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Max Baucus’ health-care bill

Why no one likes Baucus’ Senate Finance Committee bill, and why it might have the best chance of passing

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus finally released his “bipartisan health-reform bill,” said Timothy Noah in Slate. Unfortunately, “it’s bipartisan only in the sense that both Democrats and Republicans on the finance committee are threatening not to support it.” Baucus says the bill has “no real policy deal-breakers,” but “in fact, there are several.” For Republicans, it’s an individual mandate; for Democrats, the lack of a “public option.”

So “no one is happy” with Baucus’ bill—but that “may be the best news President Obama has had in months,” said Ceci Connolly in The Washington Post. Beneath the bipartisan “rhetorical fireworks,” the crucial but “fragile coalition” of health-industry groups held together, and “held their firepower.” For hospitals, drugmakers, and others, 30 million new customers outweigh the bill’s new fees and cuts.

There’s another group that likes the Baucus bill: the Congressional Budget Office, said Jay Newton-Small in Time. The CBO weighed in during Baucus’ press rollout, saying the bill would actually cut the deficit for at least 20 years. “More than 50 BlackBerrys whipped out simultaneously.” No other bill succeeds in “bending the cost curve,” so this CBO score leaves fiscally conservative critics “flummoxed.”

Not really, said National Review Online in an editorial. The Baucus bill is “marginally less awful” than the “other flavors of Obamacare,” but it’s still paid for through forced coverage and “hidden taxes” on employers, medical companies, and, ultimately, consumers. What’s needed is a bill that expands coverage through “consumer choice and price competition.”

Well, health-care negotiations “ain’t over yet,” said Russ Britt in MarketWatch. “Not even close.” Sen. Max Baucus is getting all the attention now, but his “much-ballyhooed plan” is one of many on Capitol Hill, and “what the Montana Democrat says is not the final word.”

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