Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Health Care 12/16 – Are we done yet?

The soap opera of health care legislation continues, and I’m quite unhappy with the lack of progress.

LIEBERMAN Senate Democratic leaders abandoned the last vestige of a government health plan yesterday but pledged to move ahead on a sweeping health care overhaul, infuriating many liberals but pleasing President Obama, who said victory on his highest domestic priority was within sight.

Lawmakers, after getting another pep talk from Obama at the White House, said they would rather pass a weaker measure than go home empty-handed and miss a rare opportunity for a historic expansion of health care.

The bill would require that nearly all Americans buy health insurance and would provide government subsidies to those who can’t afford it on their own. The Senate is aiming to vote before Christmas, which would set up a round of conference meetings in January to forge a compromise bill with leaders in the House, which has already passed a measure.

The president, after meeting with Democratic senators, declared that America is on the “the precipice of an achievement that’s eluded Congresses and presidents for generations.’’

Senate leaders said they were giving up for now on the government-run insurance plan, the so-called public option, which many Democrats have sought as a means to pressure private health insurance companies into offering lower health care premiums. Several moderates had objected to the public option, including Senator Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who over the weekend also told Senate leaders he also opposed a Medicare buy-in for those 55 to 64, Democratic leaders’ last-ditch attempt to get something resembling the public plan.

Lieberman said he opposed the public option and the Medicare buy-in because he believes they could create a new burden for taxpayers. Without Lieberman’s support, the Democratic majority could not muster the 60 votes required to break a Republican filibuster.

“They’re not happy,’’ Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, said of liberals in the Senate Democratic caucus. “I’m not happy.’’ But, he said: “What remains is dramatic. We just don’t want to lose the opportunity, the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.’’… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Boston Globe>

Howard Dean appeared on Countdown to say that we should scrap the entire bill and start over, using reconciliation.


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Dean was incorrect, I think, about one point.  He said insurance companies would keep 27% of what they are paid.  If my understand is correct, the bill requires insurance companies to pay out 90% of their receipts in benefits.

Ron Wyden also appeared on Countdown to say that the best course is to pass this bill and improve it with future legislation.


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Ron appeared much more collected that he had the night before, having had time to think his position through.

I have no doubt that both Dean and Wyden were sincere.

Steny Hoyer thinks that the House will pass the Senate bill with few changes:

stenyhoyer House Democrats can't always get what they want, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters today. But if they spin it right, he said, they just might find they got what they need.

Faced with a likely public option-free health care reform bill from the Senate, Hoyer said House Democrats will vote to move the reform process forward without government-run insurance included.

Much as his colleagues in the Senate Democratic leadership did last night, Hoyer said the political reality in the Senate means Democrats have to look past things like the public option to the "guts" of the bill itself.

"[Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid does not have the votes for a public option, obviously," Hoyer said. "In a world of alternatives, you have to take what you can get."

Though they may have to sacrifice the public option in order to craft a reform package acceptable to the the fickle Senate Democratic coalition, Hoyer said House Democrats still reserve the right to tinker with the carefully-crafted Senate compromise, whatever it may be… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <TPM>

While I reserve the prerogative to change my mind after I know everything in the bill, I’m going to side with Wyden and Hoyer, with one reservation.  As angry as I feel over the LIEberman and a few DINOs have gutted the bill, what’s left is a foot in the door to real reform.  Reconciliation, started now, would take too long and last into campaign season, the worst time to pass major legislation.  This bill contains enough good things that I don’t want to give them up.  To come away empty handed would be the best possible gift we could give the GOP.  My reservation is that the mandate should be removed from the bill.  The rationale for the mandate was that it existed in a context to consumer choice.  With consumer choice removed, that rationale no longer exists.

On a positive note, The Senate will debate Bernie Sanders’ single-payer amendment today:

single-payer The Senate on Wednesday will debate for the first time in American history a proposal to create a single-payer, Medicare-for-all health care system.

"In my view, the single-payer approach is the only way we will ever have a cost-effective, comprehensive health care system in this country," said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), whose amendment will come before the Senate.

The Sanders Amendment would provide health care and dental coverage for every American, save money, and improve health care results.

"One of the reasons our current health care system is so expensive, so wasteful, so bureaucratic, so inefficient is that it is heavily dominated by private health insurance companies whose only goal in life is to make as much money as they can," Sanders said.

The 1,300 profit-making private insurance companies administer thousands of separate plans and waste about $400 billion a year on administrative costs, profiteering, high CEO compensation packages, and advertising. Health care providers spend another $210 billion on administrative costs, mostly to deal with insurance paperwork

As a result, the United States spends $7,129 per person on health care, almost double the amount spent by nearly any other industrialized country. Nevertheless, 46 million Americans lack health insurance, 100 million Americans cannot access dental care, and 60 million Americans do not have access to primary care.

Sanders acknowledged that his amendment would not pass. "As a result of the power of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, this amendment will not pass or even get very many votes.  Nonetheless, given the view of millions of us that a single-payer approach is the only way this country will ever provide comprehensive, cost-effective health care to all its citizens, this is an important step forward… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Common Dreams>

What makes this important is that the debate will help educate the public.  The strength of the arguments in favor compared to the weakness of the arguments against has never been exposed on the Senate floor.  In the end, whatever Congress passes this year, it is only a step toward the ultimate goal of universal, single-payer coverage for all.


the walking man said...

