Liberal Groups Target Baucus Over Public Option

Posted September 28, 2009 at 12:27pm

Updated: Sept. 28, 2:49 p.m.

In a new TV ad, liberal interest groups have set their sights on Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and his reluctance to include a public health insurance option in his health care reform bill.

On Tuesday, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America plan to begin airing — in Montana and on cable news — an ad featuring a Montana father with a congenital heart defect. In the spot, Bing Perrine talks about his struggle to pay for a heart surgery he needs and the more than $100,000 in medical bills he already has racked up.

“None of this debt would have piled up if I had the option of buying into a public health insurance plan,— Perrine says in the ad. “Private insurance companies need competition. They profit by denying care to people like me.—

The ad is timed to air the same day the Finance panel votes on whether to include a public insurance option in its bill. The Baucus proposal, which enters its second week of committee markup on Tuesday, would create a network of nonprofit health insurance cooperatives, which would be independent but would get their seed money from the government. Baucus and others have argued that the co-ops would provide the same kind of competition to private insurers that liberals argue a public insurance option would offer.

In the ad, Perrine accuses Baucus of taking more than $3.9 million in campaign cash from health care and insurance interests, including nearly $1.2 million from insurance companies. The figure also includes more than $1 million from health care professionals, such as doctors and nurses. Polls have shown that doctors overwhelmingly prefer the public insurance option or a single-payer system.

The initial ad buy is relatively small at just $50,000, but the groups are attempting to use them as a fundraising tool as well. The stated goal is to raise $100,000 to purchase more airtime. A similar fundraising push related to an ad against Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) raised more than $114,000, according to a news release.

Baucus isn’t up for re-election until 2014.

Baucus spokesman Ty Matsdorf said the ad misleads people about what the Finance chairman’s bill would do.

“Senator Baucus has talked with hundreds of Montanans who have been denied care when they need it the most, and that is why his Chairman’s Mark would prevent this type of situation from ever happening again,— said Matsdorf. “The ad is incorrect, as Senator Baucus has made it clear that no longer can insurance companies deny people care because of a pre-existing condition, and to paint the Chairman’s mark any other way is inaccurate. Additionally, like President [Barack] Obama, Senator Baucus knows that there must be competition for insurance companies and they must be held accountable, which is why he included a public option in his White Paper, and health care co-ops in the Chairman’s Mark.—