In the Columbia Journalism Review, Trudy Lieberman, president of AHCJ’s board of directors, tries to pin down exactly where Montana Democrat Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, stands on the inclusion of a publicly funded option in any proposed movement toward universal health coverage. Thanks to his powerful position, Baucus is the gatekeeper for any proposed plans and will have significant influence upon their direction.
At issue is the role of private insurance companies in any proposed universal system.
Baucus recently told Time’s Karen Tumulty that he considered a public option a bargaining chip to force insurance companies into other reforms, like dropping restrictions on preexisting conditions and selling policies to everyone, sick or well. In other words, the chip would move them toward “market reforms” that bring more people into the insurance fold.
In different circumstances, Lieberman found that Baucus said that while he thinks health care reform can be accomplished without a private component, he might agree with Howard Dean that real reform wouldn’t be possible without a public component to the plan.