Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Senator Cantwell amends Senate Finance Committee health reform bill

This afternoon, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) successfully amended the Senate Finance Committee’s health reform bill, to incorporate langauge that allows states to offer the kind of healthcare safety net we have here in Washington State. The amendment passed with no Republican support and only one Democratic defection: Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, who is evidently auditioning for a job on K Street after her term ends.

Cantwell’s amendment directs states to create a “basic health plan” for families who currently have a hard time finding coverage: those who aren’t eligible for Medicaid, but who still struggle to afford insurance.
The measure would apply to people who make up to twice the federal poverty level — about $44,000 for a family of four.
The parameters of this proposed "basic health plan" are defined by the state government but the coverage is administered by private insurers. The plan is modeled after Washington’s twenty-year old Basic Health Plan:
In essence, what Washington state does is define a basic health plan--it sets the deductible, out of pocket limit, co-pays, drug cost sharing, and defines exactly what must be covered. Private insurers bid to be able to offer basically this exact same plan. A few private insurers are qualified; there are small differences in the basic health plan depending on the insurer the individual selects. Premiums are subsidized by the state to make the plans affordable.
Kudos to Senator Cantwell for doing her best to improve what is a shoddy bill. The language doesn't bring a public option into the bill, but it does bring the BaucusCare bill a few baby steps closer to the bill created by the HELP Committee. The really encouraging news is that the White House and the Democratic leadership have finally accepted that Republicans are not interested in working together for reform.

Maybe now we can finally get somewhere.

Washington’s Basic Health Plan offers low-income citizens comprehensive coverage at very affordable rates. If implemented, Cantwell’s plan would give a small but severely under-served segment of the population a very attractive health insurance option. But let’s face it, it’s not Medicaid or Medicare, our two real "public options."

CLARIFICATION: Just a quick update for readers... We've been in communication with Senator Cantwell's office and the Senator wants to stress she does not consider this amendment to be a public option, rather a complement to one. Accordingly, we've removed a sentence from the middle of this post that stated otherwise. Senator Cantwell remains strongly committed to a public option in the final bill, and she wants you to know she is working to make sure that happens.


Blogger geography prof said...

I think Senator Cantwell's (and Washington State's) plan could succeed in bringing down health care costs without a full blown public option IF accompanied by strong price controls. We have a precedent in this country for regulating prices of such things as utilities and cargo rates, and establishing EPA standards for gas mileage, etc. We can do that for the prices of health care procedures and medications, if only there was the political will to do so.

October 1, 2009 5:30 PM  
Blogger Ann-Marie Stillion said...

Thumbs down to Cantwell and shame on her for calling it a public option.

This is a red herring. A public option should be defined as access to buying health care for all which is far and reasonable. Basic Health Insurance is for very low income people and subsidies are limited. IF this is her model, we are in deep trouble.

We have to get out of the game where only the poorest of the poor are served. It is hard working people in all professions with incomes who are getting killed in the current system.

Stop rolling the dice for the average citizen Ms. Cantwell, stop working for big business and start working for the voter.

October 1, 2009 3:47 PM  

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