Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Montana's Mad Max Is Showing His True Colors

Senator Max Baucus and other members of the Senate Finance Committee have chosen For Profit over For People health care reform.

The Trouble With Max Baucus: It's Not The Plan, It's The Planning
First Posted: 09- 8-09 04:55 PM Updated: 09- 8-09 06:41 PM Huffington Post

Matt Yglesias takes an analytic look at the health care reform plan proffered by Max Baucus today, and while he beseeches his readers to remember his bona fides as a Max Baucus detractor, he nevertheless concludes that "a lot of the blog response to this proposal is overblown" and that there's "no reason to think that the system envisioned by Baucus would be either a political or a substantive disaster"

Instead, it would create something comparable to the situation that currently prevails in Switzerland or Massachusetts. Is that great? No, it's not. Health care in Massachusetts is substantialy worse than health care in any number of foreign countries. That said, the Massachusetts health care system is better than the health care system that exists in any other American state. Similarly, if it were up to me Switzerland is about the last country I would choose to emulate. In terms of excessive costs--spending that lines the pockets of medical providers with little real medical benefit--it's worse that everyone except . . . the United States of America.

In short, the status quo is bad, Baucus' plan would make it better by the slimmest of incremental degrees, and at the end of the day, a net gain is a net gain. What I think Matt is eliding over is the fact that Max Baucus' plan doesn't go any further than it does for a reason. That reason? Max Baucus' plan has been bought and paid for by industry lobbyists.

From the Sunlight Foundation, June 22, 2009:
Lobbying disclosure filings for the first quarter of 2009 reveal that five of Baucus' former staffers currently work for a total of twenty-seven different organizations that are either in the health care or insurance sector or have a noted interest in the outcome. The organizations represented include some of the top lobbying organizations in the health sector: Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Researchers of America (PhRMA), America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), Amgen, and GE Health Care.

The overall health and insurance sectors haven't just been kind to Baucus' staffers, but they've also aided his campaigns handsomely over the years, especially in his barely contested 2008 reelection campaign. In 2008, Baucus received $1,148,775 from the health sector and $285,850 from the insurance sector. For his career he has received $2,797,381 from the health sector and $1,170,313 from the insurance sector.

And this is precisely why Baucus' plan is such weak tea. Any ambition to craft a more effective policy or even shift in a larger incremental direction is entirely offset by millions of dollars of war chest money. And when one compares the money Baucus has taken in from his constituents versus the money he's raised from outside interests, it's hard to make the case that Baucus is authentically driven in his decisions to represent the citizens who have elected him. NPR's Andrea Seabrook breaks this down:

When Baucus ran for his sixth term last year, his campaign raised $11.6 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Nearly half of the funds came from out-of-state donors, including millions from health care and other industries overseen by Finance and Baucus' other committees.

Just 13 percent of Baucus' re-election funds came from Montana donors.
The "substantive disaster" here lies not in Baucus' sausage, but in the process by which it was cooked up, and if you swallow the former, you risk choking on the latter.


I'll have some more on the above article after this one. It seems Max didn't write his plan. He had Liz Fowler write his plan. She who used to be the VP for Public Policy and External Affairs at WellPoint. Are we shocked yet fellow progressives and liberals?

By: emptywheel Tuesday September 8, 2009 12:32 pm

All this time I've been calling Max Tax health care Max Baucus' health care plan.
But, as William Ockham points out, it's actually Liz Fowler's health care plan (if you open the document and look under document properties, it lists her as author). At one level, it's not surprising that Bad Max's Senior Counsel would have authored the Max Tax plan. Here's how Politico described her role in Bad Max's health care plan earlier this year:

If you drew an organizational chart of major players in the Senate health care negotiations, Fowler would be the chief operating officer.

As a senior aide to Baucus, she directs the Finance Committee health care staff, enforces deadlines on drafting bill language and coordinates with the White House and other lawmakers. She also troubleshoots, identifying policy and political problems before they ripen.
“My job is to get from point A to point B,” said Fowler, who’s training for four triathlons this summer in between her long days on Capitol Hill.

Fowler learned as a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania that the United States was the only industrialized country without universal health care, and she decided then to dedicate her professional life to the work.

She first worked for Baucus from 2001 through 2005, playing a key role in negotiating the Medicare Part D prescription drug program. Feeling burned out, she left for the private sector but rejoined Baucus in 2008, sensing that a Democratic-controlled Congress would make progress on overhauling the health care system.

