Mark the time, Dec 16, The death of Health Care reform
When Obama brought health care reform to the table, there was a real hope that at last something would be done to ensure that the wealthiest country in the world finally gave “universal” health care to it’s people.
With over 45 million already uninsured and many horror stories of people fighting their insurance companies for coverage, the US is the only country that does not give some form of universal care to it’s citizens. Just look at the US’s placement on the World Health Organisations (WHO) charts and you will see, almost consistently, the coverage of care for US citizens is below par, even with what are considered “banana republic” states. A report in the Commonwealth Fund shows that in 2007:
Compared with five other nations—Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom—the U.S. health care system ranks last or next-to-last on five dimensions of a high performance health system: quality, access, efficiency, equity, and healthy lives. The U.S. is the only country in the study without universal health insurance coverage, partly accounting for its poor performance on access, equity, and health outcomes.
In fact the only part in which the US has been successful is in preventive care, but this in turn sees many people paying for costly treatments as doctors strive to stave off lawsuits instead of caring about whether the tests are actually good and necessary for the patient.
And this is just some of the reasons why the US was desperatley in need of an overhaul of the system and with a majority in the Senate and House of Representatives it seemed that the Democrats had all they needed to get this through.
But from the outset, the bill has suffered.
At the very outset, Obama wanted to get a bipartisan bill through. During his campaign for Presidency he talked about trying to heal the divide between the Democrats and Republicans but in all honesty this was a naive request from Obama. History already tells us that the Republicans have success in helping kill health care reform bills. During the first term of the Bill Clinton administration a plan was put forth for universal health care but it suffered quickly. Not only did he have to contend with the Republicans and the health care industry, but from his own party who offered up their own plans in competition to the Presidents. By september 1994 the Clinton health care bill was killed. It took just under two years to do so.
Obama’s bill has taken 12 months to kill.
At first the opposition came in the form of cynical attacks. Some came from Republicans who didn’t care about the bill no matter what it offered but were determined to vote against it. Sen. Jim Inhofe, is quoted as saying to a town hall meeting in August:
“I don’t have to read it, or know what’s in it. I’m going to oppose it anyways,” he said.
Senator Chuck Grassley, who was originally seen as a possible advocate of health care slowly began to change his mind, even endorsing a thoroughly debunked rumor of “death panels” (more on that soon) to try and put fear into his constituents about what reform would mean for them.
“There is some fear because in the House bill, there is counseling for end-of-life,” Grassley said. “And from that standpoint, you have every right to fear. You shouldn’t have counseling at the end of life. You ought to have counseling 20 years before you’re going to die. You ought to plan these things out. And I don’t have any problem with things like living wills. But they ought to be done within the family. We should not have a government program that determines if you’re going to pull the plug on grandma.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/12/grassley-endorses-death-p_n_257677.html
These were just two of the voices calling for a complete “kill” policy on the bill.
As well as this, many myths and lies began to circulate about the bill. Much as had happened with the Clinton Bill. (Find out about the “Harry and Louise” advertisment campaign here: wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_and_Louise)
One of the first was “death panels”. This myth was started by the Quitter from Wasilla Sarah Palin who weighed into the argument as she always does by a “post” on Facebook. Using her down syndrome son Trig as a vocal point (again bringing her children into politics but damn anyone else who tries), Palin accused the Obama administration of concocting a provision in his bill that was see the setting up of death panels which would result in her son being killed:
The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.
This myth was also used by Betsy Mccaughey, a vocal opponent of the bill who was seen on many TV shows waving around one of the drafts of the bill and shouting death panel at anyone that would listen. She particularly favored the saying “pull the plug on Grandma.” McCaughey was perpetuating many dangerous and erroneous myths on her rounds that saw many critics rally against her. “Betsy McCaughey’s recent commentary on health care reform in various media outlets is rife with gross – and even cruel – distortions,” said AARP Executive Vice President John Rother. Luckily for us there is Jon Stewart of the Daily Show who had McCaughey on his show in August 2009, and tore her to shreds, pointing out that despite carrying around the draft she really did not know what was in it.
See, for example, where McCaughey lamented that it would be “really wrong” if the old people had their living wills yanked out from under them. Said Stewart: “It would be really wrong if this was in any way what this says. But that is not in any way what this says.” In a beautiful power move, he pulled the paper from the binder: “Let me take this out because you clearly don’t need it. Look: ‘Such measures shall measure both the creation and adherence to orders for life-sustaining treatment.’ Life-sustaining.” (Quote taken from Mediate.com)
Not long after Betsy was found several special interests including:
In recent years, she has collected some $23,600 per year in board fees and options from a drugmaking company, Genta Inc., although she resigned in 2007.
She remains on the board of Cantel Medical Group, a medical equipment company that pays her some $30,000 a year in fees. (NY Daily News)
But the rumor mongers and fear mongers were not the only problem to the bill and much as had happened with the Clinton Health Care Bill, the damage was done from the inside.
To try and placate the right and continue pushing for a bipartisan bill, little by little concessions were made by the left to try and guarantee bringing the GOP on board.
