Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Editorial: BARF Moves Ahead – Now What?

Tom070108-2 BARF (Baucus Against a Real Fix bill) passed the  Senate Finance Committee by a vote of 14 – 9.  Most of the more progressive Senators voted for BARF, and I’ve already heard some rumblings about that.  Let me be clear.  These Democrats have not betrayed their party.  Four other committees (three house, one senate) have already completed work on their versions of the bill.  Nothing further could be done to to further health care reform until the Senate Finance Committee produced a bill, any bill.  Senators like Jay Rockefeller and Ron Wyden do NOT support BARF.  They barfed for BARF only to get it out of committee, so the real work can begin on the Senate floor.

Many were surprised by Olympia Snowe’s Yea vote.  She is already taking heat from the GOP hard liners, or is she?  When I first learned about Snowe’s vote, I commented, “Good for her!”  However, I have reconsidered my initial reaction.  Obama praised Snowe richly for her vote, but, for those who think I don’t criticize him, Obama is wrong.  So far Democrats on the Finance Committee have wasted weeks courting Snowe.  To get that lone Republican vote, they have weakened the provisions of an already bad bill.  Had Snowe voted No, the courtship would be over.  Even Snowe admitted that her vote does not guarantee further support for this bill.  So the courtship will continue.  I believe that her goal is twofold.  First, it provides her political cover in Maine, which is well left of their Senator.  Second, it continues the courtship, giving her further opportunities to weaken the final bill.  Earth to Senate Democrats!  Come in!!  I’m shouting here!!!  ONE LONE REPUBLICAN VOTE DOES NOT MAKE A BILL BIPARTISAN!  I think the GOP hardliners know this quite well, and the believe that their complaints are an act to cover up an opportunity more obstruction and delay.

This is all happening in the face of the withdrawal of the so-called support from the Insurance Lobby, AHIP.  In the coming video, you will learn that even the accountants from PWC who prepared the AHIP report I covered Sunday, are now admitting that the report did not take into account any of the cost saving measures in the bill.  It amounts to blackmail.  If you pass health care reform, we’ll raise your rates.  As I said in a comment here yesterday, this demonstrates, more than ever, the need for a strong Public Option, because BARF has nothing to prevent Big Insurance from making their threat a reality.

At the same time, TPM reports that an insurance agent provided them with the link to secret talking point for insurance agents to oppose health care reform.  You can see them here.  Since Big Insurance has clearly abandoned their seat at the table to oppose health care reform, I see no reason to keep any of the provisions added to the various bills in order to pacify them.

Unions are voicing strong opposition to BARF, because most of them have negotiated away wage increases in favor of better health benefits.  BARF will clearly raise their premium costs, because it imposes a fee on “Cadillac” policies that are worth over $8,000 a year.  That’s hardly a Cadillac.  It sounds more like a high end Chevy.  BARF has the wrong people paying for reform.  The House bills all raise the necessary revenue by taxing the rich, the same people who have benefited from the Bush/GOP tax cuts.  Isn’t it time they gave a little of that windfall back?

The Public Option has problems too.  The strongest version, from Jay Rockefeller, reimburses hospitals at Medicare rates for the first two years.  In many rural states, that reimbursement rate is lower than it is in more urban states, so low that the hospitals lose money on Medicare patients.  They make up for it by charging other patients a little more.  But a public option with Medicare rates would put many rural hospitals out of business.  This needs to be fixed in one of two ways.  The best is to adjust Medicare rates for rural hospitals to accurately reflect the cost of care.  If not, then don’t tie the Public Option to Medicare rates.

To get a good health care bill, we won’t necessarily need sixty votes.  If all else fails, we still can fall back on reconciliation rules.  As much as the GOP whines about how disreputable that would be, that’s exactly how they passed both of the Bush/GOP tax cuts for the rich.  We can also pass a good bill with fifty votes, if Democrats will just stand together and vote for cloture, to defeat the coming GOP filibuster, and allow a straight up or down vote.  In my opinion, any Democrats who votes against cloture should be stripped of their committee and sub-committee offices.

I think I’ve given you an explanation of where we stand in terms that are not too difficult to understand.  Just in case, here are two videos from one of my favorite people, Keith Olbermann.  The first is on the Snowe vote.


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The second is on Big Insurance blackmail.


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I hope you will join me in harassing your Senators to provide us real reform, inclucing a strong public option,


Dusty said...

Fuck Oly Snowe.

I mean will this broad add to health reform? Her friggin 'trigger'?

Now, Obama will do his best to pander to her..fuck me running, this sucks.

Brother Tim said...

All this screaming about closing rural hospitals is just more scare tactics. What needs to be closed is the United States Senate.

Brother Tim said...

By the way, my ace reporter, Moose, is in the process of breaking another story. He should have it posted soon. ;)

TomCat said...

Hi Dusty! What do you really think of her? ;-)

Brother, I think it's a problem that's easily fixable, and I have seen data that supports the loss some rural hospitals take on Medicare. I thought leaving thqat ransom note on your farm might bring you out of hiding. ;-)

Middle Ditch said...

Closing rural hospitals is frightening. It happened here and we have to travel miles for treatment. The only one still close by has absolutely everything needed for all treatments but most departments are only open one day a week. So if you happen to break your arm on the wrong day, instead of seeing your local hospital doctors (about ten minutes away), you have to drive sometimes over an hour to the next one. Not good.

Jolly Roger said...

There will be some kind of public option in the final bill. What we need to do is make sure it has teeth.

Randal Graves said...

Hey, if those rural folks want hospitalization they should move to the city where there are dozens of sub-minimum wage, healthcare-less jobs.

TomCat said...

Monique, I sorry that happened to you.

JR, I think you're right on this. Jay Rockefeller said that he had spoken to Obama personally on the subject and that Obama will support a public option.

Randall, you've been drinking the GOP's Kool-Aid again, huh? ;-)

leftdog said...

-As a Canadian, I live every day of my life with the security of knowing that I can see any MD that I want to. (Anyone who says different is LYING to you!)

-I have had 3 separate knee operations and have never paid one cent for the surgeries. (Anyone who says different is LYING to you!)

-Waiting lists for surgery in Canada are realistic. The last knee surgery that I had was booked in May and I went into the hospital August. (Anyone who says different is LYING to you!)

-If I had need for medications, I have prescription drug protection in my province where I must pay the first $300 every month and our single payer public insurance picks up any monthly costs beyond that. (Anyone who says different is LYING to you!)

The difference between my Canadian system and the private insurance system in the USA is this .. in the US, health care is considered a commodity. If you can afford it, you can access it. In my country, health care is considered a human right. Ability to pay is not part of the equation.

I wish you well in finding a system that works for you and is equitable to ALL Americans.

Infidel753 said...

If the Republicans were smart (bear with me here, this is a hypothetical) they would have put Snowe up to this as a kind of Trojan horse, knowing Obama's weird obsession with being "bipartisan". The Democrats get one lousy Republican vote, the Republicans get a meaningless carrot they can offer Obama to pass a watered-down plan (she won't vote for one with a public option), Snowe gets some kudos with her moderate constituents -- everybody wins, except the public, of course.

I don't know whether any of the other bills than the Bogus -- I mean Baucus -- plan still have a real chance, but public pressure will be critical.

TomCat said...

Hiya Dawg!! Congrats on being visitor # 7,000. I believe you. Thanks for the detailed summary of how Canadian healthcare works. Without doubt, it is far better than what we have.

I agree, Infidel. In fact, I made that very point in the article.