Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Health Care Tuesday: Better And Cheaper Edition

Think Progress: Husband joins Army so cancer-stricken wife can get health care. 
One of the worst tragedies of the recession has been people losing their health insurance because they lost their job. Nearly 14,000 Americans lose their insurance every day. Wisconsin father Bill Caudle was laid off from his job at a plastics company in March 2009, which resulted in his family losing their employer-subsidized health care coverage. This put the family in an especially precarious position, because Bill’s wife, Michelle, was an ovarian cancer patient. After months of unsuccessfully looking for work, Caudle did the only thing he could to get his wife chemotherapy — he joined the Army:
billnmichelleBill needed a job. He needed health benefits. [...]
The Army would solve their health coverage problem. In years past he would have been too old, but in 2005 the age limit for enlistment was increased from 35 to 40, and a year later it was raised again to 42. The tradeoff would be his absence from home.
In the end, although he risked leaving Michelle to fight cancer on her own, Bill chose the Army. He signed on for a job as a signal support systems specialist, a soldier who works with communications equipment.
“Seventy percent of the reason is for the insurance,” said Bill’s mother, Marguerite Hemiller. “He told me, ‘I’ve always wanted to do something for my country and I have to help Michelle.’”
The United States is the only industrialized country in the world that does not guarentee comprehensive health coverage to all of its citizens. In the rest of the developed world, Bill would not have to leave his cancer-stricken wife behind and risk his own life in order to get her care.

Health reform opposition loses wind   Oct. 19: Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-OH, joins Rachel Maddow to talk about the way Republican opposition to health reform has fallen apart and what that means for the final bill being assembled in Congress.

Atrios: And If The Public Option Is Scored Better And Cheaper 
What will Bayh and the gang say?

  • Beutler (TPM): Pelosi Aims to Squeeze Skeptics on Public Option With Cheaper Bill Than Senate 

    The House health care bill is getting cheaper, but Democrats aren't boasting just yet. Because when they ultimately break silence the hope is to present conservative Democrats in both chambers with a bill that will walk the walk of fiscal responsibility--including a public option, which is projected to save the government billions.
    As always, the legislative process is unpredictable, and the Senate is operating in isolation from the House. But with the public option potentially in the balance, Speaker Pelosi's goal is this: present conservative Democrats in both chambers with a Hobson's choice between a public option bill and a potentially more expensive Senate bill that may have no public option at all.
    On Friday, the Washington Post ran with leaked CBO numbers, showing that House health care leaders have reduced the price tag of their bill by at least $100 billion. The numbers were preliminary--not reflective of the current state of the legislation, which is changing constantly--but they showed a definite downward trajectory in the overall cost of its reform plan.
    Still, leadership was not pleased.
    "These numbers are outdated and are by no means final as we will send new policy specifications to CBO," said Brendan Daly, spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "But they do confirm, as the Speaker has said, that the coverage provisions of the House bill will be under $900 billion and we will have a public option. No final policy decisions have been made on how to proceed."
    Why the long face when the news is ostensibly quite good? Because the hope, politically speaking, is to make the news better.
    The House bill will almost certainly cover more people, and the hope (though it may not be possible) is to do so while matching, or perhaps besting, the Senate bill's bottom line. And that could put conservative Democrats in a bit of a pickle: What if the progressive House bill, complete with a public option, is actually cheaper--or, at least, cheaper per consumer--than its counterpart in the Senate?

