Friday, September 18, 2009

College Kids Boo Baucus

President Obama has not full-thoatedly endorsed the Baucus healthcare reform plan, and I don't think his appearance yesterday convinced anyone on his staff that he should. When he mentioned the Baucus plan to a crowd at the University of Maryland, they grumbled. (Some are saying they "resoundingly booed." That's not what I saw. Anyway, they were not happy.)

This was an invitation-only liberal crowd of Obama supporters. These are the people who are responsible, more than any other, for getting him elected. Young idealists. So, this crowd's negative response to a bill that the president is willing to sign (I believe) right now, today, is not a good sign. The whole point of the Baucus effort was to devise a plan that satisfies moderates and maybe a Republican or two, while meeting the president's deficit-neutral objective.

Now, to be clear, the Baucus bill will be amended greatly over the next few weeks, but as it stands the president's own plan is not that far off from Baucus'. (Even he says, in the clip, that "each bill has its strengths and there a lot of similarities between them.")

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So the president has a problem. My advice: Come out on Monday in favor of Sen. Ron Wyden's proposed amendment to "let everyone choose [the president's] health insurance plan."

Wyden wants everyone to have at least some choice in our health insurance options, not by killing employer-based coverage, as he has proposed in the past, but by requiring employers to offer "their employees a choice of at least two insurance plans, one of them a low-cost, high-value plan. Employers could meet this requirement by offering their own choices. Or they could let their employees choose either the company plan or a voucher that could be used to buy a plan on the exchange. They could also simply insure all of their employees though the exchange, at a discounted rate."

This is such a wonderful idea that I have every confidence it will go up in flames.

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