Archive for the ‘Max Baucus’ Category

What Baucus Said

by JC

Ok. Now that I’ve stirred the pot here by posting Baucus’ video, let me post up the transcript of his words and video, from CSPAN, and let them speak for themselves. Read his words, not in the context of how he sounded saying them (which is what the conservablogs are doing), but in the context of when, where, and in what role did they occur.

Max Baucus is the chairman of the Senate Finance committee, arguably the most important position to advancing a health care reform bill. We have debated Baucus’ role on this committee endlessly, here and on other blogs. While my opinion on Baucus’ efforts are well known, it appears that his tirade, as filmed by CSPAN, and rebroadcast by YouTube are casting him in another light.

I thought early on that Baucus was naive to think he could garner any bipartisan support, and that his strategy of positioning his legislation such that it could gain bipartisan support would eventually implode. Which it seems to have done, as it has ignited a firestorm between progressive, left and liberal factions in the health reform debate, and castigation from the right.

So when Max goes on the floor two days before the final vote, and unloads, he does himself and his legislative fforts a great disservice, as he hands his opposition the tools to derail his efforts to shepherd his bill through conference. It was a serious tactical breach in what to this point had been a carefully thought out, though misguided, strategy of bipartisanship.

I’d offer up that the chairman of the Finance committee melting down right before the final vote on his bill to be not his finest hour, when in essence it should have been. If I were of the “kill the bill” mentality–which I am not, though I think the mandate needs to be struck from the bill, and much backfilling needs to be done–then I would celebrate this outburst as being Baucus’ “macaca” moment.

While history will look at Baucus and his role in health reform, I don’t think that moments like this reflect positively on his legacy, given that they are a reaction to his own failed strategy of bipartisanship.

Full transcript of Baucus’ words below the fold.
Continue Reading »

by JC

Days like this you wish you weren’t a Montanan. Found this top o’ the Drudge Report today:

And it’s plastered all over the conservablogs today. Guess the Melodee Hanes story was just a warm up.

by Pete Talbot

Hypocrites are the worst. Sen. Larry Craig railing against gays and then trying to get sex in a Twin Cities airport men’s room. Rep. Mark Foley, chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, who sends sexually explicit emails to House pages. Conservative Sen. David Vitter and S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford … and on and on.

So Sen. Max Baucus pales in comparison. He’s never been an in-your-face family values guy. And if the time line he lays out is true, his indiscretion occurred while both parties were separated from their respective spouses.

But still, to advance the name of your lover for Montana’s U.S. Attorney? To quote a Washington Post columnist: “boneheaded.”

In some respects, this scandal is almost refreshing. Hey, Max is a human being, not just an automaton for the banking, insurance and health care industries. You see, I hold Max accountable for much more egregious behavior:

– His lame health care bill (Howard Dean called it “the worst piece of health care legislation I’ve seen in 30 years.”).

– His vote to repeal the estate tax.

– His cop out on cap-and-trade.

– His Bush tax-cuts-for-the-rich.

– His Medicare prescription drug vote.

– His “aye” on the bankruptcy bill.

– His Iraq War complacency.

– His 70 percent approval rating from the Chamber of Commerce.

All the while saying he’s doing “what’s right for Montana.”

So this latest is just the icing on the cake. And it’s another slap in the face to Montanans.

(UPDATE: Daily Kos sheds some more light on the subject. Hat tip to David Crisp at Billings Blog.)

by Pete Talbot

Buried in an AP story on climate change was Sen. Max Baucus saying he had “serious reservations” with a modest effort to cut carbon emissions over the next decade.

What a tool.

The bill being considered by a Senate environmental panel calls for a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020. The bill might stave off catastrophic global warming … or at least it’s a start.

Here are some more choice quotes from our senior Senator:

“We cannot afford a first step that takes us further away from an achievable consensus on commonsense climate change legislation.”

There’s Max, trying to build that “achievable consensus” again. He sure did a fine job on health care. And Max, please explain “commonsense climate change legislation” to me. Would that be no legislation?

“Montana can’t afford the unmitigated impacts of climate change, but we also cannot afford the unmitigated effects of climate change legislation,” Baucus added.

Christ, I’m so sick of Max’s double talk I could puke slugs.

Compare Max’s quotes to those of the bill’s author, Sen. John Kerry. From the AP story:

… Kerry acknowledged that the bill would raise energy prices, but said the savings from reducing energy and the money to be made in new technologies were far greater.

“Are there some costs? Yes, sir, there are some costs,” he said and added that while an array of studies show restricting greenhouse gases will lead to higher energy prices, “none of them factor in the cost of doing nothing.”

Well said, John.

I’m surprised that Max stuck his neck out so far on this one. After all, his campaign contributions from the energy industry pale in comparison to the dollars he gets from the health care/insurance industry. Still, there are few Democrats out there who are as capable as Max of doing the wrong thing.

by jhwygirl

Following up on Monday’s news that ABC/Time polling showed 57% support a public option in health insurance reform changes being hammered out in congress, today brings us news that affirms that trend.

CNN polling tells us 61% favor a public option for inclusion in any health insurance reform bill. That number is up 5% since late August.

A few short weeks ago – just before the Senate Finance Committee’s bill was freed – Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi ordered a CBO markup of the cost of including a public option. She wanted an analysis of 3 different versions. Guess what? The CBO found that including a Medicare-for-all option, along with a 5% increase in doctor payments, would actually lower the deficit. The cost? $871 billion over 10 years – and it would insure everyone.

The Senate Finance Committee’s bill leaves 25,000,000 American uninsured.

House Democratic leaders wisely quick to jump on this – and even Harry up there in the Senate is is hinting that he’s got the 60 votes necessary to pass a bill that includes a public option.

