Fresh Health Care Insanity: Death Book, Prayer, and Unicorns

Posted in General by TBartine on August 27, 2009 1 Comment

Thanks to a vacation, and other temporary diversions, I have not been able to keep everyone up to date on Health Care Reform news…and there is plenty of fresh insanity to cover.

So…I’ll skip my usual narrative and get right into a summary of recent developments:

DEATH, DEATH, AND HOW ABOUT A LITTLE MORE DEATH:

  • Death Panels: It started out as a simple provision, to require insurance companies to reimburse you for having a conversation with you doctor about living wills, hospice, requesting treatment, and refusing treatment.  Republicans inaccurately labeled this provision as “euthanasia” and said it was the equivalent of “the government pulling the plug on Grandma.”  We discovered…a co-sponsor of the provision…yup, a Republican.  Then we find out…there’s an identical provision in the Medicare bill from recent years, and most of the Republicans…SUPPORTED IT.  And now it is revealed…that even some private insurers have such a policy provision (look where it says Choose an Advance Directive to designate the kind of care you wish to receive should you become unable to express your wishes.“).  That’s right – insurance companies have “death panels!
  • Have you heard about the “new” thing to be afraid of?  The “DEATH BOOK.“  Michael Steele and other Republicans have been charging that the Obama administration has published a book for our soldiers and veterans…encouraging them to commit suicide.  Steele has said, “I mean, this is crazy coming from the government, and this is exactly what concerns people and puts them in fear of what the government control of health care will look like.“  There are just a few problems with this claim:  First…the book was actually instituted during the Bush administration.  And secondly, the book, titled “Your Life, Your Choices: Planning for Future Medical Decisions” does absolutely nothing to prompt veterans to end their lives.  The book merely informs vets how to set up living wills and advance directives, should they become incapacitated and therefore unable to communicate their medical wishes.  The White House has responded with a fact sheet and a timeline to refute these claims…apparently still unaware that opponents are not interested in facts OR timelines.

THE REPUBLICAN PLAN:

  • Remember when the Republicans put out their own “Economic Stimulus Plan“…the one that had no actual figures, no specific programs or plans?  Remember how the media, even the conservative media, pounced on them for releasing such an embarrassingly deficient document?  Well, as proof that some people never learn, the GOP has now released it’s own “health care plan” in the form of a “seniors’ health care bill of rights.“  It opposes any cutting of costs to Medicare (despite the fact that it is a huge, socialized, government-run health care program with quite a bit of waste that COULD and SHOULD be cut).  It also says that the government should not “ration” seniors’ care…despite the fact that no one is TRYING to ration seniors’ care.  Lastly, it opposes government getting in between seniors and their doctors…which, AGAIN, nobody is proposing.  Wow.  A plan that protects Medicare against two threats that don’t exist, and prevents making the program more cost efficient…while at the same time the plan offers no suggestions on how to IMPROVE anything?  Nice work…
  • When asked, on Fox News, why the Republicans didn’t do anything to improve Health Care in this country over the years that they held a solid congressional majority, Michael Steele offered: “I don’t have an idea… That’s one of the flaws of the past, that we tripped ourselves up . We had a perfect opportunity even when we didn’t have control of the House and Senate during the early days of Bush first term to at least put in place our imprimatur on the health care debate But that’s the past.“  Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) had a similar excuse: “Now, I don’t know why the leadership — I came to the Senate in 2005. I can’t account for the five years before that. But the fact is, is they didn’t take advantage of any of the opportunities they had to make big changes, and they could have done this and they should have, but they didn’t.“  The truth is, of course, it’s not that Republicans somehow just “forgot” to do health reform legislation…it’s that they DON’T WANT health reform legislation (and don’t want us to realize it).  Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) was a bit more forthright on the subject when he just came out and said that the GOP’s plan is to oppose the reforms, slow the process as much as possible, weaken the bill as much as possible, and they will compromise nothing.  Enzi’s constituents have pointed out the other cause for the Republicans’ universal disregard for health care reform…they are protesting the sizeable contributions Enzi has received from insurance companies to make sure that these companies don’t have to compete against a Public Option.
  • I Rest My Case: With regard to the claims I made in the previous item…Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, admits that he has not even read the health reform bill, does not know what is in the bill, but will still VOTE AGAINST IT.
  • Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN), as always, has presented a most realistic and effective means towards achieving the GOP goal of defeating health care reform:  fasting and prayer.  Bachmann urged, “That’s really where this battle will be won – on our knees in prayer and fasting.  Remember: faith without works is dead. So we’re asking you to do all of it: pray, fast, believe, trust the Lord, but also act.“  She also dredged up the “Death Panel” nonsense, saying, “Thank God that Sarah Palin said that…These are true. Ohhh-kayyyy.

