Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Mad Max, Future Chair of Senate Finance Committee

Will the message the American public sent to members of Congress via the 2006 mid-term elections make it into the seamy backrooms where business interests manipulate policy makers? I wonder especially in the case of Senator Max Baucus-D Montana.

As an influential member of the Senate Finance Committee Max votes on key healthcare legislation impacting Medicare and Medicaid. He just spoke of a "public-private initiative" to reduce the already scandalous but ever increasing number of people without health insurance in America.

The "private" for-profit hospital industry knows this choosing to fund Senator Baucus’ campaign. For Max’s 2006 campaign the Federation of American Hospitals donated 5,000, Kindred Healthcare $6,000, HCA $10,000, Triad Hospitals $5,000, Vanguard Health Management $5,000, Sun Healthcare $2,000, Universal Health Services $2,500, Mariner Healthcare $5,000, LifePoint Hospitals $5,000, HCR Manor Care $4,000, Genesis Healthcare $2,000, Beverly Enterprises $10,000, Renal Care Group $3,000, Fresenius Medical Care $2,100, Renal Leadership Council $5,000, HealthSouth Corp $2,500, Gentiva Health Services $2,500, and Ardent Health Services $1,000.

Which of the above for-profit healthcare companies have no, as in ZERO facilities in Senator Baucus’ home state of Montana? Kindred, Vanguard, Triad, LifePoint, Universal, Genesis, Gentiva, and even the monstrous HCA have no hospitals in the Big Sky State. So why donate to Max?

What will $77,600 in for profit healthcare donations get these days? Last summer $30,000 seemed to inspire Chairman Bill Thomas of the House Ways & Means Committee to hold a hearing on the unfair advantage non profit community hospitals have as they are “tax exempt”. Earlier this summer Max’s partner on the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Chuck Grassley asked the IRS Commissioner to go after nonprofit community hospitals with the same vigor as their recent clampdown on credit counseling agencies. Shortly thereafter Chuck suggested taxing pimps and whores.

At a time when Congress held the line on America’s minimum wage, it passed special reimbursement increases for kidney dialysis. Did you note 3 of the above companies specialize in dialysis care? They got a 1.6% increase in 2005 followed by another 1.6% increase in 2006. Investors like predictable income streams. The Carlyle Group even hired an ex-dialysis executive to head up their health care ventures. (During this same period Congress passed a law allowing premium sharing, deductibles and co-payments for poor persons on Medicaid.)

Four of Max’s top 12 donating industries are health related. Should the Senator be embarrassed over his windfall from companies not doing business in his state? Not Max as the man is shameless.

He proudly cites the negative ad he used in 2002 to make his opponent drop out of the race. The tactic involved showing old footage of the man at work.

Democrats knew Republican Mike Taylor had once owned hair care schools in Colorado. That led to a newspaper ad that mentioned he had once appeared in an infomercial on the noon news in Denver in the 1980s. That, in turn, led to the basement of a private home where a former television station employee had old videotapes.

For Democrats, the hunt was worth the effort - the party's autumn television commercial showed Taylor wearing an open-front shirt and gold chains, massaging a man's face. Staggered, Taylor briefly dropped out of the race, accusing the Democrats of saying that "anybody in the beauty and hair fashion industry is homosexual.

"But in politics, as the old expression goes, if you're explaining, you're losing. “That was a silver bullet” Max recalls.

It seems Max hasn’t been caught with his hands massaging a man’s face but should an investigation be conducted on donor driven voting patterns, watch out! Max could well have his pants down around his ankles. In that state it could be awful difficult to dodge that silver bullet. After all Max, what goes around, comes around!

P.S. Max, psst! From the map links alone, your pants have fallen to your knees. You might want to do something about it. Just a thought brother! At a minimum it appears you have some explaining to do.

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