Keep the calls and email folks. I’m told I put up Tester’s fax number for the Missoula office last time – and Pete was kind enough to fix it…this time, I’m a cuttin’ and pastin’ out of that post, that way I know the numbers are correct. With apologies to all….

Keep calling. Keep emailing.

Sen. Max Baucus – 329-3123 in Missoula – others here
Sen. Jon Tester – 728-3003 here in Missoula – 1-866-554-4403 statewide.

Don’t forget Denny:
Rep. Denny Rehberg – 543-0663 here in Missoula, or 1-888-232-2626 statewide.

by jhwygirl

An ABC News-Washington Post poll released today shows that 57% of Americans support a public option.

Limit it to only those that can’t afford market insurance? Support soars to 76%.

And what if the GOP refuses to participate? Still a majority of Americans want reform.

What should those concerned about electing and re-electing either Democrats or Republicans think of those numbers? Well, howz about these numbers for those watching the election factor of health insurance reform.

Keep on keeping on, people

Sen. Max Baucus – 329-3123 in Missoula – others here
Sen. Jon Tester – 728-3003 here in Missoula – 1-866-554-4403 statewide.

Don’t forget Denny:
Rep. Denny Rehberg – 543-0663 here in Missoula, or 1-888-232-2626 statewide.

by jhwygirl

Really should be giving credit to supermissoulian Ellie Hill who tweeted on a NYT article, “The Public Plan, Continued“.

It’s a good article that lays out – very plainly – what a public option means; some of the various options of public option health insurance; and a nice overview of the process now that all health reform bills are out of the various committees and heading to merging committees and floor votes.

I like the read, for the fact that not enough main media sources are stepping up and explaining the meaning of the words swirling the artificially inflated controversy over single payer or public option. It also touches on one of the things that I’ve been waiting for – which is the legislative debate. Up until know, much emphasis was placed on one person as if what the committee he heads up puts out is what we are stuck with. We could end up with something very different than that which has been the central focus of all public option single payer advocates – and now is when it will happen.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she and the majority she claims in the house won’t approve anything without a meaningful and real public option. Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, is taking a more milder position (he doesn’t seem to want to fight for anything, IMHO) – that a public option isn’t passable. To say that they are at odds, is clearly putting it mildly.

Anyone catch video of Nancy’s cold shoulder to Harry’s shoulder hug this week?

My bet is on the Lady of the House.

There are many who have been working on insurance reform since just as the presidential election finished up. Health insurance reform is the biggest domestic policy attempt in U.S. Congress in generations. We’re only half-way there. Those truly working on meaningful reform been able to focus on the meat-and-potatoes of the issue and not all of the extraneous personality-based coverage that is purposefully the focus of our corporate media. I admire that – because even when I ask them (as I’ve been drawn into it myself) “what in the hell is Max thinking,” they skillfully brush it off and guide the discussion back to the facts and figures and the heart of the issue.

Who benefits from shifting the discussion away from the topic at hand and instead focusing on all the “superstars”? Olympia Snowe, Up and Coming? What sells now that America is numb? Policy or personality? Last week it was Sen. Harry Reid – this week it’ll be Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

Maybe we should be talking about the fiscal irresponsibility to the taxpayers and the added cost to health care should there be no real public option instead of Harry v. Nancy, Baucus v Dodd/Kennedy, Republicans v Democrats.

Maybe we should be taking about the 50 million uninsured in America and the effect that has on the cost of health care.

Maybe we should talk about what what the cost is to America if we don’t act.

Because that’s the real news.

by Pete Talbot

Every so often, our daily newspaper gives us competing versions of an important story. Today was such a day.

There’s this guest column and this news interview. Both are on the subject of health care. The guest column was penned by Greg Roberts, a former health care executive.  The interview of President Obama’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Jim Messina, was conducted by Charles Johnson.

Guess which person was advocating a single-payer system, or at the very least, a strong public option? Hint: it isn’t the guy who used to be Sen. Baucus’ Chief of Staff before moving up the ladder.

I saw Messina this past Homecoming Weekend in the Missoula Club, schmoozing with our mayor and other Democratic Party notables. I didn’t get the chance, as jhwygirl suggested, to button hole Messina on the public option but I wouldn’t have done nearly as good a job as Roberts did in his column. For starters:

Sen. Max Baucus, representative government is a cornerstone of our democracy. We elect individuals to serve society’s best interests. Yet “government of, by and for the people” seems a concept as foreign to you as you to it.

For 12 months, our Senate Finance Committee has engaged in what has amounted to a charade on this matter. From the start, advocates for true reform were excluded from your hearings, a prologue to what followed.

Compare that with Messina’s take on Baucus health care efforts:

“The fact is Max wrote a very good bill that can bring people together, and you’re seeing that,” Messina said. “And on Tuesday, he’s going to pass it (in committee).”

Asked about the lack of a public option in the Baucus bill, Messina said it has one in the form of co-ops.

“Look, the president supports public option, but has said over and over again there are different ways to do it,” Messina said. “He’d be open to those ways. We’re in consultations with the House and Senate about that.”

Asked about the criticism Baucus is facing over the lack of a public option in his bill, Messina said: “This is probably the most important piece of legislation that he will work on, and people feel strongly about what should or should not be in it. Typical of Max, he’s spent a whole bunch of time doing his homework and is working hard to produce the best bill that he can produce.”

I’ve got to go with Roberts over Messina on this, ” … a very good bill that can bring people together … ” Yeah, right. People are lining up to sing the praises of the Baucus bill. As to the lack of a public option, ” … it has one in the form of co-ops.” A co-op is not a public option and even the CBO is skeptical.