Sorry Tom but in my gut I feel Dean is right. A foot in the door gets slammed and broken. Either do it correctly now or drop it. It seems that the Democrat machine has learned to take a beating without even fighting back. As a party in DC they should be ashamed of themselves for forgetting the thousands of lives that could be saved if they were to stand on the principles they have historically espoused.

The president would accept anything at this point and say reform has happened. That is a political move to build capital it does little to reduce premiums or make the uninsured, insured. Give me a subsidy to purchase insurance with, fine great but if I can not afford to pay my portion of the premium what benefit is it?

Gwendolyn H. Barry said...

Tom... I'm with the walkin' man and Howard Dean. And, I think my President is full of it, kinda saving his own right now... Of course, I'm a liberal, and I realize your space is a progressive one (though I'm darned if I understand the difference in this issue)... except that perhaps a concession of it more politic than saying "hell no"? I don't mean to speak out of place... I sincerely respect your opinions. Much so.
As to "sweeping health care overhaul" the bill, as broken as it has become, will keep the status quo through loopholes and ensure insurance profits over healing the sick. How will you respond when this bill is enacted and demands nearly 1/3 of your income (before taxes) being purloined by insurance companies? The original Dem bill lowered the national deficit & DID NOT raise any taxes for public option. It proposed to streamline the state of health care. Further, it required revamp of antiquated payer & medical information systems to eradicate insurance graft and insurance dominance over what is and is NOT covered in healing you. The President says we are on the 'precipice of change in health coverage that has eluded generations' (sic), yeah... right. For how many more generations? This puts a foot in the door for real reforms? When? REally...when? I'm with Dean. And I emailed as much to the White House (as I usually do. Funny how they keep inviting me to blog and keep feeding back... I'm really confused on that one.) I hate to conclude that our President has sold us out. Looking like it.

But hey, perhaps my President can employ some of that excellent bi-partisanship to fix this up...huh?

Annette said...

People see what they want to see.. if they want to see the President has sold them out, that's what they see.. I see it as some have sold out the President. The President has stated all along what he wanted, Congress didn't deliver.. He only can get what Congress gives him.. that is the way our government is supposed to work.. Contrary to the last 8 years.

We seem to have forgotten that.. Read the Constitution .. it is in there.. trust me.

The OPM bill, that Franken and others have presented will limit insurance companies to 90%, you are correct on that.. That is a good thing.. and it could be the best part of this bill.. Besides.. this isn't done yet.. we are still making sausage.. Have we forgotten that..

Jack Jodell said...

This is turning into a real cluster f*ck! I still favor a universal single-payer plan, but it's looking as though we'll have to creep, rather than run, to it! This has become a day to day, hour to hour battle, and we progressives have to keep fighting even harder than the insurance industry and their pals like LIEberman are.

Randal Graves said...

I'd be shocked if we ever got to universal, single-payer coverage for all. Unless aliens abduct those who control the purse strings of the nation. C'mon, ET, help us out.

Sue said...

after calming down and listening to Harkin and Wyden last night I feel optimistic. Killing the bill is insane and just what the GOP wants!

MadMike said...

I'm with Clinton on this one. something is better than nothing. Killing the bill will doom it for another generation. We must not let these Republican monsters win. They are desperate to keep that golden goose alive and continue to line their coffers with insurance money.

MadMike said...

P.S. I see single payer about the time the first Starship Enterprise is christened.

Hill said...

What MadMike said.


Lisa G. said...

I'm so beaten down by this whole process; it could be decades before we ever get even this remotely close again. I'm with TC on this one though - if we put it through reconciliation, we always could wind up with something worse. And even worse than that, the Repubs would win and guarantee that they would take possibly both the House and Senate. And that would be infinity worse, than even this shitty bill.

Gotta love Bernie though. He always fights the good fight. And in the holiday spirit, the Rebubs are gonna be on the express elevator to hell. A brand new Hell, that no one has even ever thought of. And they will be there with all their lying ass friends, for all of eternity. Karma can be a bad thing too; I hope that karma not only bites them in the ass, but swallows them whole. That's my Christmas wish.

Lisa G. said...

Oh, and for the short term, see my comment in the polls. I'd settle for that for New Years. It's the holidays and I'm feeling nice. Bah!

Tony said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
TomCat said...

SPAM!! :-(

TomCat said...

Mark, I agree that Obama would take anything right now just to have a bill, any bill.

Gwen, agreeing with me has never been a prerequisite for commenting here or for having my friendship. I would still not say that he has sold us out, but I'm not happy with the current state.

Annette, while he has not sold us out, in my opinion, he has exercised extremely poor judgment in bringing is to this point, and several of his campaign promises on health care are unfulfilled.

Jack, the time to give up the fight is three days after they nail the lid on.

Nobody that matters is for killing the bill per se, Sue.

Mike, get to work on warp drive.

Hiya Hill!!

Lisa, we'll see soon.