Friday, October 30, 2009

The Public's Choice

Sargent: Tapper Says It: Majority Wants Public Option More Than Bipartisanship
With some people still talking about trying to win over Olympia Snowe by dropping the public option with the opt out and replacing it with a trigger, Jake Tapper steps up and offers a useful reminder:
More Americans Prefer Public Option to Bipartisan Bill
That’s a reference to the recent WaPo/ABC News poll, which found that a comfortable majority, 57%, prefer a Dem-only bill with a public option to a bipartisan bill without one. What this means, in a nutshell, is that when people are informed of the important fact that a bipartisan bill is different in policy terms from a Dem-only one, they no longer care about bipartisanship for its own sake.
This is newly relevant right now, as Tapper notes:
The question has some relevance, since Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, is the only Republican lawmaker to show willingness to vote for a health care reform bill pushed by Democrats, but she opposes the public option. Some in the White House have worked hard to bring Snowe on board, thinking she provides cover for moderate Democrats and wanting to be able to say they passed a bill with bipartisan support. Some in Congress have argued that Snowe’s support is not worth it, given her opposition to the public option.
As you regulars know, this has been a pet obsession of this blog, and it’s gratifying to see it gaining a tiny bit of traction.
There are about five members of the Senate Democratic caucus who are likely to be the biggest obstacles to health care reform. Near the top of the list is Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D), a center-right Democrat from a state that's moved sharply to the right in recent years.
She's up for re-election next year, and Republicans have painted a bull's eye on her back. Lincoln's vote on health care policy is likely to make a big difference -- and she knows it.
What she may not know, however, is that while Arkansas has become more painfully conservative lately, it's also a state where Democratic reform ideas remain popular. A new Research 2000 poll, commissioned by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, helps make this clear.
Yet another public opinion poll in a state with a conservative Democratic senator shows that the public option not only is widely popular among voters, but could become a potent issue in the upcoming congressional elections.
One day after releasing a Research 2000 survey of Indiana residents -- in a study designed to get the attention of Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh -- the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America is going public with the results from Arkansas, home state of Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln. The findings are equally persuasive.
Specifically, Arkansans support a public option, 56% to 37%. Among independents in the state, it's even better, 57% to 32%. Moreover, if Lincoln sided with Republicans on a filibuster, 35% of Arkansas independents would be less likely to vote for her, while only 10% would be more likely. Among state Democrats, 49% would be less likely to vote for her, only 7% more likely.
It's unclear if Lincoln will face a primary challenge, but if she backs the GOP's filibuster and has to earn the Democratic nomination, 48% of Democrats would be less likely to support her in a primary.
Progressive Change Campaign Committee co-founder Stephanie Taylor concluded, "This polling shows that voting against the public option -- or helping Republicans block a vote on health care altogether -- would be career suicide for Blanche Lincoln. It would alienate large numbers of Democrats and Independents when she's already facing an extremely tough re-election."
mcjoan (DK): Another Stumble from the Insurance Industry 
A few weeks ago, AHIP shot themselves in the foot when they released the PWC report that was basically nothing more than a blackmail threat, you do this reform, we'll raise premiums. That effort resulted in a real resurgence for the public option.
That stumble certainly isn't going to stop the insurance industry from fighting back at every level. Hopefully, more of them will backfire as as much as PWC report, and as badly as this one:
RALEIGH, N.C. —Even Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina acknowledges that its timing on two recent mailings was unfortunate.
The News&Observer of Raleigh reported that customers first learned their rates will rise by an average of 11 percent next year.
Then they got a flier urging them to send an enclosed preprinted, postage-paid note to Sen. Kay Hagan denouncing what the company says is unfair competition that would be imposed by a government-backed insurance plan. Congress is likely to consider that public option as it debates the health care overhaul....
Indignant Blue Cross customers, complaining that their premium dollars are funding the campaign, have called Hagan's office to voice support for a public option. They've marked through the Blue Cross message on their postcards and changed it to show they support the public option, then mailed the cards.
How emblematic of the whole crisis is this incident? The insurers will just keep on raising our premiums and using that money to further their own interests in making more profits. They sure as hell aren't putting those profits into providing more or better coverage. And their customers know exactly what they're doing. Which is precisely why the public option is so popular--everyone who got that premium increase notice knows that they are trapped in their policies. If they want insurance, they have to put up the increases in costs and decreases in coverage. What rational person wouldn't think some competition and some options are called for?
Unfortunately, all of the industries efforts to fight reform aren't going to be so ham-handed, and most of them probably aren't going to be relying on disgruntled customers to do their dirty work. Not when they've got got lots of allies in D.C. looking out for them. But as long as their obscene profits are threatened, the insurance companies are going to fight this, and they will have plenty of allies on the Hill and in Congress to keep doing that.
Madrak (C&L): Howard Dean on Health-Care Bill: 'This Is Real Reform'

Look, I want single-payer, too. But this bill has a lot of things in it that will quickly offer substantial relief, and I'm not joining the wholesale condemnation. Even Howard Dean called it "real reform" tonight and said he'd vote for it.

