Firedoglake on why we need to kill the current health care bill

December 21, 2009 | By | 14 Replies More

I received the following mass emailing from Jane Hamscher of Firedoglake. How bad is the current bill?

Forces you to pay up to 8% of your income to private insurance corporations — whether you want to or not.

If you refuse to buy the insurance, you’ll have to pay penalties of up to 2% of your annual income to the IRS

After being forced to pay thousands in premiums for junk insurance, you can still be on the hook for up to $11,900 a year in out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Massive restriction on a woman’s right to choose, designed to trigger a challenge to Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court.

Paid for by taxes on the middle class insurance plan you have right now through your employer, causing them to cut back benefits and increase co-pays.

Many of the taxes to pay for the bill start now, but most Americans won’t see any benefits — like an end to discrimination against those with preexisting conditions — until 2014 when the program begins.

Allows insurance companies to charge people who are older 300% more than others.

Grants monopolies to to drug companies that will keep generic versions of expensive biotech drugs from ever coming to market.

No reimportation of prescription drugs, which would save consumers $100 billion over 10 years.

The cost of medical care will continue to rise, and insurance premiums for a family of 4 will rise an average of $1000 a year — meaning in 10 years, you family’s insurance premium will be $10,000 more annually than it is right now.

I could go on, but it should be clear: this is not reform. This is a con job.

The most pressing alleged purposes of health care reform were A) to make health care universally available and B) to control skyrocketing costs of health care. I haven’t actually read the Senate bill, but Hamsher’s interpretation accords with various accounts of it that I have read. The current Senate bill does a tepid job of addressing expanding coverage. As far as controlling the costs of health care, it’s hard to see how it does anything at all.


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Category: Health Care Reform

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (14)

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  1. Brynn Jacobs says:

    Problem: 47 million uninsured.

    Current health bill solution: force everyone to buy insurance.

    Bingo, no more uninsured! Hey, who knew "solutions" were so easy? Next, I say we legislate the following:

    -Global warming: CO2 shall no longer be considered a greenhouse gas.

    -Peak Oil: Supply of cheap hydrocarbons shall be mandated to rise in lockstep with demand.

    -Fiscal responsibility: Bankers shall no longer be driven solely by avarice.

    -Too big to fail: failure shall be illegal. Mandatory fine for non-compliance.

    Who knew fixing things could be so easy…

  2. Ebonmuse says:

    Considering that notable progressives have both endorsed (Al Franken, Paul Krugman) and denounced (Howard Dean, Markos Moulitsas) the health-care bill, I'm still having a very tough time making up my mind about it. But I wanted to comment on one thing:

    "Forces you to pay up to 8% of your income to private insurance corporations — whether you want to or not."

    This is phrased to make it sound outrageous, but I'd be interested to know: In the European countries that have government-administered health care systems that outperform ours, what percentage of people's income is spent in providing health services? Is it comparable to the 9% figure?

  3. Dan Klarmann says:

    Who's complaining about requiring a measly 2% minimum for insurance? I'm paying 22% of my income for health insurance now. And that's because I recently renegotiated my premiums to pay less, via a $5,000 annual deductible and joining a "network". I have been paying 28% for the last few years.

  4. Erich Vieth says:

    Dan – I'm wondering whether that 2% is a misprint. For most people, it would be a joyous day to pay only 2% of one's annual salary to have health insurance.

  5. Erich Vieth says:

    Arianna Huffington on why we need to kill the bill:

    "From start to finish, the insurance and drug industries — and their army of lobbyists — had control over the process that resulted in a bill that is reform in name only. The postmortems of how they pulled it off have already begun. On Sunday, the Chicago Tribune published an exhaustive front-page analysis by Northwestern University's Medill News Service and the Center for Responsive Politics of how it was done. The main culprit: "a revolving door between Capitol Hill staffers and lobbying jobs for companies with a stake in health care legislation."

    The study found that 13 former congressmen and 166 Congressional staffers were actively engaged in lobbying their former colleagues on the bill. The companies they were working for — some 338 of them — spent $635 million on lobbying. It was money extremely well spent — delivering a bill that, by forcing people to buy a shoddy product in a market with no real competition, enshrines into law the public subsidy of private profit."

  6. Brynn Jacobs says:

    Dan, Erich-

    Here's what I can find for details. The LA Times reports that the <span style="font-style: italic;"><span style="font-weight: bold;">penalty</span> for failure to buy insurance</span> is as much as 2.5% of income in the house bill, 2% in the senate bill. Both plans currently have subsidies for those earning up to 400% of the poverty level, and cap the amount that subsidized individuals would have to pay at either 9.8% (House) or 12% (Senate).

    For those getting insurance through their employers, employees under the House plan must pay 72.5% of the premium, or 65% for families. In the Senate plan, employers must pay 60% of the premium, and the employee's portion must not exceed 9.8% of income or the employer faces penalties.

    Apparently, a lot can still change when it comes to reconciliation.

  7. I know this will sound more like appeasement than logic, but let's consider this politically. Kill this bill and it is unlikely another will be put forward for years. Momentum will be lost and because it will be perceived as a Democratic failure, Republicans can (possibly) make gains in the House and Senate and thereby guarantee no such bill comes up for the foreseeable future.

    With a bill passed, we all seem to forget that legislation gets worked on for years or decades after passage. This will establish the precedent that sweeping legislation on the entire health care edifice can be passed and therefore future bills will have a better chance—at least will seem less divisive and controversial.

    It is just possible that in this instance all that can reasonably (politically) be hoped for is the passage of a bill, any bill, that opens the floor to the idea that we *may* address this issue legislatively in the future. Going at it piecemeal over time to "fix" its shortcomings would seem viable only in the face of having gotten such a bill passed.

