19 August, 2009

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.

Once again, my cat has turned me into a contortionist. Health care reform had better pass, because I'm sure my insurance company will inform me that cat ownership is a pre-existing condition when this awkward typing position requires carpal tunnel surgery.

We could get a good reform bill passed quickly if we realized a few important things. Number one: no matter what compromises Dems make, Cons aren't going to vote for health care reform.
I think Sen. Jon Kyl (R) of Arizona, the second highest ranking Republican in the Senate, said something really important this morning.

The Senate Republican whip, speaking to reporters on a conference call from his home state of Arizona, said that even if the Democrats do away with a government-run insurance option, the GOP most likely won't support the bill that's being written in the Senate.

"I think it's safe to say that there are a huge number of big issues that people have," Kyl said, referring to Republican senators. "There is no way that Republicans are going to support a trillion-dollar-plus bill."

Asked if he'd support a bill if it were deficit neutral, Kyl said Dems may find a way to pass reform without adding to the debt, "but that doesn't mean the Republicans will support it." Asked if he could tolerate a nonprofit insurance cooperative instead of a public option, Kyl added that a co-op is "a step towards government-run health care in this country." The Senate Minority Whip added that "almost all Republicans" are likely to oppose reform, even if it's the result of a bipartisan compromise.

So, bipartisan talks just officially died, right? There's no real ambiguity here -- a member of the Senate GOP leadership announced, publicly and on the record, that Republicans are going to oppose health care reform, no matter how many concessions Democrats make.

Got that, Dems? No matter what you do, Cons will refuse to vote aye. So stop fucking trying to negotiate with people who have told you in no uncertain terms they don't intend to negotiate and leave them the fuck behind.

Number two: no, seriously, stop trying to negotiate. They're not going for the co-ops, either:

But in light of signals that a genuine public option is in trouble, the Republican Party that found co-ops reasonable has decided to change course. Now, they're against co-ops, too.

The very basic logic of the public option is this: Most Democrats support a strong public option, most Republicans oppose Democratic health care reform period, so perhaps Democrats can win over a few Republicans if they keep government out of the insurance industry and create a system of privately-held health-care co-operatives instead. Simple right?

Not if the RNC has anything to say about it.

They're out today with a new release, attacking the co-op idea.... As the RNC makes clear, in their eyes, "Public option by any other name is still government-run health care."

Last night, right-wing talk-show host Mark Steyn said on Fox News that co-ops aren't different enough from the public option, adding, "[T]he whole system is in fact a kind of death panel."

No, it's not just the crazy people in the RNC and right-wing radio. All the Cons are seriously against co-ops - any Con who says otherwise is fucking lying to you:
Grassley also told Iowa reporters that dropping the public option “might be an opportunity to get a bill,” adding that he’s “willing to look at a co-op as long as it functions traditionally, like co-ops do in the United States.”

But the reaction of prominent Republicans, conservatives, and the insurance industry to the idea of “a nonprofit health care cooperative as an alternative to a new government insurance plan” indicates that such a concession would not lead to the “overwhelming vote in the United States Senate” that Grassley says he wants. For instance, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) told the New York Times, “You can call it a co-op, which is another way of saying a government plan.”

On Fox News yesterday, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) agreed with Fox News’ Neil Cavuto’s claim that a co-op is really a “trojan horse”:

DEMINT: Whatever they call it Neil, this is a government takeover. They may try to call it a co-op. They can call it a public option, but you know they’re all on record saying they want a single payer government system, so any Republican now that helps them pass a bill is helping them pass a government takeover of health care. My hope is we can stop this and start over with some real reform. A number of us have been talking about ideas that we know would work, but unfortunately this administration and the Democrat majority, they really don’t want insurance reform at this point. What they want is more government control of our health care system.

“Any Republican senator who helps them pass something with a government stamp on it, the way they’re talking about, is, I think, just betraying the American people,” added DeMint.


Health insurance lobbyist Karen Ignagni, one of the top opponents of a public option, was not receptive to a co-op either. “It may sound benign, but it may use administered prices,” Ignagni told the New York Times. “I’m not sure it solves any problems.”
And even the man who loves co-ops the most can't say they'll lower costs:

This morning on CNN, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), the author of the health care co-op proposal that is apparently gaining traction among many Democrats, argued it’s a “very successful business model.” But when host John Roberts repeatedly pressed Conrad on whether the creation of non-profit, member-driven health care cooperatives would drive down costs for consumers, Conrad acknowledged they would not:

ROBERTS: What would they do to reduce costs? Because that is one of the central issues of health care reform.