A MAN NAMED BAUCUS:

  • When it came to the Medicare Bill…Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said he gave up one negotiating with Senator Grassley (R-IA) when it was clear that too many concessions were being made in exchange for too little Republican support.  At the time, Baucus said, “I walked away from Senator Grassley. I tend to work with Senator Grassley. But there comes a time when you just gotta say, ‘Sorry.’ These things get watered down too much, it’s just not right, so I just broke with him on that and pushed through a Medicare bill that finally got 60 votes. We had to work hard to get those 60, because Grassley didn’t agree, but that was the right thing to do. So when Ted Kennedy walked on the floor to cast the 60th vote, that’s a moment I’ll always treasure.“  So why now, on the Health Care Reform Bill, does Baucus seem willing to give away the entire candy store to satisfy Grassley…when Grassley is publicly making wildly false claims about the bill, and can promise NO Republican support…not even his own?
  • Maybe the fact that Democrats are considering a measure to vote Baucus out of his chairmanship has caused him to change his tune.  Now, Baucus says…he’s in favor of the Public Option (which he had previously given up as a concession to Grassley), that the Public Option is still on the table, and…no, he DOES NOT trust the private insurance companies to police themselves.

THE NEW DEMOCRATIC STRATEGY:

  • Let me see if I follow this: there’s a new Democratic strategy afoot.  The House and Senate Bills could go through the reconciliation process, thereby requiring only 51 votes to pass, not the 60 vote “filibuster-proof” majority in the Senate.  However, in the application of what is called the “Byrd Rule,” any portions of the bill that would substantially change funding would have to be separated out into smaller bills (this would include the Medicare items in the bill and the Public Option).  BUT…a totally distinct vote requiring 60 votes could be held to waive the Byrd Rule…allowing the WHOLE Health Care Reform package to pass with only 51 votes.  And why would some Republicans who would not vote for the Health Care Reform Bill, vote in favor of waiving the Byrd Rule?  Well…they say it’s just smart politics, in this article.
  • Senator Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) has called for the health care reform legislation to be named after the recently-deceased Senator Ted Kennedy…seeing as it had been Kennedy’s passion throughout his career.  Some think doing so…might “stiffen Democrats’ spines” or even “win over some Republicans.“  We will see…I remain skeptical on BOTH ideas.

HOW NOT TO HANDLE A TOWN HALL MEETING:

  • How NOT To Handle A Town Hall Meeting: Representative Wally Herger, (R-CA) was holding a town hall, when one of the attendees proudly proclaimed that he was a, “proud right-wing terrorist.“  Instead of responding appropriately and responsibly, Herger replied: “Amen, God bless you.  There is a great American.

  • How To Handle A Town Hall Meeting: Senator John McCain (R-AZ) held his town hall, and when one participant would not stop yelling and disrupting, the senator warned her, “You’re going to have to stop or you’re going to have to leave.“  When the woman failed to comply and security guards began escorting her from the meeting, the Senator McCain quipped, “Goodbye, see ya.

MISCELLANEOUS:

  • Representative Pete Stark, (D-CA) seemed to hit the nail on the head when he referred to the newly-introduced and poorly-defined health care co-op suggestions as a “medical unicorn.“  He elaborated: “There aren’t many of you listening who remember the co-ops in the ’30s, which was kind of a Roosevelt outfit, rural electric co-ops, phone co-ops.  But, as I say, there is no real example of either the regulation, or how you would establish them, or where they would get enough people to have a purchasing base. So you might as well talk about unicorns. You know, what is a medical unicorn? My kids all know what a unicorn is. But you don’t. You have never seen one. So I think this co-op is just a way of ducking the issue of having the public plan.
  • Meet Wendell Potter: Former head of corporate communications for Humana and then for Cigna…now ashamed when he hears the lies and scare tactics that he once helped to set in motion.  The man has a lot to say that is well worth hearing.
  • Interesting: I have certainly made “Post Office – Health Care” analogies before…but this writer goes the extra mileIn short: The Postal Service is an inexpensive, valuable, reliable, socialized program…and when anyone even talks about closing someone’s local post office, everyone in the community goes absolutely ape.  Why can’t more people see the comparison between what the Postal System “IS” and what the Health Care System “COULD BE.

Stay tuned tomorrow for our weekly “Chaos Theory” edition, where I round up all the news that’s fit to print.