From an Alex Koppleman piece in Salon:

(The co-ops) didn’t impress CBO. “The proposed co-ops had very little effect on the estimates of total enrollment in the exchanges or federal costs because, as they are described in the specifications, they seem unlikely to establish a significant market presence in many areas of the country or to noticeably affect federal subsidy payments,” the analysis said. Translated out of wonk-speak, that’s pretty harsh; it basically says they won’t work.

Then there’s ” … he’s spent a whole bunch of time doing his homework and is working hard to produce the best bill that he can produce.” If that’s the best bill he can produce, maybe somebody else should take a crack at it.

Let’s face it, the private insurers are already squawking about the minor reforms being proposed by Congress and threatening even more rate increases. Max has given the insurance industry just about everything it could have wished for and it’s still whining. This from Digby, via Jay, over at Left in the West:

There has never been a better argument for the public plan than the one the insurance company just handed the Democrats in congress. They have produced a shoddy, self-serving report as a blatant threat to raise premiums higher than they already plan to raise them. If there has ever been a more obvious case of bad faith than this, I haven’t seen it. The only thing that will keep these corporate criminals in line is either price controls or stiff competition and if they can’t keep their companies solvent without giving their executives outrageous pay packages, charging ridiculous prices while denying care to sick people, then maybe their financial model just doesn’t work.

Finally, there’s this from Roberts:

The health insurance industry contributes upwards of 25 percent to the annual cost of U.S. health care and medical value. Viewed in the light of other nations who provide (based on factual data) higher quality, less expensive, universal coverage to their citizens, it is not difficult to understand the economics of the matter. In you (Baucus), Chuck Grassley and others, the U.S. health insurance industry has the best representation money can buy – and our society has a government of, by and for corporate interest.

What I know about Messina is this: he’s extremely loyal. One would assume he’s working in the President’s best interests, not his old boss’. But right now, to be honest, I’d prefer that Greg Roberts, not Jim Messina, has the President’s ear.

by jhwygirl

I was watching Keith My Hero Olbermann tonight – as was 4&20’s Chuck – when Olbermann offered up $50,000 towards helping sponsor the National Association of Free Clinics here in Butte Montana.

The idea is to sponsor Free Clinics in each of the states where their senators (in our case, Sen. Max Baucus) are standing in the way of meaningful health insurance reform.

Butte Montana America USA? A town steeped deep in labor history, unions and corporate irresponsibility run amuck? A struggling town, fighting to come back?

Butte Civic Center, anyone?

I think Montana’s Democratic Party should sponsor the rental of that facility. Stand behind its talk of support for public option and health reform. County Democratic Parties around the state should join together and help make this happen.

I can’t seem to figure out how to embed MSNBC videos. That is annoying to no end, especially since Olbermann is what I usually want to embed, and Olbermann is so easy on the eyes, and Olbermann is so wonderful…but I digress. If you want to watch Keith offer up the cash to Butte, check this out.

Count me in as being one who will do whatever is needed to help make this happen. Chuck too. And I’m betting a whole bunch of you readers out there, also.

Update: JC figures out MSNBC embeds!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about " Video Player", posted with vodpod

(j – Isn’t he just the best looking sight on television? Thanks JC!)

“Sen. Max Baucus… is, not surprisingly, one of the biggest beneficiaries of this one-two punch from the lobbyists and their clients”

by JC

Nothing like spending $829 billion dollars and still having 25 million people, all legal citizens under the age of 65, left out of the health care insurance system under Baucus’ current reform “efforts.” You can read all the gory details at the CBO, if you have stomach for such things.

So Baucus has written a bill that increases the inequity in America, more sharply defining the edges between the haves and the have nots. And for the have nots, he has devised a system of penalties, excise tax fines, and possible IRS criminal prosecutions ending with jail time.

Yes, Max will threaten you with jail, if you don’t hand over your own money, along with your government subsidy (if you’re one of those who get to must participate in the $829 billion dollar insurance corporation bailout) to the private health insurance corporation of your choice (that is if there is more than one or two insurance corporations operating in your state).

And to go with this nice bit of news, I’d like to show you a new video from our friends at the Sunlight Foundation talking about the role corporate and lobbyist bundling dollars play in our Senator’s business. This is another piece of their ongoing collaboration with OpenSecrets about the role of bundling lobbyist dollars in buying our politicians loyalty.

They were even kind enough to use our own Senator Baucus as their first case study. Enjoy!

From the Sunlight Foundation:

The deal is that decision makers (i.e. senators) in the health care debate are not only receiving big bucks from members of the health and insurance industries – but also from the numerous individual lobbyists that represent the industries. All of that money “clustered” or “bundled” together is much more influential than any contribution by itself. So, when one of the lobbyists in a cluster walks into a meeting with a representative, it stands to reason that representative listens to them …how do we say… with a more fully tuned ear.

As citizens holding government accountable, another way to think about this new information is that while yesterday you may have looked up a lobbyist online and seen only that the individual had contributed a couple hundred dollars to a senator, you can now see the entire ‘bundle’ of contributions around that lobbyist or company which can total in the tens of thousands. MUCH more ‘influence’ than what was previously reflected.

Larry Makinson, one of Sunlight’s senior fellows that led our investigation probably said it best: “When we saw a dozen, two dozen, even three dozen lobbyists for a single company giving to the same members as their clients, we were frankly stunned.”

…Standing out, as usual, in our first examination is Sen. Max Baucus, chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, and author of the main health care reform bill now being debated in the Senate. He is, not surprisingly, one of the biggest beneficiaries of this one-two punch from the lobbyists and their clients. From January 2007 through June 2009, Baucus collected contributions from 37 outside lobbyists representing PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry’s chief trade association, and 36 lobbyists who listed drug maker Amgen Inc. as their client.

