Today, a proposal circulated through Congress that would fine anyone who didn't buy health insurance $3,800.
Those of us watching this closely knew there was one group in Congress that hadn't weighed in with an Obamacare proposal. That was one from the Finance Committee, which had been cooking something up (or, perhaps more accurately, ginning something up) for a while. The head of the FC is Sen. Max Baucus, a Democrat from Montana who is described as a moderate. Here's the bullet points:
* It is a 10 year, $900 bil package
* It would require insurance companies to take ALL applicants, period. Smokers would be charged a higher premium, and estimates are that a 60 year old would be paying five times as much as a 20 year old.
* Paying for the plan would require fees on insurance companies, drug companies, and the health care industry. You know, the people who contribute tons of money to these peoples' campaigns. Yeah, I'll just bet they'll foot the bill and we won't. Keep in mind, Americans already spend $2.5 tril a year on health care.
* What if you don't want insurance or can't afford the prices you're going to be charged? Two words: surprise buttsecks! Penalties start at $750 a year for individuals and $1,500 for families. And that's to start. If your household is over three times the federal poverty level ($66,000 for a family of four), you're looking at $3,800 for families and $950 for individuals.
* The plan includes tax credits to households below that "3X's the poverty line" mark to help offset the cost and also for small employers paying about average middle-class wages (so if you are running a gas station or a franchise store, you're out of luck).
It should be noted that an 18-page summary of this proposal was leaked to the press before it was ever sent to Congress and Obama.
Through his spokespeople, Obama has been changing his tune on mandatory enrollment. Originally, he only wanted kids to be mandatoried. He's been including more and more people lately. He has stopped short of fines, however, and we're waiting to see who gets thrown under the bus to see how he stands on this.
Meanwhile, the government-run health care that competes with private business might finally be ready to sink. Mike Ross is a key moderate Democrat in the House from Arkansas. After the town hall meetings made his constituents' position clear ("Push this through and we'll vote your ass out next year"), he has abandoned support for Obamacare. With the loss of Ross, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Democrat from Maryland, told reporters that a Medicare-style plan for middle class Americans is not an essential part of the legislation to him. Boom boom, out go the lights.
The D's are still clinging to the hope that they can revive health care in a few years by threatening to enact it if health care costs haven't gone down (without tort reform and restrictions on venue shopping? Remember, lots of lawyers in Congress seeking to make work for their bretheren). Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from Nevada and Nancy Pelosi from California are still insisting this will pass, and they're starting to sound like Kevin Bacon at the end of Animal House -- "Remain calm! Everything's under control! All is well!"
This basically puts Obama between the nutcrackers. He's due to give a speech Wednesday night. I still say Obama is going to say he's open to compromise, take suggestions, put the proposal in committee to see if everything can be incorporated, and it will basically die there. Proponents of health care can say, "Hey, we tried, but politicking sank it," while those looking to appear compromising can say, "We took your suggestions and kept you from getting nailed." It's win-win for everyone coming up for election next year.
As the seventh Doctor said, "Time will tell. It always does."