Max Baucus Should Not Be Deciding Health Care for America

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the Baltimore Chronicle (Maryland)

Max Baucus Should Not Be Deciding Health Care for America

The “Senator for K Street” is Putting Campaign Donor Profits Ahead of the Basic Needs of the People

Senator Max Baucus and the Senate Finance Committee are too corrupted by corporate health industry profiteers donations to give America the health care policy it needs.

Health care is 15% of the U.S. gross domestic product. U.S. health care expenditures, which have been rising rapidly for several years, surpassed $2.4 trillion in 2007, more than three times the $714 billion spent in 1990. The cost of health care is projected to reach $4.4 trillion by 2018. There is a lot of room for corporate profiteering in the increasing cost of health care. The millions the health care industry has invested in Baucus and the Senate Finance Committee could therefore turn out to be very profitable.

It is evident that any bill that comes out of the Senate Finance Committee will be a pro-industry bill that will ensure trillions in profits for the health insurance industry, HMOs and the pharmaceutical industry.

Baucus has held two hearings so far and has refused to allow advocates for the most popular reform-a single payer national health policy-to even testify. Single payer "improved Medicare for all" is favored by more than 60% of Americans as well as majorities of doctors, nurses and economists. It is the most cost-effective and efficient way to provide health care to all Americans from cradle to grave.

Why aren't single payer advocates allowed to testify before Baucus' committee? Follow the money. Campaign donations explain why, and demonstrate that the Senate Finance Committee should not be in charge of health care. Senator Reid should remove the health care reform bill from Baucus and start all over before the Health Committee in the Senate.

Here's why Baucus is not doing the people's business:

According to OpenSecrets.org, over his career he has taken donations from:

* The Insurance Industry: $1,170,313
* Health Professionals: $1,016,276
* Pharmaceuticals/Health Products Industry: $734,605
* Hospitals/Nursing Homes: $541,891
* Health Services/HMOs: $439,700

Baucus has shown his bias and should be removed from leading the health care reform effort by the Democratic Party leadership.

That is a grand total of $3,902,785. Can we trust Baucus to put aside the profits of the industries that have kept him in the Senate? Will he put the people's necessities ahead of the profits of his contributors?

In 2008 Baucus had virtually no challenger in Montana. A little-known Republican was on the ballot, and Baucus won with 73% of the vote. But, Baucus sought big donations from big business anyway. He used his connections to corporations with business before his committee to raise an immense campaign fund of more than $11 million. In 2008, 91% of his donations come from individuals living outside of Montana, which is why he is more the "Senator for K Street" then the Senator for Montana. Corporate health profiteers who invested in Baucus will now benefit from his stewardship over health care reform. His 2008 donations from health care profiteers included:

* Insurance: $592,185
* Health Professionals: $537,141
* Pharmaceuticals/Health Products: $524,813
* Health Services/HMOs: $364,500
* Hospitals/Nursing Homes: $332,826

That is $1,826,652 Baucus took from these industries, and now he can reward them by deforming health care reform.

The health care profiteers knew that Baucus would determine their fate and ponied up. Now the only thing standing between them and their payback is a single payer national health care plan. Yet single payer, which would end private insurance and control the cost of pharmaceutical drugs, is not being considered-not even allowed to participate in the conversation before Baucus.

It is not just the chairman of the committee who has received massive donations. The full Finance Committee is a gluttonous embarrassment of campaign pay-offs. In 2008 the committee members received a total of $13,263,986 from industries affected by health care reform. Can we trust this committee to put the interests of the people before their donors?

The donations to the Finance Committee in 2008 included:

* Insurance: $5,103,900
* Pharmaceuticals/Health Products: $3,308,831
* Hospitals/Nursing Homes: $2,809,353
* Health Services/HMOs: $2,041,902

These industries expect to be rewarded with billions, even trillions, in profits and hundreds of millions in corporate welfare. Senator Baucus's behavior shows they have made a good investment-they've bought themselves a senator who should be called Chairman Blagojevich. He is doing his best to make sure the single payer message is not heard because he knows it is the fairest, most efficient and cost-effective way to ensure health care access for all Americans-but he can't let that be implemented because it would put some of his donors out of business and control the profits of others.

It is time to remove Baucus from the leadership of health care reform. It is time to move the critically important priority of reforming America's health care system from the Finance Committee and put it before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. At least their mission is health care, not money.

Kevin Zeese

Kevin Zeese is an organizer of Popular Resistance and the Attorney General for the Green Shadow Cabinet. He is in the leadership of World Beyond War and Come Home America.

 

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