In all, 11 major health and insurance firms had their contributions to Baucus boosted through extra donations from 10 or more of their outside lobbyists…

Oh. And those $829,000,000,000 (that’s 829 BILLION dollars)? Without a public option, that money mostly will go to health insurers.

Payola 21st century-style. Corruption at its worst. And it is coming from our very own Montana Senator.

I think it is time to put our Senator out to pasture at the family sheep ranch. Baaaaa.

by Pete Talbot

Missoula physician Meg Sarnecki is one of 50 doctors from around the country who are meeting with the President to discuss health care reform.

(You won’t find this news in our local print media. Don’t ask me why. KPAX ran a short piece. I found out about it in the Billings Gazette. Here’s the story by Mike Dennison.)

Doc Sarnecki is in an excellent position to comment on the kind of health care available to uninsured and low-income Montanans. She works at the Partnership Health Center in Missoula. The center is partly government funded and also receives payments from patients on a sliding scale, according their ability to pay. From what I hear vicariously through some folks who work there is that the place can barely keep up with the demand for its services.

I’ve gleaned some quotes from the story:

She’s “pretty happy” with the U.S. House’s bill, which has passed out of committee and awaits action on the floor, but is “much less happy with what (Max) Baucus has put forward.”

Sarnecki said she doesn’t like the Baucus bill because it does not include a public, government-run insurance plan that would compete with private insurers.

“I don’t like the idea of mandated, private health insurance without a public option,” she said. “To make that affordable, we need a public option to give people some competition and choice in that matter.”

Baucus’ bill, among other things, would require all Americans without health insurance to buy it starting in 2013, or face tax penalties. The measure also includes federal subsidies to help people with low or moderate income afford private insurance.

Another person, and this one more qualified than most, to join the legions of Montanans who are disappointed with Max’s health care proposal. Come to think of it, one of the few folks who has commented positively about the plan is Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg, our only U.S. Representative from Montana. Good company, Max.

(UPDATE — The Missoulian did have this story in Monday’s paper; page one, above the fold. The Gazette beat the Missoulian by at least 24 hours, though.)

by JC

Click on the graphic for a larger version. Print it out, it’ll make a great dart board target!baucus wheel

Thanks to the work of the good folks at the Sunlight Foundation, we’re able to see how bundling works its magic on Congress in general, and Max Baucus specifically.

The Foundation took a look at the donations that lobbyists and their families made to politicians like Baucus–the same politicians that their corporate employers made significant donations to. So all of the recent reports of the magnitude of Baucus’ glad tidings from his corporate donors puppeteer manipulators just foreshadowed the magnitude of the problem.

The chart above shows how the effect of campaign dollar bundling–donations from both the corporation (light blue) and its lobbyists (darker blue)–greatly increases the stranglehold they have on a politician. In Baucus’ case, the lobbyists actually have given more money than their employers! One might say that they are purchasing job security, along with advancing their clients’ legislative goals.

And of course, we all know who the source of these funds is–the U.S. taxpayer, who stands to lose as their dollars continue to flow to these corporations and their manipulators, only to be recycled through this bundling game once again. The ultimate corrupt feedback loop.

The Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Responsive Politics co-released an in-depth study on this phenomenon:

A new collaborative investigation by the Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Responsive Politics has found that many of the major players in the health insurance reform debate have hit members of Congress with a one-two punch of campaign contributions from at least 10 of their hired, outside lobbyists on top of donations from their employees or political action committees.

Since January 2007, more than 500 individual lobbyists who fit these criteria donated roughly $2.8 million to 61 members of Congress who also received about $1.9 million from the companies’ PACs or employees. These lobbyists represented 25 major health care and health insurance organizations.

Not only did these contributions go directly to the politician’s coffers, they were directed to places like Max Baucus’ Glacier PAC, which is a nice and handy slush fund that he can use to pay for things like motels, airplane tickets, coffee, drinks, parties, car rentals. You know, all of the nice things that the rest of us have to pay out of our monthly paycheck. Thanks to a new investigative database and report from ProPublica, we can check in on our Senators’ spending habits:

In the past three election cycles, lobbyists and special interests poured $355 million into these funds, making them the second-largest source of political money for sitting members of Congress.

Legally, lawmakers are free to spend the leadership PAC money pretty much as they wish.

Lobbyists and lawmakers can — and do — use it to travel together to play golf at Pebble Beach, ride snowmobiles in Montana’s Big Sky Country and go deep-sea fishing in the Florida Keys. The lobbyists don’t pay the costs directly. They contribute to the leadership PAC, which then pays the lawmaker’s resort and travel bills.

Hmmm… $46,721 from Glacier PAC to Bucks T4 and $36,616 to the Cabin Bar. IT’S PARTY TIME…WHOO HOOO!!! Check out the list of Glacier PAC expenses, if you want to see the dirty laundry. Nothing like an expense slush fund of $261,925 for “Entertainment, events, and travel.” Oh, and did I mention that the Glacier PAC managed to spend $1,198,023 in just 2007-8? Nice…

So how widespread is the practice of bundling? We may never know. The Hill had a nice piece about the practice last month, concluding that little has changed:

“This is going to be the dog that never barked,” said Paul Ryan, an attorney with the Campaign Legal Center, which advocates for campaign finance reform.

“It tells me one of two things, which is these fundraisers were not very successful or the public is not getting the lobbyist bundling disclosure it thought it would with this legislation.”

So rest assured that our Congress is doing all it can to raise money to travel and have big parties protect the public interest and do the people’s work on the great issues of the day like health care reform.

Thanks a bunch, Max

by Pete Talbot

I’ll keep this short and let the others who are better versed in health care reform than I to weigh in — both here and at other sites.

