The SCOTUS is supposed to be ruling on the health care insurance mandate next week. I’m still scratching my head over that (I think the real “solution” is to abolish for-profit insurance, but that’s a different argument…) Don’t we already mandate car insurance? And try getting a home mortgage without insurance. Oh yeah, those are only for people who may drive or have mortgages. Maybe health insurance can be required only for those who may need health care?
On a more critical note, today’s Morning Edition on NPR had a piece about Why It’s Illegal To Braid Hair Without A License. Apparently, in Utah, braiding is such a danger to the public that it needs licensure and regulation. Clearly, we want our buildings and roads designed and constructed safely, and most people want health care from an certified provider (homeopathy excepted…), but braiding?
It seems the professions want the regulations – fewer licensees means less competition and freedom to charge more.
So…. I’m hearing government regulation is bad.
Unless it’s not.
Progressive sites are howling at the insensitivity of the Tea Party based on a hypothetical. This is how the conversation went down at a recent Republican debate:
Wolf Blitzer: A healthy 30 year old young man has a good job, makes a good living, but decides—you know what? I’m not going to spend $200 or $300 a month for health insurance because I’m healthy—I don’t need it. But something terrible happens … all of a sudden he needs it. Who’s going to pay for it if he goes into a coma.
Ron Paul – He should do whatever he wants to do and assume responsibility for himself . . . My advise to him is to have a major medical policy . . .
Blitzer: But he doesn’t have that and he needs intensive care for six months. Who pays?
Ron Paul: That’s what freedom is about . . . taking your own risks. This whole idea that you have to compare and take care of everybody . . .
Blitzer: Are you saying society should just let him die?”
[A couple voices in the large crowd shout “Yes!”]
Ron Paul: . . . The churches . . . [will help him]
Several things come to mind. The hypothetical was designed to make us not want to take care of this man. After all, if I am working overtime to scrape together huge payments for my family’s health insurance and the man in the hypothetical decides he won’t bother to pay even though he “makes a good living,” my gut feeling is he is trying to cheat the system, which makes me highly ambivalent about him, and much less sympathetic about his terrible situation. How much do I care about this man? I once told a friend of mine that I “cared” about a sad situation, and he said, “No you don’t. If you cared, you would do something to fix the problem and all you’re doing is complaining.” I think he was dead-on with that comment. If we care, we get involved. If we’re merely complaining, we don’t really care, no matter what we say. How do Americans often show they really care? By reaching into their pockets and giving money to the cause. With this in mind, allow me to offer a few of my own hypotheticals.
[More . . .]
In Mark Tiedermann’s post “The GOP Should Rename Itself As The Where’s Mine Party“, we learn of a newly elected Representative’s outrage at not being covered immediately by his new health insurance. Will that prompt true reform? If history has shown us anything, it’s not likely. So here’s another nugget to think about:
I received an Explanation of Benefits yesterday for two antibiotic prescriptions. My insurance was billed $107.43 for each set of 20 pills. Only $7.55 was allowed which included my $3.00 co-pay, which means…well…
My oldest son is currently unemployed (not by choice) and without health insurance (also not by choice and not yet able to take advantage of the new health laws that should allow him coverage under my insurance – even though he’s younger than 26 – due to my insurance being regulated by a different act…whew!)
He would have had to pay $214.86 for something my insurance felt was valued at only $15.10. About 7% of what was billed.
Yep. Greatest health care system in the world. Forgive the source of the quote, but I didn’t want folks complaining I pulled it from a “liberal” site, and we do want it fair and balanced. Although, I have a hard time respecting any elected official that feels the need to use a deliberately partisan inflammatory label such as “Obama Care”.
Where’s your outrage now?
I’m on Lawrence Lessig’s mailing list. Here is an excerpt from an email he sent today, which you can read at Huffpo:
However good, however essential, however transformative this health care bill may be, we should not mistake success here as a sign that Washington has been cured. Indeed, as Glenn Greenwald reminded us over the weekend — in an essay that should be every reformer’s required reading — success on this bill is no justification for:
claiming that it represents a change in the way Washington works and a fulfillment of Obama’s campaign pledges. The way this bill has been shaped is the ultimate expression — and bolstering — of how Washington has long worked. One can find reasonable excuses for why it had to be done that way, but one cannot reasonably deny that it was.
