Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Public Option

Dean's point can't be made often enough.
Why the public option works July 28: Author of "Best Care Anywhere," Philip Longman, talks about GOP scare tactics attacking government-controlled health care, a system that has already proven effective for politicians, the elderly and military veterans.
Paul Krugman noted yesterday that "Americans hate single-payer insurance" because "they don't know they have it." President Obama raised a related point yesterday during an AARP forum on health care.

"I have to say, the reason [a public option] has been controversial is a lot of people have heard this phrase 'socialized medicine' and they say, 'We don't want government-run health care; we don't want a Canadian-style plan,'" Obama said. "Nobody is talking about that. We're saying, let's give you a choice. You can choose the private marketplace, or this other approach.

"And I got a letter the other day from a woman; she said, 'I don't want government-run health care, I don't want socialized medicine, and don't touch my Medicare.' And I wanted to say, well, I mean, that's what Medicare is, is it's a government-run health care plan that people are very happy with. But I think that we've been so accustomed to hearing those phrases that sometimes we can't sort out the myth from the reality."

This, apparently, is fairly common. Rep. Robert Inglis (R-S.C.) recently hosted a town-hall meeting, at which a man insisted, in all seriousness, "Keep your government hands off my Medicare." The constituent, apparently, didn't appreciate the irony.

As obvious as it should be, a surprising number of people don't realize that public health care programs already exist in the United States, and operate quite well. Krugman reminded readers yesterday, "[W]e already have a system in which the government pays substantially more medical bills (47% of the total) than the private insurance industry (35%)."

It reminds me a bit of a scene in "Life of Brian." The People's Front of Judea are having a meeting and considering what the Romans had ever done for them. Reg asks, "Apart apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?"

Likewise, we've reached the point at which opponents of health care reform ask, "Apart from quality, affordable medical care for seniors, U.S. servicemen and women, injured veterans, poor families, and low-income children, what has government-run health care ever done for us?"

Kristol on health care is Daily Show punch line July 28: Conservative pundit William Kristol visited The Daily Show Monday to explain to host Jon Stewart the truth about what Kristol calls the "absolute best health care."

Joe Sudbay (AmBlog): Senate GOP health bill moves forward

Senate Republicans didn't introduce a health care reform bill. They didn't have to. Instead, they took the Democratic bill and removed the key provisions supported by Democrats. Max Baucus (D-MT) let them do it, because he wants a "bipartisan" bill. Baucus got a GOP bill:

An emerging consensus among a bipartisan group of senators is poised to shift the dynamic in the congressional debate over health-care reform and could lead to a final product that sheds many of the priorities that President Obama has emphasized and that have drawn GOP attacks.

Three Democrats and three Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee are expected to wrap up their arduous multi-week talks in the coming days, and Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said he expects a panel vote before the Senate recess, which will begin Aug. 7.

Assuming the fragile committee coalition holds, the legislation it produces would scramble the reform landscape by introducing policy ideas that have their origins in the political center. The bill is bound to disappoint liberals. But with prominent GOP backing, it also could prove more difficult for Republicans to reject out of hand -- the approach they have taken to the House bill and a second Senate version, written by the health committee.

The finance panel's legislation is expected to include incentives for employers to provide health insurance for their workers, rather than a more punitive coverage mandate. The committee is also likely to endorse narrowly targeted tax increases, rejecting a controversial tax surcharge on wealthy households that the House adopted and limits on deductions for upper-income taxpayers that Obama is seeking.

GOP negotiators rejected from the outset the kind of government-run insurance plan that Obama and most Democrats are pushing for in an attempt to inject the health-insurance market with pricing competition. Instead, the committee would create coverage cooperatives modeled after rural electricity providers.
I swear, when the 40 Republicans get together for their caucus, knowing the Democrats not only have a majority, but a filibuster-proof majority, they must just laugh at how easy it is to roll Baucus and others. It's pathetic.

But, don't worry, this will all be fixed in the final House-Senate conference. Right.
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) delivered a speech on the House floor yesterday, insisting that health care reform would "put seniors in a position" n which they may be "put to death by their government." There's been a lot of that rhetoric floating around lately.

And apparently, some are actually starting to worry about it. President Obama, speaking at an AARP forum yesterday, was asked by a concerned elderly woman about "rumors" that government officials would visit people's homes and "told to decide how they wish to die." The president tried to clarify what this is all about.

"You know, I guarantee you, first of all, we just don't have enough government workers to send to talk to everybody, to find out how they want to die. I think that the only thing that may have been proposed in some of the bills -- and I actually think this is a good thing -- is that it makes it easier for people to fill out a living will."

After explaining what living wills are, and why they can be beneficial, Obama added, "Mary, I just want to be clear: Nobody is going to be knocking on your door; nobody is going to be telling you you've got to fill one out. And certainly nobody is going to be forcing you to make a set of decisions on end-of-life care based on some bureaucratic law in Washington."

Pressed further by the AARP moderator, the president said the intent of the provision in question is provide seniors with "more information, and that Medicare will pay for it."

The NYT touched on this in a report today, too.

A provision of the House bill would provide Medicare coverage for the work of doctors who advise patients on life-sustaining treatment and "end-of-life services," including hospice care.

Conservative groups have seized on this provision as evidence that the bill could encourage the rationing of health care.... The House Republican leader, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, said, "This provision may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia."

Boehner was serious.

Rep. G. K. Butterfield (D) of North Carolina told the Times he's been hearing concerns from constituents who've been misled. "The longer we wait to vote," Butterfield, "the more opportunity our opponents have to put out false messages."

In other words, lawmakers have to hurry, and resolve differences with conservative lawmakers, because professional conservative liars are busy conning the country. It's quite a political process we have here.

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