Sen. Baucus voted against a public option plan, similar to Medicare, that was proposed by Sen. Jay Rockefeller.

Baucus said he voted against it because he’s looking for a plan that would get all 60 Democratic votes in the Senate.

I know Max is savvy enough to count votes.  So, which Democrats are against the public option?  Please, tell us Max.  That way we can work our asses of to keep them from getting re-elected — just as I’ve committed myself to searching for a candidate to run against you in the 2014 primary election.

by JC

I’ve known that it would eventually come to this. Us single payer advocates liked the simplicity of the system: auto enrollment for all citizens. You get sick, or have an accident and need health care, you just go to the doctor or ER and get it. If you hadn’t signed up for the plan yet, that was no problem. You could do it at the point of health care delivery.

Now that single payer is no longer on the table, universal health care (or 94% universal in the Baucus plan) can only be achieved through coercion. Buy insurance–either private or through some nebulous, and yet to be contrived public option or coop–or pay a fine. Penalty. Whatever.

So we have been asked to accept the regressive notion of mandates, necessary to maintain the status quo of corporatism in private health care insurance monopolies, in order to (almost, kinda, sorta) achieve the progressive goal of universal health care.

This is where the libertarian streak in many of us progressives really starts to jump out, and to join forces with conservatives to question just what in the hell are democrats turning into?

You see, I’m against a mandate that is enforced through the IRS. Always have been–since I first read about it last year in Baucus’ white paper–and always will be. And I don’t like the government mechanism to assist those who can’t afford a private or public plan relying on the use of tax credits. There are far better ways of doing it.

Lower and middle income people with any sort of tax offset will never get the tax credits needed to buy the insurance–unless mandaters come up with a mechanism to bypass offsets, which I’ve never heard of the IRS doing. And I have yet to see a mechanism by which Baucus’ plan will guarantee credits to those with offsets.

Of course, there are those that will say that people with IRS offsets aren’t worthy enough to qualify for subsidies to help pay for insurance. A new “Uniquely American™” tale of two cities.

Basically, I’m against the IRS getting involved in health care in any fashion. Just doesn’t make sense, even when mandaters propose “exceptions.” See, there are going to be at least 6% uninsured in the faux nuevo universal care system that is being proposed and marked up as we read.

Are all 6% going to be given exemptions? Will the rest who are mandated, but unexempted be subject to fines? What will happen to non filers? Homeless and/or mentally ill? Round ’em up and ship them off to scofflaw and debtor jail-camps? Tattoo a “Need Not Apply” disclaimer on the arms of those living under bridges, or who have defaulted on student loans, have unpaid back taxes, or missed child support payments?

Dude, better get straight with the IRS quick, or they’ll have another way to strong-arm you into compliance.

In some ways I read into Baucus’ proposal a carrot-and-stick approach to bolstering IRS and tax law compliance. Health care being the carrot, and penalty, fine and jail being the stick. All hail the mighty IRS health care compliance cops. Let’s build an even more unjust system of haves and have nots. Piss off the IRS in any way, and you’ll just have to suffer the consequences of unaffordable, unsubsidized health insurance. Take that! Off with you!

In an exchange on George Stephanopolous’ “This Week” between Senator Chuck Grassley, Baucus, and Joint Committee on Taxation chief of staff, Thomas Barthold, we discover that the penalty for not submitting to mandation is in effect a penalty excise tax, enforceable under current IRS tax laws.

Grassley: It gets back to something that President Obama was speaking about on the Sunday talk shows, trying to say that it’s not true that the penalty for not getting insurance is a tax, referring to the individual mandate.

The mark before us makes it pretty clear that the penalty is a tax, it looks like the tax is now up to about $2,000 dollars a year, so Mr. Barthold, isn’t the penalty here an excise tax and won’t it affect people making under $250,000 dollars a year?

Barthold: Senator Grassley, the penalty proposed in the Chairman’s mark, is as you observed, it’s structured as a penalty excise tax, we have other penalty excise taxes in the internal revenue code…

We have not done a combined distribution analyses across income to specifically answer your question but to the extent that yes we think that some people would be subject to the penalty excise tax when everything shakes out we would expect that some would have incomes less than $200,000 dollars.

Baucus: Let me just say on that point, that’s an interesting question. This is really a penalty that’s being collected by the Internal Revenue Service…

And of course, if you flout those laws and don’t–or can’t–pay the penalty, you are subject to an up to $25,000 dollar fine, and 1 year in prison. To further illuminate this problem, Senator Ensign specifically asked Barthold about the penalty for not having insurance, the potential fine for not paying it, and ultimately jail time:

Under questioning from Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), Barthold said the IRS would “take you to court and undertake normal collection proceedings.”

And to underscore his point, Barthold provided Ensign with a hand written note to that effect, that I posted above.

On the bright side, I hear that you get free health care while in prison.

On the down side, it is so odd that I find myself siding with Senator’s Grassley and Ensign on this matter. How democrats ever wound up accepting such a regressive compromise as Baucus’ IRS mandated non-universal health care system, when one with auto enrollment made so much more sense is beyond me. Well, beyond me until I read Baucus’ campaign finance reports, that is.

I hope that some fine progressives in the House find a way to do away with the regressive nature of this system, and work to fix it. Otherwise, the feds are going to have to figure out a way to pay for and provide lots of free health care via the government run federal penitentiary system–a true single payer system, if ever there was one. And I guess you get a hot meal and place to sleep with that, too.

by jhwygirl

Lotsa links, and looks to be what appears a comprehensive summary of the current amendments.

This article, from the Washington Post, is quite lengthy, but it does a great job of trying to quantify the actual costs of health care – the costs that seem to be lost on many. It uses the Kaiser Foundation’s 2009 Employer Benefits Survey as its basis. Most people recognize the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation as a well-respected, non-partisan source for health insurance and health industry analysis.

