Column in today's News and Observer tries to step back from the gory details and consider the big idea of Baucus: define the uninsured problem as a market failure, and instead of only expanding insurance via government programs, try and create a robust and functioning individual-sale (non employer) insurance market in which individual consumers do the shopping. And in doing so, harness market competition to bid down premiums and make insurance more affordable. Doing this successfully would be a radical departure from what we now have in the USA.
160 Million people get insurance form their employer, and many have no choice--only the policy arranged by their employer. And employers are spending someone elses money (their employees, and the taxpayers as a whole because of the tax exclusion of employer paid premiums) when they do the shopping. There are just 14 Million people covered by non-group private insurance policies in the US.
Here are others noting benefits of Wyden amendment (noted in the column) that would open up the insurance markets created by Baucus bill. Here is link to Ezra Klein's interview with Ron Wyden.
Also, I was watching a bit of the Senate Finance Committee mark up last night (I know, get a life) and there was interesting discussion about providing newly eligible Medicaid beneficiaries choice of whether to stick with Medicaid or be able to purchase policies through the exchange. Sen. Enzi, (R-WY) offered such an amendment, with Sen. Wyden voting for it, and Sen. Conrad and Sen. Cantwell saying they would favor a similar amendment to be offered later....they voted against Enzi's because of the 'pay for' that would make this amendment budget neutral...it would pay for this expansion of Medicaid folks into private insurance by reducing the subsidies given to people between 133%-400% of poverty. Sen. Snowe also voted against the amendment.
We will see if there is an emerging move toward opening up the exchanges in the Baucus bill, in the name of choice.
Note: The News and Observer has changed its website, and the links of past columns to the right are now broken. I will work on fixing this....if you want to read past columns if you put Donald H. Taylor, Jr. into google it will get to most of them on the first page that comes up.