Health Care Update: A Compromise, A CBO Report, and a Lie or Two

Posted in General by TBartine on July 29, 2009 No Comments yet

As Congress prepares to adjourn for the August recess, health care reform enters into dangerous territory.  Does it feel like Obama and supporters of reform keep answering the same questions over and over?  It should…because the current opposition strategy is to continue to ask the same questions, make the same accusations, and claim that no response has been provided to their concerns…even thought it repeatedly and thoroughly HAS.  And…it’s going to get worse for two reasons:

1) Going into the recess, the senators and representatives, both Republican and Democrat, who have received the most money from the health care and insurance industries (because they are in positions to affect health care legislation) are trying to “compromise out” many of the important REFORM elements of the bill, to appease their corporate overlords.

2) The Republicans are spending MILLIONS over the break to engage in an all-out media/advertising BLITZ to attempt to make Americans afraid of changes to the health care system.  The ads will, of course, focus on three different fearmongering strategies:  fear of paying more money, fear of government “takeover,” and fear of dying due to poor treatment.

As of today, here are where the battle lines are drawn:

  • I have said on previous occasions, I do not know why people defend a system that takes so much of their money and provides such poor service.  The truth of the matter is, Medicare and Veteran’s Affairs BOTH provide health coverage that is consistently better rated in terms of customer satisfaction that ANY PRIVATE COMPANY’S services (more on that further down).  Have you heard of the practice of “rescission,” as used by the private insurance companies?  This COMMON practice has resulted in personal horror stories for countless Americans.  The short version: You fill out a lengthy and complicated insurance application…you pay your premiums for many moons…you get sick…you should be covered….the insurance company pulls out your application, reviews it, and sometimes even has its own private investigators do some digging.  If ANYTHING, that is any tiny little thing, on the form is incorrect…they refuse reimbursement and drop you from the plan.  Seeing as the form is DESIGNED so that it is easy for the average person to make a mistake…the insurance companies often find the “errors” they are looking for.  Forgot to put down that you have seasonal allergies because you thought it wasn’t worth mentioning…you can quit paying your premiums right now because you are just throwing money away, and if push comes to shove you will be dropped.  Forgot to tell them about the cyst you had removed?  Maybe you misreported your weight?  You could well wind up falling victim to rescission.  The insurance company will call it “fraud.”  It is fraud…but they’re the one’s committing it.  More horror stories and underhanded techniques HERE.
  • You notice the “we have to defeat this legislation so we can beat Obama” rhetoric has died down?  Even some Republicans have started to realize that their vocal willingness to “beat” health care reform just to take down Obama looks like petty, partisan obstructionism to most Americans.  When he was read aloud Senator DeMint’s (R-SC) statements on the issue (ie. “This health care issue Is D-Day for freedom in America…If we’re able to stop Obama on this it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.“) and Senator James Inhofe’s remarks (ie. “I just hope the President keeps talking about it, keeps trying to rush it through. We can stall it. And that’s going to be a huge gain for those of us who want to turn this thing over in the 2010 election.“), Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) had this to say: “I don’t agree with that kind of language…I do think that because the language has a political implication, it’s unfortunate…
  • We discovered last week that Democrats in very powerful positions related to the health care debate have received huge amounts from the health care and insurance industries.  It should come as no surprise that Senator Baucus of the Senate Finance Committee was the TOP recipient of money from the industry…Rangel of the House Ways and Means Committee also received a lot of contributions.  And the “Blue Dog” Democrats have also been rewarded for their stubborn “indecision” over the bill with considerable monetary support from health care companies.  Of course…Republicans have their hands out, too: Monday, the top Republican legislators involved in health care hosted their own “Roundtable on Healthcare Issues“…and charged $2000 a head for dinner, $5000 to have dinner and attend the roundtable.  Of course, when reporters attempted to attend the event to view the flagrant lobbying that would doubtlessly take place…they were told the event was “closed.“  Many health care lobbyists, CEO’s, and representatives from other health-related special interests were in attendance…lobbyists representing the 30 million uninsured people in America: not so much.
  • SHOCKER: Given the previous item, would you believe that Senator Baucus (chair of Senate Finance Committee, leading recipient of health care company money), while frequently talking about how VERY important passage of the reform bill is to him, and how hard they are working to come to an agreement…has agreed to dump some of the KEY provisions of the bill including the “public option,” in favor of the “co-op option,” instead.  Would you believe that THAT is exactly what the insurance companies would prefer?  That is to say, they would prefer any plan that didn’t risk someone coming along and charging you less while providing better service…they just couldn’t live with that.  I mean, they might have to charge less, provide better service, and even…oh God, no…sacrifice some of the multi-billion dollar annual profits that come from denying claims, rejecting people with pre-existing conditions, and dropping sick people’s coverage.
  • ANOTHER SHOCKER: Blue Dog Democrat Dan Boren of Oklahoma has some issues with the “public option” which he admitted might be offered at a lower cost: “The problem, is in a state like Oklahoma, where we have a lot of private insurers, you have a public option come in and it drives everything else out and the only thing left is the public option and then you have rationed care.“  Two problems with this statement…ONE: Boren is openly admitting that he is looking after the interests of the private insurers, because he’d hate for them to have to compete with a plan that could wind up being cheaper and, perhaps, better…and TWO: The Congressional Budget Office has released its report, that should have put an end to the “private insurance companies will all collapse and all that will be left is government health care” scare tactic.  The report clearly shows that private insurance companies would not be driven out of business by a “public option” being offered.  Of course…this disagrees with the GOP study performed by a research group OWNED by a large health care company…which is a bit of like when they allowed cigarette companies to do the research on whether or not cigarettes were addictive and dangerous.
  • At the end of the day: Democrats are pushing back to make sure that too much isn’t conceded to Republicans (who won’t vote for the bill no matter what compromises are made) and politicians serving private health care interests to the detriment of the American people.  Also…there’s progress:  4 of the 7 Blue Dog Democrats claim to have “made peace” with House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman of California, and Representative Mike Ross (D-AR) head of the Blue Dogs health care task force, stated that the agreement they reached “cuts the cost of the bill significantly by over $100 billion. It protects small businesses and it saves our rural hospitals and ensures that if there is a public option, it will be just that. It will be an option providing consumers more choices. It will not be mandated on anyone. And it now will clearly be on a level playing field.“  The members of the House will not vote on the bill, but will “take it home” over the recess to read and to present to their constituents.
  • President Obama is making the rounds in an attempt to dismiss certain attacks against the program.  In a town hall meeting with AARP, he was forced to address the same questions he has repeatedly answered about what is in the plan…and NOT in the plan.  Here’s a clip…my favorite part is near the end where he tells the story of the letter he was sent from a woman who said, “I don’t want government-run health care…I don’t want socialized medicine…and DON’T TOUCH MY MEDICARE!

  • Speaking of Medicare: It is curious that opponents to the reform plan like to say that “the government can’t run anything right,” or, “do you really trust the government with your health?“  They seem to forget that the government has run Medicare for years, and offers medical care and coverage to all veterans through Veterans Affairs.  And you know what? BOTH those program rate higher in customer/client satisfaction than ANY of the the members of the private health care industry.  Of course, conservative pundit Bill Kristol agrees that both these programs provide top notch care…but he takes the novel position that most Americans DON’T DESERVE IT:

During the recess, I’ll probably have to devote some time to addressing claims in some of the extreme ad campaigns that are sure to arise both in favor and opposed to the current plan.  Other than that…I’ll try to focus on other topics as much as possible until Congress is back in session and addressing this issue once more.