04 August, 2009

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.

The anti-health care reform brigade spilled forth like clowns from cars today. In the lead, we have Rep. Pete King, who apparently hasn't talked to any Americans in decades:

But once in a while, prominent GOP leaders will slip and hint that reform isn't necessary after all. Far-right lawmakers like to argue, for example, that "there are no Americans who don't have health care." Karl Rove made the suggestion again this morning that there's broad satisfaction with the status quo. And Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) dipped his toe in the same waters this morning.

GOP Rep. Pete King, on MSNBC this morning, said he doesn't think that health care reform is that important to the American people -- and national Dems are getting ready to pounce. [...]

Asked whether health care reform is an important issue to voters, King said: "When you ask the American people what's the most important issue to them health care reform does not rank high."

As things go, this one isn't in a class with Jim DeMint's claim that health care reform will be Obama's "Waterloo." But it gives Dems a bit of an opening to push along their message that for Republicans, the best cure for the health care system is no cure at all.

As a factual matter, when you ask the American people what's the most important issue to them, health care reform actually ranks very high. Last week, an NYT/CBS poll asked an open-ended question of respondents, asking what's the "most important problem facing the country today." While the economy and job creation were on top, health care was next on the list -- with a higher score than the deficit, education, immigration, Iraq, terrorism, and the environment combined.

You'd think a politician could read a poll, but apparently Pete King is, shall we say, a little challenged in the reading comprehension department. Either that, or the glitter of insurance industry cash has dazzled his poor eyes:
Apparently, AHIP has decided on the killing reform thing.

[T]he insurers have played the inside game, spending about $40 million on an army of lobbyists and lavishing campaign contributions on Democrats and Republicans to kill the public option. In all, the health industry spent $133 million in the second quarter alone, more than a million bucks a day.

And over the weekend, the association, which represents 1,300 insurers and HMOs across the country, told POLITICO’s Mike Allen that it was stepping up its activity, advising members to confront representatives critical of the industry at August town hall meetings.

Guess who's egging them on?
In anticipation of the August recess, the health insurance industry is gearing up to oppose the four health care bills out of committee — and the GOP is cheering it on. “GOP aides on the Hill and Republicans on K Street” are urging America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) — the insurers’ lobbying arm — “to get tougher,” Politico reports. “Hopefully, these guys will realize their approach hasn’t been working and will get into the game,” said a senior Republican aide on the Hill.
Might want to ask your Con or fuckwit conservative Dem representative why, exactly, they want to put Grandma in the poor house:
The industry may not be re-playing the old ‘Harry and Louise ads,’ but it’s certainly twisting the legislation in its favor. If reports about the Senate Finance Committee’s bill are accurate — the bill will not contain a public option and would allow insurers to charge older Americans more than 7.5 times the rates charged to younger Americans — then the $173 billion [sic] the industry has spent on lobbying Congress was certainly a smart investment. [emphasis added]
These are the rat bastards the GOP is counting on to kill health care reform:
At some point, you have to fight fire with fire. It makes me wonder why something like this column isn't sent virally to every inbox in the country.
So it's proper to remind ourselves what that American way entails. For if the insurers have proved anything over the last 15 years as the health crisis has gathered speed like an avalanche roaring downhill, it's that they're part of the problem, not the solution.

The firms take billions of dollars out of the U.S. healthcare wallet as profits, while imposing enormous administrative costs on doctors, hospitals, employers and patients. They've introduced complexity into the system at every level. Your doctor has to fight them to get approval for the treatment he or she thinks is best for you. Your hospital has to fight them for approval for every day you're laid up. Then they have to fight them to get their bills paid, and you do too.

One Wendell Potter reminded a Senate committee in June that health insurance executives had assured Congress in 1993 that they would work to secure universal medical coverage and end denials of coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. Then they moved heaven and earth to kill reform.

They've made the same promises now, Potter observed. But they're in an even better position to throttle reform. Mergers and acquisitions have turned the industry into a cartel of huge corporations.

"The industry is bigger, richer and stronger, and it has a much tighter grip on our healthcare system," he said. The last thing they want is a government program set up as their competition.
Actually, I'd make it simpler than that, as Kevin Drum did - why does health insurance exist? They are nothing more than middlemen who in theory smooth the payments for your health care over time so that you're not hit with a big bill when you need treatment. But that's not how it works in practice. So really what they have become is a middleman, taking a 30% profit off the top for the service of moving your money to your doctor.
That, in a nutshell, is the status quo the Cons want to preserve. And they're pulling out all the stops to stall health care reform until it dies:
In an article over the weekend, the National Journal highlighted congressional Republicans’ strategy to defeat efforts to reform health care. With Democrats having such a large majority in the House, the article noted that “Senate Republicans know they may be the last chance to stop the legislation this fall.” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, has taken the lead role in negotiating the bill for the GOP. But at the same time, Grassley said Senate Republican leadership is encouraging him not to negotiate:

Grassley contended that Republicans should be delighted that he’s on the job. …[He] said that Republican leaders asked him to block any Democratic moves to ration health services or implement a public option, although he tentatively supports a public cooperative that is not government-run. “So, the two things that Republicans are most concerned about — the public option and rationing — ain’t going to be in it,” he concluded.