There's some good things and some bad things. Actually, a lot of good - and you won't have to wait more than a few months for relief.

The bill keeps kids on their parents' insurance until age 27, there's a temporary insurance pool until the public option is operable, extension of COBRA benefits (still looking for details), steps to close the Medicare doughnut hole, a ban on lifetime coverage limits, and the end of rescissions, except in case of fraud. It also expands Medicaid.

The bill also adds a voluntary long-term care program (and if your parents have seen their insurance carriers crash and burn this year, you know what a blessing this will be). It also funds a temporary reinsurance program that subsidizes employers offering health benefits for retirees aged 55-64.

As Jane pointed out this morning, there's no requirement for generic versions of high-priced breast cancer drugs. In fact, the bill sweetens the pot for Big Pharma by extending patents on those drugs every time they make a minor change. (Like making an extended release formula.) Essentially, it's a monopoly in perpetuity.

Breast cancer survivors, organize! No one likes to be perceived as beating up on cancer patients.

Potentially bad: No Medicare+5. At first look, this means fewer savings - and thus, higher premiums. However, these rates will still be negotiated at a national level, and it does not preclude Medicare +5.

In a bill this complex and controversial, there are, of course, things that will make us swallow hard. From what I'm hearing so far, the subsidies are inadequate. As soon as I have concrete numbers, I'll put them up.

I'd say the subsidies are the single most productive focus for the netroots. Call your congress critter, tell him or her (or it) that the subsidies must be adequate - or else.

And if they say they have to respect the ceiling President Obama asked for, ask them why it doesn't bother them when they have to pay for wars - only health care. Tell them you will not pay more money for less coverage, that this is a deal-breaker for Democratic voters.

Send them a strong message.
About a month ago, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) caused a stir when he described the conservative approach to health care: "Don't get sick. That's what the Republicans have in mind. And if you get sick America, the Republican health care plan is this: die quickly."
The GOP and its allies were outraged. Grayson made it sound as if Republican policies are literally life threatening. The remarks, conservatives said, crossed a line of decency. No one, the argument goes, should accuse their rivals of promoting lethal health care policies.
A month later, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ken.) told a conservative radio host that the public option favored by most congressional Democrats and most of the American public "may cost you your life."
Dennis Miller asked McConnell specifically about the state opt-out compromise. The Minority Leader said it didn't matter because a public plan that competes with private plans is inherently dangerous.
"I think if you have any kind of government insurance program, you're going to be stuck with it and it will lead us in the direction of the European style, you know, sort of British-style, single payer, government run system. And those systems are known for delays, denial of care and, you know, if your particular malady doesn't fit the government regulation, you don't get the medication.
"And it may cost you your life. I mean, we don't want to go down that path."
It's a reminder of just how pathetic the debate itself has been over health care reform. After six months of back and forth -- hearings, debates, town halls, reports, committee votes, interviews, analyses -- the highest ranking Republican in Congress still feels comfortable telling a national audience that competition between public and private health coverage "may cost you your life."
Indeed, one of the few constants throughout the process is conservative Republicans on the Hill, unwilling or unable to debate the policy on the merits, trying to convince people that Democratic policies may actually kill them.
What a sad joke.
Think Progress: Lieberman plans to campaign for Republicans in 2010. 
After joining with Republicans this week in a promise to filibuster health reform if a public option is included, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) tells ABC News that he plans on campaigning for some GOP candidates in the 2010 elections:
I probably will support some Republican candidates for Congress or Senate in the elections in 2010. I’m going to call them as I see them.
There’s a hard core of partisan, passionate, hardcore Republicans. There’s a hard core of partisan Democrats on the other side. And in between is the larger group, which is people who really want to see the right thing done, or want something good done for this country and them — and that means, sometimes, the better choice is somebody who’s not a Democrat.
Lieberman also said it remains an “open question” whether he will seek the Democratic nomination when he runs for re-election in 2012. Last month, Lieberman also joked that he may run as a Republican. In September 2008, Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter — who was then still a member of the GOP — ironically said that Lieberman was “practically” voting as a Republican already and should just switch parties.

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