Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sen. Max Baucus earns his healthcare industry contributions

Joan Walsh

On “The Ed Show” Monday night I said Montana Sen. Max Baucus had to decide whether he represented Montana or the insurance industry. Tuesday he made his choice, voting against both public option amendments to the health care reform bill in the Senate Finance Committee.

All the Democrats who voted against the public option should be ashamed, but Baucus most of all. The Senate Finance Committee chair’s reasoning was bizarre. According to Salon’s Mike Madden, whose coverage today was terrific, Baucus admitted “the public option would help hold insurance companies' feet to the fire,” then added, “But my first job is to get this bill across the finish line."

No, Sen. Baucus. Your first job is voting for what will work to extend health care to more Americans and reduce costs. (And Harry Reid, you might want to have a little talk with your boy from Montana, since it’s my understanding the Senate Majority Leader is in charge of getting the bill across the finish line.)

So let’s get this straight: Baucus admits the public option would “hold insurance companies’ feet to the fire,” but he voted against it? Is there any clearer evidence that Baucus is in the pocket of the health insurance industry? Between 2003 and 2008, according to the Washington Post, Baucus took $3 million from the health and insurance sectors, 20 percent of his total contributions. And he collected half of that money in just the last two years, as the committee he chaired began holding hearings on health care reform.


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