I found several interesting items on health care today. First is an article by Michael Bard.
1) Finally, the Democrats figured out that the power to make a deal lies with them, not with the Republicans. Back in September, I begged the Democrats to forget about the Republicans (who were only pretending to engage as a way of stalling progress), caucus, and come to a compromise that all 58 Democrats and the two independents could support. I have criticized the Democrats for failing to properly use the power of their majority in Congress and the mandate from an overwhelming victory last November, so it's only right I give them their props for finally taking charge.
My favorite element of this story, from a political gamesmanship point of view, is the statement from Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota that all 40 Republicans would oppose the Democratic compromise, even if the public option is off the table. It was such an entertaining moment, since Thune's statement meant absolutely nothing. How nice for you, Sen. Thune, that you and your 39 colleagues will stand together to support health insurance companies and oppose health care reform for Americans. But your opposition will have zero effect if the 58 Democrats and two independents agree to a deal. Thune and his 39 fellow Republicans will be powerless to stop health care reform from happening if the other 60 senators stand together.
Essentially, Thune's statement is like the temper tantrum of an eight-year-old who isn't getting what he wants: it's annoying but doesn't change anything.
It is quite enjoyable to read about a health care deal that doesn't involve what Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins or any other Republican whose agenda is to torpedo real reform wants. I don't care what they think. And if the 60 other senators really have made a deal, I don't have to.
2) I have come to the conclusion that no public option is better than a weak one. From the beginning, I have supported Rep. Anthony Weiner's proposal to extend Medicare to all Americans. The public option was meant to be a compromise between the left's desire for a single-payer system and the right's claim to oppose governmental intervention in health care. Somehow, the public option became the left's position in the debate, essentially taking the compromise position to begin with, even though the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and the White House. Once it became clear that centrist Democrats (who enjoy riding on the financial coattails of health insurance and pharmaceutical companies) opposed the public option, it became clear that if such an option did end up in the legislation, it would be so watered down by triggers or other gimmicks that it no longer would have effectively done the job it was there to do: provide competition for private insurers and keep costs down.
If a weak public option became law, and it didn't work to bring down costs and expand coverage options (since it would have been set up to fail in the compromise), the perception would be that the idea itself failed (even though that wouldn't be the case). Given a choice between a weak public option destined to fail, and no public option with the reputation of the policy remaining intact, I'll take the latter every time. It leaves us with the opportunity to fight another day when those suffering under a system with lack of choice and high rates become more open to a governmental solution to address the crippling problem.
As an example, I offer the stimulus legislation. Democratic leadership allowed the Republicans and centrist Democrats to decrease the amount of the bill and to load it up with useless tax cuts. The result? Complaints that the stimulus bill didn't do enough to create jobs. Seems ridiculous, right? Make a proposal to address something, have your opponents water it down so it can no longer remedy the problem (or not work as well), and then blame the program for not providing a solution. I don't want to see the same absurd dance play out again with the public option.
3) A win is important both politically and in practice for those struggling without health insurance. The side of me that loves the game of politics thinks that if after a year of battling and enduring lies and other desperate measures thrown out from the right (death panels, funding abortion on demand, keeping Americans from seeing their own doctors, socialism, etc., I rounded up some of the crazy statements by Republicans in Congress here) the Democrats can get a health care reform bill through to President Obama's desk, something no other Congress has done in the last half century of trying, it will be a huge blow to the Republicans and conservatives who have fought this battle. Similarly, failing to pass health care reform legislation would be a deadly blow to the Democrats. So from the political point of view, getting something like the reported compromise through Congress would be huge for the Democrats.
More importantly, though, there are a lot of people suffering in the United States right now because they can't afford health coverage. According to the nonpartisan National Coalition on Health Care, 54 million Americans under the age of 65 lacked health insurance in the first half of 2007, with 7 million more estimated to lose their insurance by next year. The Republicans may want to protect their corporate benefactors, but something has to be done for the tens of millions of our fellow citizens in need. The current health care legislation may give too much to the health insurance and drug companies that have helped create the current mess in which we find ourselves, and it may not provide the kind of coverage and cost control many of us would like to see. But it will make life better for millions of Americans who are suffering right now with a lack of health care in a difficult economy. As much as I think politics is important, it is even more important to provide the citizens of our country with affordable health care, and the reported compromise is better than nothing for those in need. It may even represent a start, the first step in a process of true health care reform… [emphasis added]
Inserted from <Huffington Post>
While Bard raises some excellent points, I’m still withholding judgment until I know exactly what’s in there.
However, there is a flaw in the idea of the insurance exchange so drastic that it requires immediate action.
Here's another reason to nix the whole exchange within the exchange that the OPM-regulated national non-profit provider model offers. Guess who would be in charge of oversight of it (sub. req.) in the Senate?
The plan emerging from negotiations among moderate and liberal Democrats would put a key part of the planned health insurance exchanges under the supervision of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). And jurisdiction for oversight of OPM falls to the centrist-dominated Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which Lieberman chairs.
Lieberman barely retained his chairmanship after campaigning for Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona in last year’s presidential race, and there would likely be talk among Democrats of dumping him from the position in the next Congress — or even earlier — if his opposition sinks health care legislation. Lieberman, whose state is home to major insurers, has taken a my-way-or-the-highway position in opposing any form of government-run insurance plan.
Lieberman said he was aware that the scope of his committee’s oversight would be expanded, but he said that will not be a factor in his view of the latest proposal… [emphasis added]
Inserted from <Daily Kos>
That will not do. Before LIEberman gets oversight of Health care reform, he needs to be kicked out of the caucus.
On a positive note, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) has introduced a bill that I filly support.
After a long summer of committee debates and discussions with constituents, health care reform is finally out in the open on the Senate floor -- but it doesn't include much of anything to lower drug prices. And the big drug companies are pulling out all the stops to keep it that way.
I've offered a bipartisan amendment that would give the American people the freedom to purchase prescription drugs from other countries at a fraction of the price they are required to pay here. As you know, the American people are charged the highest prices in the world for brand-name prescription drugs. Those same drugs are sold elsewhere at a much lower price. I want the American people to have the ability to force the pharmaceutical companies to offer fair prices here in the United States.
My legislation will get that done.
This is a crucial reform that's urgently needed to combat one of the fastest-rising costs associated with health care -- the skyrocketing price of prescription drugs. The cost of prescription drugs increased by just over 9 percent this year alone!
I hope you will contact your senators today to ensure that they've joined me in supporting the prescription drug importation bill... [emphasis added]
Inserted from <Huffington Post>
That’s an idea that’s long past due, and while we’re on the subject of Dorgan, Rachel Maddow had a little fun with his example of how ridiculous medical advertising has become.
Perhaps the Senate should adopt a new rule that, whenever the Repuglicans filibuster, the Senate rest rooms are closed until cloture is reached.