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What's Up With the Baucus Bill?

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Picture 7The health care reform debate has reached the final stretch and all eyes are Sen. Max Baucus and his bipartisan negotiations in the Senate Finance Committee. During the last few days, details of Baucus' plan have leaked through various outlets, often coming with differing details. Some initially reported that the plan would contain neither a public option or a cooperative system, but later reporting showed that the plan did contain a health care cooperative system. To make matters worse, it appears that lobbyists were given copies of the health care plan before the White House, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and, well, everyone else.

We can probably deduce who some of those lobbyists are by viewing this graphic. Baucus has many former staffers working as lobbyists for the health industry. He also has two former health industry employees working on his committee staff. Baucus' chief health aide Elizabeth Fowler is a former executive with Wellpoint, one of the nation's largest health insurance companies. Fowler is also the apparent author of Baucus' health reform plan according to the properties of the .pdf file uploaded to his web site.

So, let me get this straight. A former lobbyist for a health insurance company writes a health reform plan, which is then leaked to lobbyists, some of whom were likely former Baucus staffers, and public disclosure is delayed by a couple of days -- the plan was released to the media and lobbyists over the past few days but only posted to the Finance Committee web site today. To paraphrase the late, great Bill Hicks, it just doesn't sound good when you walk it out.

It's almost like they don't want the public to really play a role here or know what's going on. One can only hope that this won't be the case with the actual legislation that Baucus' committee comes up with.