As lawmakers on the Hill renew discussions today on shaping health care reform legislation, it's helpful to have a front-page, above-the-fold headline in the Washington Post that reads, "Public option gains support; Clear majority now backs plan."
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that support for a government-run health-care plan to compete with private insurers has rebounded from its summertime lows and wins clear majority support from the public.
Americans remain sharply divided about the overall packages moving closer to votes in Congress and President Obama's leadership on the issue, reflecting the partisan battle that has raged for months over the administration's top legislative priority. But sizable majorities back two key and controversial provisions: both the so-called public option and a new mandate that would require all Americans to carry health insurance.
For an idea that's supposed to be contentious and divisive, the public option sure does seem popular.
Specifically, respondents were asked, "Would you support or oppose having the government create a new health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance plans?" A 57% majority support the measure -- a number that has steadily increased since August.
Two weeks ago, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) declared that the public option "has been resoundingly rejected by the American people." Care to revise that, congressman?
But just as important was the question that most pollsters have failed to ask. There have been plenty of surveys showing strong public support for a health care reform plan that enjoys backing from both parties. But that's only half of the picture. The Post/ABC poll took the next step:
Faced with a basic choice that soon may confront the administration and Democratic congressional leaders, a slim majority of Americans, 51 percent, would prefer a plan that included some form of government insurance for people who cannot get affordable private coverage even if it had no GOP support in Congress. Thirty-seven percent would rather have a bipartisan plan that did not feature a public option. Republicans and Democrats are on opposite sides of this question, while independents prefer a bill that includes a public option but does not have Republican support, by 52 percent to 35 percent.
Greg Sargent, who's been pushing the relevance of this angle for several weeks, explained nicely why this is important: "Other public polls have offered respondents a straight choice -- do they want a partisan bill or a bipartisan one -- without explaining that winning over GOP support has actual policy consequences for the final bill that they might not like. When this is explained clearly -- and the WaPo framing is a far more accurate depiction of the choice the public and lawmakers face -- a majority wants the partisan, Dem-only bill with the public option. Indeed, a majority wants the public option more than they want bipartisanship for its own sake."
In other words, bipartisanship is popular, but the public option is more popular. The next time a lawmaker proclaims, "The American people want us to work together on a bipartisan solution," remember, the American people really want them to work together on passing a public option.
Grayson's anatomy includes a spine!  Oct. 19: Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fl, joins Rachel Maddow to talk about how his re-election race has heated up since he stood up to bullying Republican health reform opponents in Congress.

Think Progress: Conservative Health Care Attack Group Hires Industry Lobbyist To Coordinate Strategy On Killing Reform
Today, CNN obtained a memo from Conservatives for Patients’ Rights (CPR) sent to tea party organizations and conservative think tanks urging a coordinated approach to attacking health reform. The memo argues that a synchronized messaging strategy will help “to deliver a decisive ‘knock out’ punch” to health care legislation. CPR was started this year by health clinic and hospital executive Rick Scott, who helps to self-fund advertisements dishonestly smearing health reform. Although Scott has focused his attention on killing the public option, he has never acknowledged working directly with the health insurance industry.
However, yesterday CPR filed its third quarter lobbying disclosures with the U.S. Senate, revealing that the Swift-Boat style attack group has contracted veteran health insurance lobbyist Brian McManus. McManus, while at the same time advising CPR, is currently the Director of Federal Affairs at the Council for Affordable Health Insurance (CAHI), a private health insurance trade group advocating Health Savings Accounts. So while CPR has paid McManus at least $60,000, he continues to also collect an income from a private insurer-backed group.
CPR’s call to target an anti-reform message comes on the heel of news that Senate Republicans plan to kill reform by delaying a vote for as long as possible. A Roll Call article today explains that the GOP plan is to “delay, define and derail” health reform:
Senate Republicans, acknowledging they lack the votes to block a health care reform bill outright, have implemented a comprehensive political strategy to delay, define and derail. [...] The Republicans also plan to use the time between now and a final floor vote to deliver a narrowly focused message via a series of floor speeches, press conferences and media appearances. And even though GOP Members will discuss their counterproposals for health care reform, criticism of the Democratic bill will be the priority.
Despite the “hatchet job” report last week distorting the Finance Committee bill, the health insurance industry has tried to pretend it still supports reform. However, with the revelation that industry operative McManus is working with CPR, it appears the overall strategy for the insurers is to have Republicans slow down debate so that attack groups will have more time to air ads undermining reform.
McManus has a history of coordinating efforts among right-wing outside groups with lobbyists inside DC to advance legislation favorable to the private health insurance industry. After serving as the Vice President of Golden Rule, a subsidiary of health insurer giant UnitedHealth, McManus founded the “Health Care Freedom Coalition,” a network of astroturf front groups and think tanks. The Coalition works in tandem with organizations like FreedomWorks to promote a deregulation approach to health reform that would hurt consumer protections while adding to insurer profits.
ThinkProgress has documented how insurers have long used a “two-faced” campaign to, on the one hand present themselves to the public as committed to producing change, while at the same time orchestrating front-group based attacks on reform.

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