Updates from others on national health reform…

The new Health Wonk Review is out, with lots of links from the health policy wonk blogs, from us and others, all hosted by Richard Elmore at Health Technology News.

But the big health reform event last week was the release of Senator Max Baucus’ “Chairman’s Mark,” which will be the basis by which the Senate Finance Committee will be considering, and amending, in the next week. Within a familiar framework for those following this debate, there are many issues of significant concern.

Paul Krugman has an apt analysis of the issues in his recent New York Times column–that health reform won’t have everything health advocates want, but can still be supportable and even a major improvement over the status quo–but the Baucus plan really need to improved in three big ways:
1) the level of subsidies and assistance to low- and moderate-income families to make coverage affordable;
2) the structure and level of assessment on employers who don’t provide coverage to their workers; and
3) the inclusion and structure of the public health insurance option.

We touched on those issues, as well as a couple of other key ones, that have been raised by us and other blogs a few days ago.

Ron Brownstein of The Atlantic, who smart about politics and about health care, makes a point about good aspects of the Baucus plan–but even he agrees that it asks too much of low- and moderate-income families and too little of employers, and that it should be fixed in that regard.

And let’s remember, while we haven’t come so far with health reform since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid over 40 years ago, there’s still a ways to go. Which means there are opportunity to improve the bill, especially as it gets merged with the other, better proposals in the Senate and especially the House. The Health Care for America Now website usefully lays out the process going forward.

The first step is the process of amending the Baucus proposal in Senate Finance Committee. Many of the issues above, and so many more, are touched on by the 564 amendments proposed. This is the debate of the next week or two.

The ThinkProgress WonkRoom has an impressive, and incredibly useful list categorizing the various proposed amendments. Click there to see their helpful charts, but here’s some of the highlighted changes, to be debated in the next week:

Democrats introduced several amendments re-instating the public insurance option, expanding Medicare to Americans 54 to 65, striking the network of consumer driven cooperatives, and improving affordability standards. Multiple amendments lowered the threshold for subsidies, limited out-of-pocket expenses, increased subsidies for individuals making 300-400% of poverty and narrowed the so-called ‘age-band’ (the variation that allows insurers to charge older beneficiaries higher rates).

Democrats exempt workers in high risk professions from the excise tax on insurers, replaced the free rider provision with an employer mandate, and even proposed tax equity for domestic partnerships.

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