CONRAD: Well, the important thing is they’d provide more competition. … Beyond that, I think it’s very important not to over-promise here. [...]

ROBERTS: So nothing really in driving down the costs of service then?

CONRAD: Uhhh, no. If you believe competition helps drive down costs, then they would certainly contribute to holding down costs.

Since co-ops can't compete effectively, that would be a hell no. So why is Conrad humping them so hard?


More important, the [NYT] article reveals why Senator Conrad and others are pushing the idea so hard.

Mr. Conrad’s own state demonstrates the uncertainties surrounding cooperatives. Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota dominates the state’s private insurance market, collecting nearly 90 percent of premiums. As a nonprofit owned by its members, the company would hope to qualify as a co-op under federal legislation, said Paul von Ebers, its incoming president and chief executive. . . .

Any new insurer in North Dakota would probably try to take members from the local Blue Cross plan, but that would not be easy to do.

So, BCBS controls 90 percent of the market, and it wants to be the exclusive not-public-plan Conrad Co-op to provide an alternative to . . . itself.

Why would BCBS bother to compete against itself? Because if you qualify to be the "reform" Conrad co-op, you're automatically eligible for the exchange, you get start-up funding (and no other competitor does), and any insurance plan in the exchange gets a share of the business ginnned up by the individual/employer mandates, and it is entitled to receive federal subsidies to help people pay whatever premiums the 90-percent dominant monopoly charges. It's a terrific scam that only a monopolist could love.

So that's one reason. But Conrad has nearly a million more:
Let's check to see how much jack Conrad has received from the insurance industry, shall we?

Conrad, Kent (D-ND) $828,787

Not a bad haul, eh?

It's all clear to me now.

Alas for all the above fucktards, they have awakened the sleeping Progressives:

Case in point: This very tough letter sent last night by House progressive leaders to Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius, stating unequivocally that 60 House Dems will not support a health care plan without a public option:

Dear Secretary Sebelius,

We write to you concerning your recent comments about the public option in health insurance reform.

We stand in strong opposition to your statement that the public option is “not the essential element” of comprehensive reform. The opportunity to improve access to healthcare is a onetime opportunity. Americans deserve reform that is real-not smoke and mirrors. We cannot rely solely on the insurance companies’ good faith efforts to provide for our constituents. A robust public option is essential, if we are to ensure that all Americans can receive healthcare that is accessible, guaranteed and of high-quality.

To take the public option off the table would be a grave error; passage in the House of Representatives depends upon inclusion of it.

We have attached, for your review, a letter from 60 Members of Congress who are firm in their Position that any legislation that moves forward through both chambers, and into a final proposal for the President’s signature, MUST contain a public option.

The letter, via Jane Hamsher, is signed by House proressive leaders Raul Grijalva, Lynn Woolsey, and Barbara Lee.

The letter’s unequivocal: Five dozen House Dems say, No public option, no support.
Let's show 'em we have their backs:

While the teabaggers got all the media attention, we've been working diligently with local bloggers in the districts of progressive members of Congress who were in safe Democratic seats, asking them to vote against any bill that did not have a strong public plan. No co-ops, no triggers. We wanted 40 of them to stick together and block health care reform from passing until there was a strong public option.

It worked.

If others arrogantly assumed they could give the farm away to the AMA, AHIP, the hospitals and PhRMA and then jam it on progressives at the last minute and call them "fucking stupid" if they resisted, they were wrong.

Now that they have made the commitment in sufficient numbers to stop a bad bill from passing, the challenge is going to be holding progressives while they get strong-armed to vote for a compromised bill. Promises of district pork, funding for pet project, influence and downright threats are very persuasive. A fundraising effort like this sends a very clear message that this one matters. We're watching, and if somewone says they "support" a public plan, they can't cast a vote for some crappy Blue Dog/Senate Finance and think they can get away with it.

Goal Thermometer

Good on yer for putting both feet down, my dear House Progressives!

The Cons and Teabaggers wanted a hot August. A hot August they shall have.

Careful what you wish for.

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