plan for expanded exchanges, which he said "would not be forced on them by government mandate" and would promote "a system that works better for everyone."
- Forces Discrimination Against Low-Income Workers Ezra Klein called the "free rider" provision a "no good, very bad, horrible policy." He said it "penalizes employers for hiring low-income workers who are eligible for subsidies. That will create an incentive to do one of two things: Don't hire low-income workers (hire a teenager looking for a job rather than a single mother, or hire a housewife looking for a second job rather than an unemployed breadwinner), or hire illegal immigrants," he wrote. "No matter how you look at it, the policy makes it profitable for employers to discriminate against hiring low-income workers. It is not only the worst policy idea in the bill, but one of the worst policy ideas I've ever seen."
- "Worthless" Co-ops Marcy Wheeler lamented, "As designed, the co-ops would not be more attractive than the private insurance options, nor would they bring down subsidies (which means they wouldn't bring down costs to us, either). As designed, the co-ops are totally worthless."
- Insufficient Subsidies for Working-Class Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities wrote that subsidies to help people afford coverage are too low. "The plan falls short in the subsidies it provides to help low- and moderate-income people afford health coverage and out-of-pocket costs. That could leave many people who are eligible for subsidies facing fairly steep insurance premiums and cost-sharing charges they could have difficulty affording."
- Bad for Young People Karl Rove cautioned that fining young voters would be politically problematic. "The plan put out by Sen. Max Baucus (D., Mont.) this week would fine them up to $950 a year for not being insured. Young people are 9.9% of the population. Fining them only antagonizes them," he wrote. "Mr. Obama's approval among young voters is down 10 points since July, according to Gallup polls. It may drop more."