The Kaiser Health News is a daily must-read for me, and I’ve had a link up over there under “Citizen’s Info” for quite some time.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has proposed a five-member Health Care Services Commission and an Office of the Forum for Quality and Effectiveness in Health Care (how’s that for panels, folks?), which would be appointed by the President and approved by the Senate.

What do you think is meant to happen when those panels and commissions come to the conclusion that certain things aren’t covered, or aren’t reimbursed enough?

Coburn’s proposal mirrors what happened in the House for HB3200 – Republicans offered up amendments at the speed of sound that added cost and expanded both coverage and oversight.

That’s what people call “making sausage.” Now the key is to keep track of what’s going in – and as one person I know recently noted – keep the pig’s ears and other undesirable parts (he used other words) out.

Of course – he was saying that they already went in to the Baucus bill and it’s hard to get ’em out….

by JC

bride of baucus

It was only a matter of time till Baucus heeded the deadlines that President Obama and Majority Leader Harry Reed set out, and dumped his bill into the Finance Committee. In an 18 page press release (didn’t anybody ever teach these guys PR 101), Max outlined the framework of his bill. You also can read the Chairman’s Mark, if you are so inclined to sift through the 223 page Mark.

I’ve often said that Max Baucus positions himself in the middle of a legislative battle in such a way that he gauges the success of his compromising by the degree to which he offends the most people on both sides of his position. To that end, I’d say that Max must be celebrating a huge victory tonight, as it seems that he has not been able to garner any positive political support from either democrats or republicans.

But I think that a good place to begin the debate over Baucus’ efforts comes from HCAN, Health Care for America Now!, a “a national grassroots campaign of more than 1,000 organizations in 46 states representing 30 million people dedicated to winning quality, affordable health care.”

What did HCAN! have to say about Baucus’ bill today?

“The Baucus bill is a gift to the insurance industry that fails to meet the most basic promise of health care reform: a guarantee that Americans will have good health care that they can afford. The Baucus bill would give a government-subsidized monopoly to the private insurance industry to sell their most profitable plans – high-deductible insurance – without having to face competition from a public health insurer.

Under the Baucus bill, employers would have no responsibility to help pay for their workers’ coverage and would be given incentives to have workers pay more for barebones insurance. Americans who don’t get health benefits through work would still not be able to get good, affordable coverage.

We urge Senators on the Finance Committee to replace the Baucus plan with legislation that will do what the Senate HELP Committee and three House committees have done: guarantee that Americans have good health insurance that they can afford with the choice of a strong national public health insurance option.”

So now that Max has failed at appeasing the GOP in an attempt to secure at least one vote (after he had crowed about getting 75-80 senators to sign on to his efforts), it appears that his bill will have to undergo a severe transplant in order to make it out of the Senate Finance Committee, and for the Senate to move forward.

In other news, the stock market took kindly to the Baucus/Wellpoint bill with a 3% surge in health insurer stocks on news of the bill’s release.

insurer profits

Quid pro quo at its worst.

by JC

Consumer Watchdog calls the Baucus/Wellpoint Plan “Deregulation of State Consumer Protection Laws”

It seems that Senator Max Baucus’ “Wellpoint Plan” has hit a snag as his framework was released yesterday, in a last ditch effort to recapture the limelight and lead on health care reform.

Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake moved this story down the field a bit by picking up where we left off and discovering a connection between the Wellpoint Plan and the plan Blue Dog Mike Ross offered up on Co-ops back in July, when supposedly nobody knew what was up:

If Fowler did indeed write the draft plan, then how did the same framework and language find its way into an amendment submitted by Blue Dog Mike Ross in July?

Jon Walker finds that “the two documents are almost identical and and sometimes use the exact same wording”…

Walker goes on to note that “at the time Ross’ amendment was submitted many Democratic senators and congressmen were both concerned and confused by Conrad’s co-ops idea. It seemed that Conrad was not sharing with most of his own party what his idea of co-ops would really be, but some how Rep. Ross was provided the document.”

Jane puts together an excellent timeline showing how the behind-the-scenes charade was conducted.

Daily Kos then extends the story by showing how Baucus’ Wellpoint Plan will gut state-level insurance industry regulations:

Max Baucus’ plan had the name of Liz Fowler, a former WellPoint VP who now works for the Finance Committee, in the metadata. When you have WellPoint personnel instrumental in writing the laws, you get little provisions like this:

Interstate Sale of Insurance. Starting in 2015, states may form “health care choice compacts” to allow for the purchase of non-group health insurance across state lines. Such compacts may exist between two or more states. Once compacts have been formed, insurers would be allowed to sell policies in any state participating in the compact. Insurers selling policies through a compact would only be subject to the laws and regulations of the state where the policy is written or issued.

This is something that conservatives have been begging to do for years. Even the most outgunned conservative on a talking head debate can vomit up “let people take their insurance across state lines to increase competition!” It sounds reasonable. But there’s a very good reason why it would quickly turn into a nightmare, and you can see it in the examples of Delaware and South Dakota.

Both of those states have essentially no regulations on credit card companies. When legislation passed allowing banks to issue credit cards across state lines, some states started wildly deregulating their credit card markets in a race to the bottom. South Dakota and Delaware won. And now practically all credit cards are issued from those two states.

So not only is Max doing Wellpoint’s dirty work, he is giving the republicans a dearly sought-after concession. And just what has he gotten from republicans for that bone? As far as I can tell, nothing. Not even one single republican agreeing to sign on to his framework.

