Saturday, March 20, 2010

POLITICS: Health Care Reform Calculus

As Roadkill readers may recall, a couple of months ago I posted about the need to kill the Senate Health Care Reform. It’s essentially a massive financial giveaway to the Insurance industry that requires the industry to do very little to change their way of doing business. We, the American people, will pay most of the billions of dollars for the 30 million-plus currently uninsured who will be mandated to buy some form of health insurance from the very industry that has been ripping off the citizenry and state and local governments for decades. This fact has been underreported in both the MSM media and the rabidly conservative media.

The bill remains a lousy idea in my opinion.

So what if I was a House or Senate member who had to vote on this bill and the reconciliation “fixes” attached to it? It’s now the final hour—meaningful votes must be cast to determine if this bill will or will not become law.

Honestly, I don’t know how I would vote.

I listened closely this past week when Representative Dennis Kucinich, a staunch opponent of the Senate bill, spoke to the media to explain why he had decided to change his mind and vote for the bill. Kucinich made some very good points. There ARE some important though modest insurance reforms that will directly affect everyone in the country. Prohibiting rescission and stopping insurance companies from denying coverage because of preexisting conditions will impact millions of American lives for the better.

Other parts of the Senate bill, like closing the donut hole for Medicare prescription drugs, investing in streamlining electronic medical records systems, and allowing small businesses to join together and negotiate for better insurance coverage and prices are very practical, cost-saving changes that will benefit all Americans.

Kucinich made clear that, even if/when this ugly bill becomes law, he’ll begin the fight along with other progressives to change the worst elements of the bill and find a way to get a public option or single-payer, Medicare For All system made part of our health care system. It seems his rationale, also voiced by so many politicians, experts, and commentators, is to take what we can get now despite the warts and then spend the next few years making piecemeal changes to the legislation until it actually reforms the health insurance industry and serves the best needs of Americans.

This approach seems reasonable to me. So maybe I would vote for it now and hope my fellow Representatives and Senators would work to improve the overall health insurance and health care system in our country. But that would take courage. And it would mean challenging the insurance, pharmaceutical, and hospital lobbies and telling them that we elected officials are going to do what’s best for the American people regardless of how it effects the lobbies’ bottom lines and profit margins.


Phew! That’s hilarious!

Can you imagine a majority of our Congressional leaders speaking and especially voting with that kind of courage?

Ain’t gonna happen. If they couldn’t muster the civic fortitude when the Democrats, the only political party in the past century that has even attempted to change our nation’s ridiculous health insurance system, held a clear majority in both houses of Congress as well as the White House, do you really think they’ll get the job done anytime in the near future? The near decade even?

So maybe I wouldn’t join the apparent majority to vote “yea” on this bill. It has taken a year of heated, sometimes vitriolic debate that sucked the air out of all the other pressing challenges our country faces and this is the best our Congress could come up with? This crap sandwich of a reform bill? Are the modest insurance reforms in the bill worth the MASSIVE bribe to the insurance companies? I don't know that they are.

And if I was a Democratic Representative or Senator faced with a decision on this bill, what of the leader of our party? Do I trust that if I vote for this lousy bill President Obama will fight to make the changes necessary to improve it and get the country closer to an equitable reform of health insurance?

That’s easy: no. I wouldn’t trust that Obama would fight to improve this bill. Despite his recent push and bully-pulpit exhortations to make history by passing this bill, his “leadership” on this very important issue has been at best disappointing and at worst spineless. When he ran for President, Obama garnered a lot of support because he pledged to reform the health insurance system—his primary tool being a public insurance option to compete with the insurance companies. The vast majority of his supporters knew exactly what that meant: the insurance companies would be forced to lower their prices and change their behavior in order to compete. Recall that Obama derided his opponents Hillary Clinton and then John McCain for suggesting that a mandate to make everyone buy insurance should be part of the reform.

So what did we get? No public option and an insurance mandate.

So why would I, as a Senator or Representative, trust that this President would magically rise to the occasion to roll up his sleeves and fight long and hard in the trenches with us to make the needed improvements to this bill? Is it just as likely that in trying to make future changes to this legislation to force down the costs of insurance that Obama would negotiate away the modest reforms this current bill includes?

For any Democrat voting on this bill this weekend, the choice is lousy. One of President Obama’s refrains throughout this yearlong debate is not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Fair enough. Wise words. There is some good in this bill, some good that will directly affect our lives. But there’s too much rotten in it as well, which will also affect our lives. So maybe the new refrain is not to let the plenty of rotten be the enemy of the scraps of good?

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