Real Politik, Montana-Style

From the AcademyHealth/Health Affairs National Health Policy Conference, Washington, D.C.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, is known for being a basically congenial kind of guy. But even he has his limits.   The Senator delivered a 20-minute or so speech on what he deemed the rosy prospects for health reform in 2009, remarking that “it is nearly inevitable,” and that there was a growing recognition on both sides of the aisle that economic recovery is not possible without health reform.  “I feel an unprecedented sense of urgency,” Sen. Baucus told the decidedly wonkish crowd of about 1,000 health services researchers gathered in the basement of the J.W. Marriott. 

baucus

The mood was upbeat (this was hours before former Sen. Tom Daschle withdrew from consideration for Secretary of Health and Human Services).  But there’s a spoiler in every crowd.  An audience member demanded to know why a single-payer plan was not being discussed on Capitol Hill.  “It’s not going to get to even first base,” said the Senator, who was only just getting started. 

While applauding the need for universal coverage and the desire for both a private and a public insurance option for Americans, Sen. Baucus said that single-payer may work for other countries, but that America was a different animal.

Besides, he said, “I’m not going to waste my time pushing on something that’s not going to happen.”

Next question.

–Alicia Ault

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