When Max Baucus circulated his draft plan earlier this week, the PDF documentation page (image) indicates that the "author" was ex-Wellpoint VP Liz Fowler. Fowler was hired in February as Senior Counsel to the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and famously boasted that "the reason that I have a lot of friends is ’cause I got to give away money.”
If Fowler did indeed write the draft plan, then how did the same framework and language find its way into an amendment submitted by Blue Dog Mike Ross in July?
Jon Walker finds that "the two documents are almost identical and and sometimes use the exact same wording":
The governing documents of the cooperatives incorporate ethical and conflict of interest standards designed to protect against insurance industry involvement and interference in the governance of the cooperative.
Its governing documents must incorporate ethics and conflict of interest standards protecting against insurance industry involvement and interference.
Walker goes on to note that "at the time Ross’ amendment was submitted many Democratic senators and congressmen were both concerned and confused by Conrad’s co-ops idea. It seemed that Conrad was not sharing with most of his own party what his idea of co-ops would really be, but some how Rep. Ross was provided the document."
Let’s look at the history:
June 1: Senators in the health care debate tasked Conrad with the job of coming up with an alternative to the public option.
June 4: Conrad met with Steven Helmsley, CEO of UnitedHealth.
June 10: Kent Conrad first talked of a co-op plan
June 11: The AMA — who had been doing secret deals with the White House that have not yet been revealed — apparently knew the details and indicated they would support it.
June 16: Carrie Budoff-Brown reports that "a document circulating among Senate staff highlights the similarities between the Conrad co-op approach and President George W. Bush’s “association health plans."
June 24: White House shifted its language and begins talking about a public option that was not profit driven.
On July 20, I wrote that it looked like the White House to get something passed was by running a "co-op crunch," whereby the Senate passes a bill with co-ops and the Blue Dogs refuse to vote for anything else in the House. Far from opposing the White House on health care, the Blue Dogs have been the vehicle for jamming any House bill with the deals that the White House and Baucus cut with lobbyists representing PhRMA and the hospitals. Which is why Rahm Emanuel has been so emphatic about protecting them on health care,
But by July 30, as Scarecrow noted, Conrad "has so far declined to provide more than a vague definition of his co-ops and has yet to explain how such entities could function."
So how did Mike Ross apparently know what the Conrad plan would be on July 31?
Of course it’s possible Conrad just cribbed his plan from Mike Ross. If that’s the case, it means that the Blue Dogs are the authors of the co-op plan in the long-awaited Finance Committe bill. Or, as Walker notes, that there was another source that distributed language to both.
On May 11, the White House received written proposals from PhRMA, the AMA, the device manufacturers, the hospitals and the insurance industry for "voluntary" cost cutting. Those proposals apparently became the basis for deals that the White House cut with these stakeholders, the details of which are still not know, but which appear to have been memorialized in Max Baucus’s bill.
CREW recently got the White House to agree to release their visitor logs. They should release these proposals as well, and be candid about the role that the insurance industry played in the crafting of both the Ross and Conrad co-op plans.