Thursday, October 8, 2009

Health Care

Health reformers play hardball  Oct. 7: Msnbc's Rachel Maddow reports that Democratic leaders have threatened to revoke committee chairmanships from colleagues who stand in the way of the health reform bill. Newsweek's Howard Fineman joins for further analysis of the rising tensions in Congress.

Kansas City Star - Prime Buzz: Dole: Health care reform coming late this year or next; "you lost" when Clinton-era reform failed 
   Former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole says "there will be a signing ceremony" for a health care reform bill either late this year or early next.
  But the former presidential candidate says he isn't sure what the bill will say.
   Dole, 86, spoke with reporters after an hour-long speech at a health care reform summit sponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City.
   He told the group that he and former Sens. Tom Daschle, Howard Baker, and George Mitchell will issue a statement later today urging Congress to enact health care reform as soon as possible.
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  UPDATE, 4:43:  The statement is just from Dole and Daschle, and it's attached below.  An excerpt:
   "...Congress could be close to passing comprehensive health reform. The American people have waited decades and if this moment passes us by, it may be decades more before there is another opportunity. The current approaches suggested by the Congress are far from perfect, but they do provide some basis on which Congress can move forward and we urge the joint leadership to get together for America’s sake."
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   And he repeatedly blamed "partisanship" for the failure to produce a bill so far.
   "Sometimes people fight you just to fight you," he said. "They don't want Reagan to get it, they don't want Obama to get it, so we've got to kill it...
   "Health care is one of those things...Now we've got to do something."
   Dole's speech, as is usually the case, wandered over various subjects -- presidential humor, his own career, Social Security reform, and Monica Lewinski, who was Dole's neighbor for a time in the Watergate complex in the 1990s.
   "If I'd had little wiretap there, I could've been president," Dole said, adding: "I never had..... a conversation with that lady."
    Dole also talked about the failure to get a health care reform bill through Congress in 1993 and 1994 when President Bill Clinton proposed it.
   He blamed himself -- and Hillary Clinton -- and finally politics.
   "Politics took over," he said.  "And you lost."
    Dole repeated his opposition to a public option for health insurance, which he said would drive private companies out of business.
    And he said he's also worried about paying for the cost of health care reform, which is estimated at $800 billion to $1 trillion over ten years.
   But, he said, "I believe we can do it."  He urged President Obama to meet privately with members of Congress and not to set a deadline for a bill.
   Dole also said he had been approached by Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and asked not to issue a statement calling for passage of a health care reform bill, a request he said he declined.
   Dole walked slowly and spoke in a high but clear voice.  He underwent surgery earlier this year and told reporters he's thinking about another operation on his knee.

Think Progress: Rep. Ryan admits GOP was negligent on health care for 12 years: ‘We should have fixed this under our watch.’
In an CNBC debate with Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) today, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) railed against a government takeover of health care until CNBC host John Harwood interjected and asked him, “Congressman, do you not agree that the private market is failing the American patient right now?” Paul agreed that we “do not have a market system working in health care today,” and said, “Let’s fix health care, let’s fix insurance, let’s make sure the uninsured get insured, let’s make sure we have a fix for people with pre-existing conditions.” Frank then interjected and called Ryan out:
FRANK: I just want to ask Paul one question. … When did you figure that out? Because apparently for the 12 years that the Republicans were in control — eight of which had a Republican president — that hadn’t occurred to you. So I’m glad you now understand that. Can you tell me at what moment the revelation occurred?
RYAN: First of all, I introduced on this subject about six years ago.
FRANK: You had control of the Congress. Why didn’t the Republican Congress fix it?
RYAN: I will have a moment of bipartisan agreement. We should have fixed this under our watch and I’m frustrated we didn’t.
Watch it:

Here’s what happened while Republicans were asleep at the wheel:

Given his record, we're well past the point of expecting intellectual seriousness or consistency from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). But his take on an individual mandate as part of health care reform is pretty striking, even for him.
Victor Zapanta reported yesterday on Grassley's latest stand. The senator was asked whether he might consider supporting health care reform if Democrats satisfied his concerns about funds for abortion and coverage for undocumented workers. Grassley said he'd oppose reform anyway, because of the individual mandate.
"[T]here are other points as well, but let me mention other points that you didn't mention. And one would be the individual mandate, which for the first time would have a federal penalty against people who don't have health insurance.... I'm very reluctant to go along with an individual mandate."
So, for Chuck Grassley, an individual mandate is a deal-breaker. No matter what other concessions Democrats are willing to make in the name of compromise and in the spirit of bipartisan cooperation, the Iowa conservative believes the mandate is just too much.
At least, that's what he believes now. As recently as August, Grassley argued the way to get universal coverage is "through an individual mandate." He told Nightly Business report, "That's individual responsibility, and even Republicans believe in individual responsibility."
In June, Grassley was even clearer. He said "there isn't anything wrong with" an individual mandate, and compared it to laws requiring Americans to have car insurance. "Everybody has some health insurance costs," the conservative senator said, "and if you aren't insured, there's no free lunch."
Grassley added, in unambiguous terms, "I believe that there is a bipartisan consensus to have individual mandates."
Read that sentence again.
Democrats moved forward with reform efforts, taking Grassley at his word. Just a few months later, however, Grassley has concluded that he's not only against individual mandates, he considers them a deal-breaker. And remember, as far as Senate Republicans are concerned, Grassley was the lead negotiator on working towards some kind of consensus on the legislation.
Why is "bipartisan" health care reform impossible? Because leading GOP lawmakers like Chuck Grassley oppose the measures they support.

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