- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Senate’s top Democrat said this week he agrees with Sen. Max Baucus’ recent comments warning of “a huge train wreck coming down” if President Obama’s health care overhaul isn’t implemented properly.

“Max said, ‘Unless we implement this properly, it’s going to be a train wreck,’ and I agree with him,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said during an hourlong appearance Wednesday on “The Rusty Humphries Show.”

Mr. Reid said that additional money to help implement the law would help.

“Here’s what we have now,” he said. “We have the menu, but we don’t have any way to get to the menu, and so that’s what we need. … [President Obama is] determined he’s going to take money from some of the other things that he feels are less important in the health care bill and put it on letting you and others know what’s in the bill and what they can do either to accept parts that would be helpful to them or not.”

Mr. Baucus, Montana Democrat, made it clear at a Senate Budget Committee hearing last month that he thought the Obama administration has not done a good enough job to implement key pillars of the law by 2014.

Mr. Baucus, who as chair of the Senate Finance Committee was integral in writing the law, said he is “very concerned” by the lack of information among small business and accountants who are “throwing their hands” up over the law.

“I just see a huge train wreck coming down,” Mr. Baucus said to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. “You and I have discussed this many times, and I don’t see any results yet.”

For her part, Mrs. Sebelius told Mr. Baucus she was “incredibly disappointed” that her requests for more money to help explain the new law was blocked in a short-term funding plan for 2013, but she expressed confidence the implementation of the law would be a success.

“I don’t know what he’s looking at,” Mrs. Sebelius said of Mr. Baucus after the hearing, according to the Associated Press. “But we are on track to fully implement marketplaces in January 2014 and to be open for open enrollment.”

Mr. Reid, during the Wednesday appearance, also said he did read the voluminous bill.

“Of course I read it,” he said. “I didn’t sit down on a Friday evening and read it — this legislation was drafted over a period of months and months. It took a long time to get it done. So I can pass a test on it; I know the law pretty well.”

Starting next year, Americans without employer-based health insurance will be able to shop for coverage on state-based marketplaces, or “exchanges,” through the help of tax credits. About half the states, however, have asked the federal government to set up an exchange for them instead of taking on the task.

Mr. Obama requested $1.5 billion in his fiscal 2014 proposal to help the agency set up exchanges run by the federal government, although it is unclear whether Congress will provide it.

Also in 2014, enrollment in the Medicaid program for the poor will be extended to those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level in states that opt into the expansion.

“I believe a country of our size, the only superpower left in the world — it’s not right that we have — had, we don’t have it now — 50, 60 million people with no health insurance,” Mr. Reid said. “We have to have a program where health insurance shouldn’t go to the people that are rich, people who are upper middle class. I believe the middle class and people who are below middle class deserve to go to the hospital when they’re sick. You shouldn’t have to declare bankruptcy when you have a traffic accident or some dread disease hits your family.”

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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