Baucus Makes Some Improvements to Bill Before Markup

Igor Volsky at the Wonk Room has done a good job explaining many of the more important modifications made to the Baucus bill. To his list I would add three important changes which address a few of my own concerns with the Baucus bill.

Better Ombudsman Office
Baucus decided to significantly strengthen the new ombudsman office by basically adopting the Bingaman amendment I discussed the other day. Originally the costumer would need to fully exhaust all internal appeals before being able to seek help from the ombudsman's office. Now if the appeal last longer than three months they can get professional help from the ombudsman's office. Access to the ombudsman's services still needs to be improved but this is a step in the right directions.

No Multiple Exchanges
The bill would no longer allow states to create multiple exchanges. Originally states could allow “other entities” to operate multiple exchanges in the state. This was a bad provision that would not only dilutes the bargaining power of individual using the exchanges, but could easily become a way for insurance companies to game the system.

National Plans Restricted
Baucus' bill would have allowed insurance companies to sell “national plans” which would be exempt from state benefit mandates. This has been a long time goal of the health insurance industry and would have effective gutted most states' insurance regulations. Fortunately, this provision has be changed to allow individual states opt-out of allowing national plans to be sold in their state. States with very good benefit mandates can now at least prevent their state from being flooded with lower quality “national plans.”

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