    This flies in the face, of course, of idealism and the do-or-die perceived necessities of fixing things Right Now, but this is political reality, and I'm looking at this as possibly a minor miracle. Balking at it is as likely to destroy any possibility of a bill right now and give the idiots on the Right a shot at taking charge again.

    Just my two cents.

  8. Erich Vieth says:

    Brynn: This is from Huffpo:

    Obama made health care in general a major part of his campaign so that when he won, he could claim a mandate and push for reform during his first year. In doing so, Obama savaged his primary opponent, Hillary Clinton, for arguing that people should be mandated to buy health insurance. "If a mandate was the solution, we could try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody buy a house," he said on a CNN morning show on Super Tuesday during the election.

  9. Brynn Jacobs says:

    I'm continually amazed, although I shouldn't be by now, at the blatant lies, the complete, 180-degree reversals that take place from the campaign to office. This happens at all levels, and I'm at a loss for what can be done about it. It does remind me of a joke though…

    While walking down the street one day a US senator is tragically hit by a truck and dies.

    His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.

    "Welcome to heaven," says St. Peter. "Before you settle in, it seems there

    is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so

    we're not sure what to do with you."

    "No problem, just let me in," says the man.

    "Well, I'd like to, but I have orders from higher up. What we'll do is have

    you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity."

    "Really, I've made up my mind. I want to be in heaven," says the senator.

    "I'm sorry, but we have our rules."

    And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he

    goes down, down, down to hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the

    middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with


    Everyone is very happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him, shake

    his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of the people.

    They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and


    Also present is the devil, who really is a very friendly guy who has a good

    time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a good time that before he realizes it, it is time to go.

    Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises…

    The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens on heaven where St. Peter is waiting for him.

    "Now it's time to visit heaven."

    So, 24 hours pass with the senator joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns.

    "Well, then, you've spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now choose

    your eternity."

    The senator reflects for a minute, then he answers:"Well, I would never

    have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would

    be better off in hell."

    So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down,down, down to hell.

    Now the doors of the elevator open and he's in the middle of a barren land

    covered with waste and garbage.

    He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting

    it in black bags as more trash falls from above.

    The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulder. "I don't

    understand, " stammers the senator. "Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne and danced and had a great time. Now there's just a

    wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable. What happened?"

    The devil looks at him, smiles and says, "Yesterday we were campaigning.

    Today you voted."

  10. Brynn Jacobs says:

    Today's Washington Post:

    In the interview, Obama vigorously defended the legislation, saying he is "not just grudgingly supporting the bill. I am very enthusiastic about what we have achieved."

    "Nowhere has there been a bigger gap between the perceptions of compromise and the realities of compromise than in the health-care bill," Obama said. "Every single criteria for reform I put forward is in this bill."

    In listing those priorities, he cited the 30 million uninsured Americans projected to receive coverage, estimated savings of more than $1 trillion over the next two decades, a "patients' bill of rights on steroids," and tax breaks to help small businesses pay for employee coverage.

    Those elements are in the House and Senate versions of the legislation; their competing proposals will have to be reconciled in conference committee next year. The House bill includes a government-run insurance plan favored by progressive Democrats; the Senate version does not. "I didn't campaign on the public option," Obama said in the interview.

    See here for a a list of ways in which Obama did, in fact, campaign on a public option.

    Also worth noting is <a href="; rel="nofollow">Glenn Greenwald's piece yesterday in which he points out that stocks in major health-care/insurance companies have been on a winning streak:

    Investors are seeing the Senate's version of health care reform as a massive public subsidy for insurance companies — and as a result, are sending the sector's stock prices shooting up, up, up. . . . Stripped of a government-run insurance plan, the bill would give tens of millions of Americans no option but to start paying hefty premiums to private companies.

    The rise in stock prices has been particularly striking in the period since Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said on October 27 that he would filibuster a Senate health care reform bill if it included a public option

  11. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    I don't recall anything in the house bill that would require individual households to buy insurance. As for penalties, the house reform bill that specifies penalties for companies like Wal-mart that offer health insurance to the employees that most of them can't afford, then assists them in signing up for medicare and medicaid.

    I've just started to read the senate bill, and I am finding several provisions in it which seem to be written by the insurance companies.

    The first item I found in the senate bill was a provision that allows premiums to be increased by a factor of up to 2 to 1 based on age. I haven't seen any details describing how premium increases are to be calculated, but I assume this provides an escape clause for the insurers by allowing them to increase premiums on elderly retirees who can't afford to remain insured, and would dump them on publicly funded programs .

    In the house bill, there is a very restrictive public option for the low income employees that qualify to opt for enrollment in state medicaid waiver programs. However, the public option as originally envisioned would have allowed for essentially state operated non-profit health insurance is not in the house bill.

  12. Erich Vieth says:

    Stephen Colbert on "health care reform," as reported by Jason Linkins:

    ""Folks," Colbert continues, "There are some things that everybody knows, but nobody says." That is exactly right. Every single person who covers the legislative process knows exactly how and why the sausage gets made in the way it does. Moneyed corporate interests purchase legislation in exchange for getting incumbents re-elected. This is playing out in the arena of health care reform. If you've gotten the funny feeling that Congress is about to pass some weak tea, and that President Barack Obama is about to sign that weak tea, and that everyone will follow that up by celebrating the historical kicking of the can down the road — you are absolutely right. And the reason this will happen is that the health care industry has paid handsomely for this to happen. But, as Colbert points out, this is one of those things that nobody talks about because the media would rather tell you what political side is winning and which one is losing because it's way more fun than simply reporting, every day, that the American people are getting jacked."

    To visualize the corruption, take a look at these detailed tables and charts.

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