Baucus and Fowler spent a year putting the senator in a position to pursue reform, including holding hearings last summer and issuing a white paper in November. They deliberately avoided releasing legislation in order to send a signal of openness and avoid early attacks.

“People know when Liz is speaking, she is speaking for Baucus,” said Dean Rosen, the health policy adviser to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).

What neither Politico nor Bad Max himself want you to know, though, is that in the two years before she came back to the Senate to help Max craft the Max Tax plan, she worked as VP for Public Policy and External Affairs at WellPoint.

So to the extent that Liz Fowler is the Author of this document, we might as well consider WellPoint its author as well.


I have no clue as to how Max Baucus spent 11.5 million dollars on his recent re election campaign in Montana. I was so baffled by this, that before I left for New Mexico I did an unscientific poll at a local convenience store. I asked 23 random pop and coffee buyers when was the last time Max ran for the senate. Not one person knew the answer to that question and they all stated they voted in 2008. Max ran in 2008. That 11.5 million dollar campaign sure resonated with Montana voters.

Having been one of those Montana voters, I couldn't for the life of me remember who ran against Max. I had to look it up and this is what I found:

Newser Summary) – Montana senator Max Baucus looks certain to win reelection this November, writes the New York Times, but his Republican challenger is gaining some attention for his unorthodox proposals.

Bob Kelleher, 85, wants to nationalize oil companies, end the Iraq war to fund cancer research—and, most shockingly, eliminate the separation of powers and introduce a British-style parliament. "How did he win?" a Baucus spokesman wondered. (I wonder that myself. How did he win the Republican nomination to run against Max?)

Kelleher has been a perennial candidate for decades in Montana, on GOP, Democratic, and Green tickets. But clinching the senatorial nomination surprised everyone—the state Republican chairman didn't even let him speak at their convention. And though he has only a $10,000 campaign budget and seemingly no chance, Kelleher is taking the race seriously: "I’m not going to have the quiet summer I thought I would."

I believe Kelleher did run a few commercials, but I couldn't locate his actual campaign financial statement. Max claims he spent over 9.3 million on his 2008 campaign. I wonder where he spent that, or why he spent that, or why he needed 11.5 million to run against a man whose own party wouldn't let him speak at their state convention.

For those of you who live elsewhere, I wouldn't be too quick to blame Montanans entirely. It's the Republicans who refused to run a viable candidate and gave up on this race before it began. No wonder Max is such a good friends with all his Republican counterparts on the Finance committee.

So now the whole nation gets Max 'the bought and paid for' and a potential health plan written by the very industry we're trying to reform. Don't you just love American democracy?
Should you care, you can get an idea of the major parts of the policy here. The part I don't like is that Max calls for hefty fees on all components of the health care industry, but no provisions which will prevent them from passing those fees on to us. Additionally he calls for mandatory coverage from for profit insurers, or maybe co ops. There are fines involved if people don't pay for insurance. Plus granny could wind up paying upwards of 6 times the amount for her insurance that her 20 year old grandson would. Max's plan may demand coverage for everybody, but somebodies are going to have to pay a whole lot more than others. This is not health care reform, period.


  1. According to this plan by Senator Max Baucus, or rather Liz Fowler's plan, Americans would be fined up to $3,800 if they do not have health insurance. This is ridiculous. The people who don't have medical coverage don't have the money to pay for the fine. Where are they supposed to get it from if they are out of work?

    This is utterly ridiculous and if the House and Senate vote this type of legislation in they will all be voted out of office. If Obama passes this into law, he is definitely a one-termer. This is outrageous!

    To charge smokers more money for insurance is discrimination. They are already heavily taxed for buying cigarettes. And what is to stop them from charging more in premiums for people who are overweight or partake in sports activities? And, of course, who is going to pay for the fees?

    And don't tell me that age discrimination also will not be a factor with regard to insurance premiums set by an industry determined to decline health care to at least one-quarter of the claims submitted.

    Sickening situation and Obama and all the so-called representatives of the People need to get their act together and be For the People.

    This so called health care reform plan supported by the bought and paid for insurance spokesman Baucus is going backwards and not forward. It is what Obama claimed in his campaign was "more of the same." There is no HOPE in this health care reform plan at all for American families already struggling to make ends meet by the excessive taxation and debt heaped onto them by these political thieves.

  2. Also, if Baucus health care reform plan would pass, people who don't have insurance will not want to pay the fine, so they will not even go to a doctor to get care and this could mean their death.

    More people will die from this type of plan and it will be the poor people.

  3. after last year i gave up on politics...i just pray for the best...