Baucus sees a health-reform ‘train wreck,’ fearing insurance exchanges won’t be ready

Max Baucus (J. Scott Applewhite, AP)

Senator Max Baucus, who as Senate Finance Committee chair helped write the health-care reform law, has become the highest-ranking Democrat to publicly voice concerns about its implementation, saying he thinks it’s headed for a collision with itself.

“I just see a huge train wreck coming down,” the Montanan told Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius during a budget hearing.

Matt Gouras of The Associated Press notes that polls show that Americans are confused by the complex law, which is designed to cover about 30 million uninsured people through a mix of government programs and tax credits. Baucus told Sibelius he’s “very concerned” that new health insurance exchanges will not open on time in every state and residents will not have enough information to make choices even if they do open on time, as Kentucky’s seems likely to do.

“The administration’s public-information campaign on the benefits of the Affordable Care Act deserves a failing grade,” Baucus lectured. “You need to fix this.” Baucus’ office later told Gouras that the senator still thinks the Affordable Care Act is a good law, but questions its roll-out.

Sebelius said that the administration is on track to fully implement exchanges in January, and to be open for open enrollment on Oct. 1, 2013, reports Gouras. Kentucky is among the states that have chosen to build a fully state-based exchange. Others have chosen a state-federal partnership exchange, or defaulted into a federally facilitated exchange. The map below shows the lay of the land about that decision. Yellow states have defaulted to a federal exchange, light blue states are planning for a partnership and blue states have chosen a state-based exchange.

Map provided by the Kaiser Family Foundation

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