Moving on, Consumer Watchdog released a report today criticizing Wellpoint’s Baucus Plan as being a defacto “deregulation of state consumer protection laws”:

A “framework plan” released today by the so-called “Group of Six” Senators negotiating a health reform bill headed by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) would open the door to gutting state laws. The plan would result in a “race to the bottom” in health care regulation by allowing insurance companies that participate in “health care compacts” to choose the weakest state law to govern all their policies, regardless of which state the policies are sold in. Currently, insurance companies must abide by the state laws of any state where they sell insurance. The Baucus plan resembles an industry proposal carried by Mike Enzi (R-WY) in 2006…

I’m sure we’ll have more details as this story unfolds in Baucus’ haste to sell out become relevant again.

by JC

In case you don’t understand what Max is saying, here is a transcript. Read along!:

“I’m just hopeful that when the president gives his statement tomorrow night that that’s going to help move the ball forward, and very expeditiously. Because we, the rubber is starting to meet the road here. We’re gonna have to start fishing or cut the bait pretty soon and I made that very, very clear to the group. And, um, so, on the one hand I want to work get a solution, and on the other hand I want to make it clear that we’re just not going to dally, we’re not going to dawdle…”

Hope that’s all crystal clear.

And this is the guy who was supposed to reform our health care system?

by JC

“The reason that I have a lot of friends is ’cause I got to give away money.”

Taxpayer money, that is.

Well, it was only a matter of time until the truth outs. The above quote is from Liz Fowler, one time Baucus staffer, then Wellpoint VP, whom Baucus hired on last year as “Senior Counsel to the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee.”

For those who may not recognize Wellpoint, they are the Blue Cross overlord for over 35 million people–the larget insurer in America. Here’s the outing:

Take a look at the document properties of the pdf that ew links to above. The author is Liz Fowler. The Liz Fowler who was vice president for public policy and external affairs for Wellpoint, the nation’s second-largest health-insurance company, until she re-joined Baucus’ staff in Feb. 2008. She had done an earlier stint with Baucus from 2000-2005.

It seems that the pdf that Baucus just released with his 18 page framework for health insurance ‘reform’ lists Liz Fowler as the author.

Liz Fowler, as some know, was the staffer that left Baucus’ office in 2005 to pursue a stint at Wellpoint. Whereupon she returned and was tasked with pushing current reform efforts through the Senate Finance committee.

This is an egregious example of the revolving door in D.C. that is emblematic of the corrupt, corporate, big money morass that has become known as our current Congress. Not only does our senior Senator wash himself in corporate and lobbyist health care dollars, he takes on one of their own to write his legislation for him, and to assist with a backdoor PR campaign to push Congress in his direction.

Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

…are becoming increasingly clear for some, including Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM).

Bingham is a member of what has been called The Gang of Six, the six members of the Senate Finance Committee that is headed up by our Sen. Baucus. The senators who are actually writing the piece of health care legislation that everyone is talking about but no one has seen.

Wanna understand the power of The Gang of Six? Matthew Yglesias of Think Progress does that quite well.

Baucus recently spoke publicly about his support for public option. I think that is great. If Grassley can be tweeting that ‘we don’t need any public option’, then Baucus shouldn’t feel a need to hold back on his personal preferences for a public option.

In fact, I hope that our Senator Baucus speaks more about why a public option is important. As the man who has been working on this very issue for years, Baucus’ support of a public option is something everyone who truly supports reform (everyone – left and right) should want to understand.


by problembear

1. are you just telling us what we want to hear or are you telling us the truth when you tell us you want a public option too?

2. that’s nice that you want a public option too, but when are you going to start working for it?

by JC

After last week’s tepid performance by Montana Senator Max Baucus during and after President Obama’s town hall in Belgrade, it seems that Montana Democrats have had it with his waffling ways.

According to Montana Maven:

It has been one week since 8 Montana Democratic Central Committees delivered their resolutions for single payer or a strong public option in a health care bill to President Obama and Senator Baucus at the Belgrade Town Hall Meeting in Montana on August 14…

Many chairs of the committees, like myself, had been frustrated much like our founding brothers because “our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury and neglect”. Yes we had all received the same form letter from the Baucus office even when we asked very specific questions. So we began to look for other ways to get Max’s attention. The letters to the President did the trick.

Seems like going to the top got Baucus’ attention, and he convened a conference call, wherein he got an earful:

…three days after the town meeting, the Chairs of the Central Committees were asked to a conference call with Senator Baucus. No one could remember anything like this every happening before.

The meeting was pretty raucous. Max came on to urge party unity, but county chairs, like myself, demanded substance for our support.

Time and time again we reminded the Senator that basically “when in the course of human events it becomes necessary for people to reform health care bonds,” principle and people must take precedence over process and politics. While Max emphasized Medicare costs or doctors’ costs that must be reined in, most chairs pointed to insurance company overhead as the culprit. While Max emphasized the needed 60 votes that had to include Republicans, we asked him to abandon that idea.

So it seems that some of Montana’s finest Dems have finally figured out that they’ve been getting played by max, and decided to get tough with him, and formed the “Alliance of Montana County Democratic Central Committees.” They put together a “Unified Statement… on Health Care Reform:”

We the Coalition of the United Montana Democratic Central Committees have established a position in support of a strong public option as part of any health care reform. The broader goal of a strong public option is to provide a high-quality, affordable insurance option to all Americans, and provide a means of cost containment. Although many central committees initially preferred a single payer plan, we all concluded that a strong public option was a feasible compromise that could meet these goals and provide Americans with a choice. In order to achieve these goals, a strong public option must contain the following core concepts:

• National Coverage
• Available to all Americans
• Portability, which includes maintaining coverage even if one loses his or her job
• No exclusions for preexisting conditions, denial of coverage if one gets ill, or develops catastrophic costs
• Publicly run and administered with full transparency and accountability to congress
• Emphasis on prevention, and primary care, and a reduction in administrative costs
• No triggers

By unifying our position, and our voices we hope to let the public, the media, and our representatives know where we solidly stand on this critical issue. We would like to encourage Senator Tester, and Representative Rehberg to support a strong public option, and private insurance reform, and to assure them that our Coalition is firmly behind them.

