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No public option. The biggest problem with Baucus' bill is that it lacks a "public option," a government-created health insurance program that would compete with private health plans in the health exchanges, thereby exerting downward pressure on private-sector premiums (and more broadly provide a safe harbor should the bill's new regulations fail to end chicanery by private insurers). Instead, the Baucus bill creates nonprofit health cooperatives to do the same thing.
These are a poor substitute, Sen. Rockefeller argues in a Sept. 16 letter to Baucus. Rockefeller points out that in the United States, health co-ops are "a dying business model," having enjoyed a brief vogue during the early 20th century and subsequently dwindled in number to somewhere between five and seven. They "function just like private health insurance companies," Rockefeller continues, and therefore wouldn't likely create much in the way of price competition for private for-profit insurers.
Schumer and Cantwell have an amendment (261) to create the same public option described in the Senate health committee bill. Rockefeller has a slightly different public-option amendment (187). I'd be delighted to see either one pass.
I have some other problems with Baucus' bill, but these three are the most important. You don't like my bill as amended? Consult Wilson'sspreadsheet and amend it yourself.
E-mail Timothy Noah at firstname.lastname@example.org.