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Oct. 1 2009 - 7:03 pm | 18 views | 2 recommendations | 3 comments

Cantwell Amendment passes Senate Finance Committee

Official photograph of Maria Cantwell, U.S. Se...

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Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), taking a page from a program originating in her home state of Washington, has successfully maneuvered an amendment through the finance committee that comes close to a public option while not quite getting there.

The program, which made its way into the finance committee bill by one vote, would affect those above the 133% of the federal poverty line (those below this threshold are currently covered by Medicaid) up to 200% of the FPL. This would include a family of four earning up to $44,000.

Rather than handing over the $6500 health insurance subsidy that these people would have qualified for under the initial Baucus plan, that money would be handed over to the states to create a negotiating fund to be controlled by the state.

Participants would not get their insurance from the state through some sort of state operated public insurance option. Rather, the state would combine all this federal subsidy money and use the clout of controlling this large sum of cash to negotiate with private insurers on behalf of participants in order to get them the  best deal.

It’s something of a collective bargaining approach for those in a low income bracket, with the state functioning as the local labor negotiator.

The theory is that one person, with a $6500 subsidy in hand, does not have the negotiating power with an insurer that the state would have with millions of $6500 federal checks in hand when approaching the private insurers. Arguably, with this bargaining power, the state should do a much better job of keeping down the premium costs for those who fall within the program’s parameters.

Those of us who live in Hollywood can clearly identify with just how well this approach can work.

The reason Hollywood players like to be represented by the ‘big’ talent agencies is the clout those agencies have with buyers by virtue of the fact that they represent lots of big name talent rather than just a few names. If buyers don’t give everyone who is ‘repped’ by the agency a good deal, the agency is going to remember this when their top stars are looking for their next project and every buyer wants to have them. In this way, each client, big or small, benefits from the collective clout.

And it does work.

It is a small step forward, but kudos to Senator Cantrell for moving the ball forward, even if just a few yards.


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  1. collapse expand

    Anything that ads negation to the Baucus bill is a step in the right direction and yes kudos to Sen. Cantwell.

  2. collapse expand

    It’s certainly a pretty weak measure, and really unfortunate given public opinion on the issue, but any improvement to the Finance Committee’s bill will make it more likely that we’ll get a stronger bill when this is all said and done.

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    About Me

    I am an attorney in Southern California, and a frequent writer, speaker and consultant on health care policy and politics. To that end, I am active member of the Association of Health Care Journalists. Based in beautiful Santa Monica, California, I'm very pleased to have the opportunity to be a contributing editor to True/Slant. I've recently finished a book designed to make the health care debate understandable to the average reader, and expect it to be out in the next five months or earlier. In my 'spare time', I continue to write for television and, occasionally, for comic books.

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