It seems that the tactic has gotten Baucus’ attention. In a press release the Coalition put out today, Max was quoted as saying last week: “I want a public option too!”

U.S. Senator Max Baucus has finally broken his silence regarding his personal position on including a public option in health care reform legislation. Last Monday night (8/17), in an unprecedented conference call to Montana Democratic central committee chairs, the powerful leader of the Senate Finance Committee told his strongest supporters that he supported a public option. While discussing the obstacles to getting a public option through the Senate, he assured his forty listeners, “I want a public option too!”

Great work, Montana Maven!

baucussponsorjackethey max- i hate to tear you away from your sponsors but……………


by problembear

by JC

I think I’m going to puke.

“Tea Party group to protest Obama visit ”

Obama’s visit could be a real opportunity for the Tea Party to get more exposure, [steering committee member Bob] Adney said.

Talk about stumbling off cliffs. Obama, that is.

update: added question mark to headline

by JC

It was only a matter of time until PhRMA’s head, Billy Tauzin, had to stick his foot in his mouth and out the Administration and Baucus about the $80 billion drug deal. You know, the one about which Nancy Pelosi had this to say:

“The minute the drug companies settled for $80 billion, we knew it was $160 billion. Right? If they’re giving away $80 billion?” A few minutes later, she suggested that maybe those agreements weren’t inviolable. “The president made the agreements he made,” she said. “And maybe we’ll be limited by that. But maybe not!”

Remember Billy Tauzin? Onetime republican rep from Lousiana, and as recently as 2004 chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee now headed by Henry Waxman? The last House Committee to report out a healthcare bill last week? Yah, that Billy Tauzin. The Billy Tauzin who pushed the Medicare bill through Congress that diverted billions to pharmaceutical companies?

When the prescription drug bill finally passed shortly before dawn, in the longest roll call in the history of the House of Representatives, much of the credit went to former Congressman Billy Tauzin, R-La., who steered it through the house.

The Billy Tauzin that left Congress from his position of regulating pharmaceuticals to being their chief lobbyist? Yeah, that Billy Tauzin.

One only has to look to the White House statement released by Jim Messina (AKA “the Fixer”) to know that this is a big deal: “The president encouraged this approach.”

So Obama brought Tauzin in, roughed him up a bit, then offered him a deal, and “directed him to negotiate with Senator Max Baucus, the business-friendly Montana Democrat.” The business friendly Montana Democrat! How about that!! Max, the $750,000 recipient of donations from the pharmaceutical industry. Talk about a couple of foxes guarding the henhouse!

Well, now we know why healthcare reform, Max-style, is a done deal. A deal with the devil. The administration found themselves a nice paid-for shill already in the pocket of PhRMA to go and offer the industry a little bit of protection in order for some concessions. I think I’m starting to get the feel for what “politics, Chicago-style” is all about.

Will the American people stand for that? As Pelosi says: “Maybe… maybe not.”

Just a little back story for you all about the upcoming Obama/Baucus summit in Bozeman.

by jhwygirl

Cat’s out of the bag…way out of the bag and running down the road like its tail is on fire, so what the hell.

4&20 hears, via 3,000 emails, tweets and phone calls that Obama’s coming to Bozeman on August 14th, with his lovely wife Michelle, to attend a town hall meeting at an airport hanger and then head down to Big Sky to meet with (at least) Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester for the weekend.

That’s all I got, but there it is.

by jhwygirl

Well…came across a National Journal article that links to a Great Falls Tribune – John S. Adams news article on Sen. Baucus’ annual Big Sky retreat for health care sector lobbyists.

That’s no joke, people – Montana’s senior Senator actually hosts an annual fling-ding in Big Sky specifically for lobbyists from the health care sector. Pretty unreal.

Nice to see, though, national media taking notice of Montana’s fine journalists.

Bozeman Chronicle had an article recently on the big Hebgan Lake earthquake of 1959. All that geology stuff fascinates me and I’ve read a good bit on that event, but I don’t ever recall hearing that a kid survived the boulder-smashed-a-tent story. The 50-year anniversary is coming up: August 17th.

In last V&S I mentioned ex-health insurance executive Wendell Potter – well, this week the UK’s Guardian did an interview with him. Fascinating view of our fabulously wonderful American real world health care system.

Bozeman’s spending $10,000 to hire a Missoula investigator to look into the who what why when of the City’s requirement that job applicants had to provide their facebook/social networking site passwords…and email and banking information, too, apparently. That really is an incredible situation. How could someone even dream that up, yet alone implement it?

So I guess it’s all good – The Lawsuiters hire a Bozeman attorney and the City of Bozeman hires a Missoula investigator.


I want to remind everyone that August 10th is the deadline for submitting public comment to FWP about their plans to electrify numerous state park campgrounds. Comments should be directed to Lee Bastian by phone to 406-542-5517 or emailed to Today’s the first of the month – get it done and tell a friend.

Oh – how about this one: NY’s Attorney General is looking into 9 banks that needed and took the most bailout money, and still handed out minimum $1,000,000 bonuses to 5 THOUSAND employees. When you read how much these guys lost to earn that kind of bonus, it makes you kind of sick.

Reform anyone? Pretty Please??

OK. One more.

Ward 1 Councilman Dave Strohmaier has invited everyone to the Greenough bridge restoration fundraiser. It’s today, from 3 – 5 p.m. at the picnic shelter.

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