One of the first was the public/government option:
“You really can’t do health reform” without allowing the government to compete with private insurers, said Howard Dean, a former Democratic Party chairman. “Let’s not say we’re doing health reform without a public option,” he added in a slap at the administration’s latest move.
Obama and his top aides signaled retreat over the weekend on proposals for a provision under which consumers could choose from health insurance policies sold by the federal government as well as those marketed by private companies. “All I’m saying is, though, that the public option, whether we have it or we don’t have it, is not the entirety of health-care reform,” the president told a town hall-style audience in Grand Junction, Colo., on Saturday. “This is just one sliver of it, one aspect of it.”
The government option has emerged as one of the most contentious elements of legislation taking shape in Congress, with critics saying it is a step toward a federal takeover of health care and supporters arguing it is essential to create competition with private firms.
Concessions were also made to the “right to life” proponents and other concessions which irked Liberals everywhere who saw concession after concession being made and yet every concession met by another attack from the Right whom Obama was trying to placate.
The final straws seemed to be in the past week of so when Joe Lieberman, the pretender to the Republican throne, yet drawing in votes as an independant (previously democratic) began to talk about filibusting with the right.
Bob Cesca of the Huffington Post put it thusly:
By shamelessly seeking attention via a filibuster threat against health care reform, Joe Lieberman is putting his own political ambitions ahead of American lives. This selfish acting out — this pathetic, insufferable emergence of The Lieberman at reform’s eleventh hour ought to further seal his legacy as one of the U.S. Senate’s most greedy, self-serving political hacks.
Make no mistake. By merely threatening a filibuster, Joe Lieberman is, in effect, filibustering health care reform. It’s not a threat. He’s doing it right now. He’s delaying reform and creating another unnecessary obstruction in a process that surely doesn’t suffer from a lack of delays imposed by everyone from lobbyists to careerist political bastards.
So what’s his gripe?
Lieberman’s first, only and most ridiculous gripe with health care reform (so far) is that, somehow, reform with a public option will increase the deficit. This is, naturally, a lie. He’s making it up because, as we’re well aware, the CBO reported that the House bill, featuring a “level playing field” public option and no opt-out language, will reduce the federal budget deficit by more than $100 billion over ten years, with further deficit reduction in the subsequent ten years.
What makes this whole thing even more insane is that Lieberman actually supported the public option when he ran for president in 2004.
Lieberman made it very clear to Harry Reid who has been leading the reform that he would vote against the current bill (if it included the buy in of public option) and so began the exercise in trying to please one man.
Following a caucus-wide meeting Monday evening, the measure was all but scuttled.
“It’s looking like that’s the case. I can’t guarantee it. At this point, at this stage, that seemed to be the case,” acknowledged Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.). Asked why it had been dropped, he said, “I didn’t confirm that now. It’s just a matter of getting support from 60 senators.” (Huffington Post)
Now commentators on Lieberman’s are saying that his bill is so intolerable that it would be better to kill it health care all together than keep it in the mutilated form it is.
Darcy Burner of the Huffington Post has said:
The first rule of medicine is, “Do no harm.” The post-Joe Lieberman version of the Senate health care bill fails that basic criterion. Unless Democratic leadership steps up to fix this misguided proposal, our only recourse will be to kill it.
The fundamental failing of the newest Senate proposal is that it requires individuals to purchase health insurance, but does nothing to rein in what insurance companies charge. There is nothing to stop spiraling health costs from eating up an ever-increasing percentage of our national productivity.
Michael Roston of True/Slant said:
President Obama appears to have been starting from the assumption that he’s got a filibuster-proof majority to work with. And the result of that is that one or two senators will now always believe that they can play dealbreaker instead of Democrat and secure major concessions in the process. When they’re Joe Lieberman and believe that they’ve been transformed into a latter day “Mr Smith Goes to Washington,” all we end up with is dreck that no voter in America is going to get excited about.
Ezra Klein on The Washington Post went one step further:
Lieberman was invited to participate in the process that led to the Medicare buy-in. His opposition would have killed it before liberals invested in the idea. Instead, he skipped the meetings and is forcing liberals to give up yet another compromise. Each time he does that, he increases the chances of the bill’s failure that much more. And if there’s a policy rationale here, it’s not apparent to me, or to others who’ve interviewed him. At this point, Lieberman seems primarily motivated by torturing liberals. That is to say, he seems willing to cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in order to settle an old electoral score.
As the health care reform stands now Americans will be no better off than they are under the current system. The many cowtow’s have ensured that American’s will still have to use insurance, a public option will be too problematic to use and insurance companies will win either way.
By caving in to Lieberman the health care debate has been brought “to a level of absurdity that can’t be ignored“.
“…Let’s not pretend that we can just have any bill pass and declare it reform, the way we did with education… The White House is convinced that the minute they pass health care reform, the numbers are going to change. This is absolutely untrue.”
But it seems that this is what is happening and if this is what the current administration continues to do then mark the time and date, because health care reform has died again.
EDIT: Interesting article on Huffington Post: Kill the Bill