Indeed, Grassley seems to be taking his marching orders without hesitation. During a television interview in June, he argued that in order for a health care reform bill to be bipartisan, “we need to make sure that there’s no public option.”

But also in the article, a top aide to former GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert reiterated the Party’s motives for blocking reform:

If the Democrats don’t get health care, and the jobless rate is above 10 percent, it could be a big election for Republicans next year,” predicted consultant John Feehery, who was a top aide to then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

Tell me again why Dems think they're going to get bipartisan support on genuine reform? Especially when you take into account that Grassley's not alone on the whole stall-it-till-dead approach:

Today, Enzi had a new thought to share.

One of the three Republican senators working on a bipartisan agreement on healthcare reform legislation flatly denied Monday the Democratic claims that negotiators had set a mid-September deadline to complete their work.

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), one of six senators on the Finance Committee working on the bill and also the ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, pushed back hard at assertions by Senate Democrats that the bipartisan group has vowed to complete its work by Sept. 15.

"I have not and will not agree to an artificial deadline because I am committed to getting healthcare reform right, not finishing a bill by some arbitrary date," Enzi said in a statement issued just minutes into a meeting on the bill in the offices of Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.).

Enzi, who no one has ever called a moderate, thinks six centrist and center-right senators should just keep talking, indefinitely, until there's a health care reform bill that Republicans are satisfied with in the Senate with a 60-vote Democratic majority.

And remember that the health care reform bill Cons will be satisfied with is basically none. Some Dems, at long last, seem to be coming to the conclusion that maybe possibly there's no possibility of a tenable bipartisan solution when the two sides share absolutely no common ground whatsoever:
Senate Democrats, by all appearances, would just love to have some Republicans on board with a health care reform proposal. But if the GOP remains opposed, will reform simply wither on the vine? Probably not.

Frustrated with the pace of bipartisan talks, Democratic leaders on Monday promised to push a sweeping health care bill through the Senate whether they get Republican support or not.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the third-ranking Senate Democrat, raised the prospect of the leadership crafting a bill to Democratic specifications and using a rare legislative procedure to expedite legislation fulfilling President Barack Obama's top domestic priority.

"We will have contingencies in place. These plans will likely be considered as a last resort, but they are on the table," Schumer told reporters on a conference call. He declined to elaborate.

He added, "We're going to cross that bridge if we come to it."

It's very likely that this is a negotiating move. It tells Republican senators who might be interested in a deal, "We'll move forward with a liberal bill you'll hate, so you might as well come talk to us before it's too late." It's signals like these, coupled with the Sept. 15 deadline for Finance Committee talks, that give negotiations a sense of urgency.

And with that in mind, Schumer added, "If we cannot produce a bipartisan solution by then you have to wonder if the Republicans will ever be willing to agree to anything."

In a word, Chuck: no. Isn't that obvious by now?

Let's hope all Dems figure this out before we all die of pre-existing medical conditions (which, of course, our insurance companies refused to cover for fear of denting their obscene profits).

1 comment:

Woozle said...

Re the NYT poll: I don't see how this data leads to the conclusion the NYT seems to be drawing; it looks to me like health care is rising rapidly in importance -- from 7 people ranking it the top issue in June to 12 people in July -- while other issues are barely holding:
* "economy", the #1 issue, went from 38 to 36 in the same timespan, steadily declining from a high of 49 in January
* "jobs", the #2 issue, went up one point, from 19 to 20, but seems to be losing steam
* "other", the only other highly-ranked issue, also declined (now tied with Health Care for #3)

By what reasoning does this indicate that "President Obama's ability to shape the debate on health care appears to be eroding"?

(Obviously, though, the Democrats really should be paying more attention to "Other" -- a seriously overlooked issue in today's society. Their failure to address this key area of public policy clearly threatens our future, and that of our children, and our children's children, and their children, and... won't somebody please think of the children? ...and shows that they do not have a real plan for America -- a real plan that is uniquely American -- a real, uniquely American plan for America and Americans living in America, to take America forward today into the tomorrow of the future. [help, I'm channeling Sarah Palin and/or Dan Quayle!])