Baucus Healthcare Bill Hurts Women and Families

Advocates for women’s health care have been meeting with congressional representatives around the country to advocate for affordable comprehensive health care reform. We here at Choice Matters have arranged many of these meetings in New York.

Despite our hard work, and the support of many in the New York delegation, a terrible bill has emerged from the Senate Finance Committee–aptly named the Baucus Bill after the chairman who is pushing it through.

Below is a summary* of things fundamentally wrong with the Baucus Bill.

NOW WE NEED YOU! CONTACT YOUR SENATORS, especially if they are members of the Senate Finance Committee, and demand that the Baucus Bill be amended in the Senate Finance Committee mark-up meetings next week. (Scroll down for a list of members of the Finance Committee.)

If your Senator is not a member of the Senate Finance Committee, ask him or her to contact Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus to oppose this bill in its current form.

The deadline for submitting amendments is tomorrow, Friday September 18, at 5 p.m. Eastern time, so we must act quickly!

(*Thank you to Raising Women’s Voices for providing this summary.)

“The people of New York will especially be shortchanged by the Finance Committee’s legislation, as would other regions with a high cost of living. By cutting the cost of the bill, this version reduces subsidies for working families to buy insurance, something which may still work in Montana, but it certainly will not help people living in New York.”
–Rep. Eliot Engel, 9/16/09

The Summary

The long-awaited Senate Finance Committee health reform bill has finally emerged from the anti-democratic and painfully extended negotiation process created by Committee Chair Max Baucus of Montana. The Baucus bill is bad for women and bad for our families in many ways.

What’s wrong with the bill? Compared to the bills produced earlier in the summer by four other Congressional committees (three in the House and one in the Senate), the Baucus bill fails to make health insurance affordable for women and our families. It sacrifices important features of the other proposals, such as the public plan option, in what appears to have been an unsuccessful attempt to woo Republicans. Not a single Republican came forward to support the Baucus plan, and several prominent Democrats (including Senators Rockefeller and Wyden, both of whom are on the Finance Committee) have already criticized the proposal.

We strongly oppose the bill as it stands today and are calling on Senators to amend and improve it in the Finance Committee mark up next week and on the floor of the Senate. Key problems to be addressed include:

  1. The bill imposes politics and ideology on what should be a purely medical decision – the question about what services an insurance plan will cover. It singles out abortion for special exclusions, rather than treating it like other medical care. The Baucus bill adopts language that was developed as a compromise by the House Energy and Commerce Committee (the so-called Capps amendment) to stave off worse anti-choice amendments. Reproductive health services are basic health care for women, and we urge the Finance Committee members to follow the lead of their colleagues on the Senate HELP Committee by passing legislation that puts the decisions about which services will be covered by insurance in the hands of medical experts and consumers who will make their decisions based on medical standards of care and scientific/medical evidence, not politics or ideology.
  2. The bill fails to make health insurance affordable for low- and moderate-income people. It would mandate that everybody buy health insurance, and impose sizeable penalties on those who don’t, but it doesn’t make it possible for people to actually afford the insurance. According to The Washington-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a family of three earning about $55,000 – three times the federal poverty level – would be expected to pay as much as 13 percent of its income for health insurance premiums. That’s roughly $7,100 a year. It compares with costs of about $5,500 under the House bill, and $4,300 in the Senate health committee bill. A three-person family earning about $27,500 would have to pay 5.5 percent of its income, a premium of about $1,570. That compares with $824 a year in the House legislation, and $275 under the Senate health committee proposal. In addition, the bill does not set a reasonable limit on the amount of out-of-pocket costs that an insurance company can charge, over and above the price of the premium.
  3. The bill allows and even encourages insurance companies and employers to continue practices that are particularly damaging to women. It allows insurance companies to charge older people up to five times as much as younger people. The House bill allowed only a 2 to 1 ratio. Women, who live longer on average than men, are more likely to bear the costs of this age rating. Moreover, the bill creates a disincentive for employers to hire low-income workers and especially low-income, single parents – the vast majority of whom are women.
  4. The bill fails to ensure that all residents receive equal access to health coverage. We believe that health reform should give legal immigrants access to affordable coverage in the same way that it does for as American citizens. Legal immigrants should have access to tax credits through the exchange, should be eligible for Medicaid without a waiting period and should not be subject to excessive verification requirements. In addition, we oppose efforts to bar people, regardless of immigration status, from using their own funds to buy health insurance through the exchange.
  5. The bill does not establish a health insurance system that will provide a full range of choices to consumers, lower costs and make insurance companies accountable. The Baucus bill does not include a public insurance option, but instead provides a government-subsidized monopoly for private insurers. A robust public health insurance option would effectively compete with private insurers, giving people meaningful choice in their insurance purchasing decisions, helping to control costs and bringing greater accountability to the insurance industry. The co-op proposal included in the Baucus bill will not meet these objectives.

Senate Finance Committee members

Democrats
1. MAX BAUCUS, MT
2. JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER IV, WV
3.KENT CONRAD, ND
4. JEFF BINGAMAN, NM
5. JOHN F. KERRY, MA
6. BLANCHE L. LINCOLN, AR
7. RON WYDEN, OR
8. CHARLES E. SCHUMER, NY
9. DEBBIE STABENOW, MI
10. MARIA CANTWELL, WA
11. BILL NELSON, FL
12. ROBERT MENENDEZ, NJ
13. THOMAS CARPER, DE

Republicans
1. CHUCK GRASSLEY, IA
2. ORRIN G. HATCH, UT
3. OLYMPIA J. SNOWE, ME
4. JON KYL, AZ
5.JIM BUNNING, KY
6. MIKE CRAPO, ID
7. PAT ROBERTS, KS 8. JOHN ENSIGN, NV
9. MIKE ENZI, WY
10. JOHN CORNYN, TX

Senate contact info here.

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