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March 29, 2010

Baucus Thanks Wellpoint VP Liz Fowler for Writing Health Care Bill

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Not a surprise really that upon passage of the health care bill, Max Baucus would openly thank Liz Fowler, the former Wellpoint VP, for writing it:

Mr. BAUCUS. Mr. President, there are a flood of emotions going through all of us today as we pass this reconciliation bill which improves upon the bill the President signed 2 days ago. I would like to focus only on one part–a very important part but only one part–and that is to thank the people who have worked so hard, especially in this body, to help accomplish this result.


We all want to thank so many people. Once we start mentioning a couple or three names, we run the danger of offending people whose names are not mentioned. We all know that. There will be an appropriate time for us to make all the thanks, and I will make mine so sincerely because I am so grateful for all the hard work my staff has put into this.

I wish to single out one person, and that one person is sitting next to me. Her name is Liz Fowler. Liz Fowler is my chief health counsel. Liz Fowler has put my health care team together. Liz Fowler worked for me many years ago, left for the private sector, and then came back when she realized she could be there at the creation of health care reform because she wanted that to be, in a certain sense, her profession lifetime goal. She put together the White Paper last November–2008–the 87-page document which became the basis, the foundation, the blueprint from which almost all health care measures in all bills on both sides of the aisle came. She is an amazing person. She is a lawyer; she is a Ph.D. She is just so decent. She is always smiling, she is always working, always available to help any Senator, any staff. I thank Liz from the bottom of my heart. In many ways, she typifies, she represents all of the people who have worked so hard to make this bill such a great accomplishment.

I will have printed in the Record the names of all my professional staff. There are more than I realized, so I can’t name them all. I ask unanimous consent to have that list printed in the Record and just regret that I cannot thank everybody personally.

It’s right up there with Tom Carper’s insistence that the Senate had to respect the White House deal with PhRMA because after all they paid for it with $150 million in political advertising as “most telling moments of the health care debate.”

Nancy Pelosi says the foundations of the health care bill were written by the Heritage Foundation.  Probably true, Heritage is awash in corporate money. And really, the plan is no different from the one that AHIP (then HIAA) wrote in 1992:

- Every American was required to buy ‘an essential package’ of benefits

- The government would help define the essential package and private insurers would provide the standard package “regardless of a person’s medical history”

- Only the essential package would be protected from taxation. If employers bought more than the basic benefits, the premiums pad for the extra coverage “would be treated as income to the employees, and they would have to pay income tax on it.”

- The government would work with private insures to “stabilize health-care prices” and make sure private insures and government programs pay similar amounts for the same services in the same geographic area.

All of the underpinnings of the insurance “reform” package were already there, waiting for someone to sweep in and make AHIP’s champagne dreams come true.  And now that the Chamber of Commerce is not funding the mandate repeal effort any more, those legislative efforts are stalling out across the country.  Republicans in  Alaska, Kansas, Georgia and Michigan have all voted down anti-mandate bills since the Chamber pulled the plug (failing by one vote in Kansas after Republican Dwayne Upmeyer “accidentally” voted against it. “Oops” was his response.)   Sarah Palin didn’t mention the mandate in her speech before cheering Tea Partiers at Searchlight, no doubt conscious of the $2.5 million in donations the health care sector contributed to McCain/Palin in 2008.

The insurance industry has spent their money well, spreading it across both parties. They got what they paid for with this neoliberal health care bill.  Ken Silverstein’s prescient 2006 article in Harpers on Obama’s early vetting by corporate interests still stands up.  They sized up the situation accurately years ago.

Thanks indeed, Liz Fowler.  The country really does owe you one.

(transcript powwow)

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