Senator Baucus has just released his long-awaited health-care plan and it has already suffered two big hits. The Hill reports that Senator Snowe will not be signing on to the Baucus plan, effectively ending his hopes of bipartisanship, and meaning that the Democrats will need to hold on to almost all of their members to pass a bill. At the same time, Ruth Marcus's piece in the Washington Post points out that under the Baucus plan, some people who could not afford insurance before will still be unable to afford it, but they would be subject to a penalty for not doing so. She also reports that Senator Wyden, who happens to have produced the only serious bipartisan health reform plan — the Wyden-Bennett plan — is miffed at having been left out of the conversation and unhappy with the Baucus approach. From what we've seen thus far, it seems that Baucus took the flawed House approach of mandating the purchase of insurance and subsidizing that purchase for some and tried to make the numbers work. In trying to be more realistic about the financing, he exposed some of the flaws that the House tried to cover with more generous subsidies.
This double hit on Baucus puts his plan on uncertain ground. The real question now is whether and to what extent President Obama embraces the Baucus plan. If the president is on board, much of the grumbling on the left will likely subside because of the political importance to the Democrats of getting something passed. If he pulls back from it, then the Democrats are going to have to forge a new path in the little time they have remaining this fall.