Obama’s victory was achieved because his team played the old game brilliantly. Staffed with the very best from the league of conventional politics, his team bought off PhRMA (with the promise not to use market forces to force market prices for prescription drugs) and the insurance industry (with the promise — and in this moment of celebration, let’s ignore the duplicity in this — that they would face no new competition from a public option), so that by the end, as Greenwald puts it, the administration succeeded in “bribing and accommodating them to such an extreme degree that they ended up affirmatively supporting a bill that lavishes them with massive benefits.” Obama didn’t “push back on the undue influence of special interests,” as he said today. He bought them off. And the price he paid should make us all wonder: how much reform can this administration — and this Nation — afford?
Another thing: As Greenwald noted in his excellent article, to get this bill passed Obama used “the exact secret processes that he railed against and which he swore he would banish.”
Amy Goodman dedicated an entire hour to discuss health care and the ongoing U.S. wars with Ralph Nader and Dennis Kucinich (video below). It was an intense and insightful discussion–truly worth watching. As you might imagine, much of the discussion focused on Kucinich’s willingness to vote for Obama’s version of health care. As Kucinich made clear, however, the fact that he is voting for this bill does not mean he supports it. The bill essentially disgusts him, but he believe that voting no would be even worse. Amy Goodman injects the topic that Kucinich is facing massive pressure by his own party to get in line. As I mentioned at the top, the discussion is intense.
At about 45 minute mark, the topic turned to foreign policy. Ralph Nader asks how we can possibly “get the American people angry” regarding the war and corruption in Afghanistan. At the 50-minute mark, Dennis Kucinich discusses the actual costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He warns that war has become ordinary and acceptable to Americans, despite the homicidal actions of private contractors, despite the unimaginable costs and despite the lack of any meaningful objectives.
Mr. Nader argued (at minute 54) that President Obama has stifled dissent at his White House, just like President George W. Bush.
President Obama is like President Bush in this regard: he doesn’t receive dissenting groups in the White House. He froze out the single-payer advocates, including his longtime friend, Dr. Quentin Young, in Chicago, Illinois. And he’s freezing out dissenters, dissenting groups from meeting with him in the White House. They can’t get a meeting with him. He’s surrounded by warmongers. He’s surrounded by the military-industrial complex. But he won’t meet, for example, Veterans for Peace. He won’t meet Iraq Veterans Against the War. He won’t meet the student groups and the religious groups and the business groups and others who opposed the Iraq war back in 2003. What is he afraid of here?
You know, we’re supposed to have a new wave with the Obama administration. Instead, we have the same old—the same old same old. And I think the whole idea—just let me make this—the whole idea that Obama is for things, but they’re not practical—he’s for single payer, he really doesn’t like war, but, but, but. But he goes along, and he goes along. We have to have the American people give the White House a measure of political courage here, because it’s not going to come from inside the White House.
Juan Gonzales asked Ralph Nader why we aren’t seeing more demonstrations against these wasteful wars by the American people:
[During] the 2004 election with Kerry and Bush, the antiwar movement, most of the groups, gave Kerry a pass and broke off their mass demonstrations. It broke the momentum. Momentum is very important in mass demonstrations. Second, there are fewer people in Congress that these—the antiwar people can cling to. That’s a demoralization effect on people. And third, it costs a lot of money to put these demonstrations on, and there aren’t many super-rich antiwar Americans, like George Soros and others, who are putting some money to get the buses and get the demonstrations all over the country. And finally, the Washington Post, New York Times, they do not give adequate coverage to antiwar demonstrations, compared to the coverage they’ve been giving to the tea parties. Just check the column inches in the Washington Post covering the tea parties, compared to blocking out pro-Gaza, pro-Palestinian demonstrations, for example, when the Israelis invaded Gaza, or the upcoming demonstrations against the war. All of this demoralizes people. And they say, “What are we doing this for?” So, unfortunately, the political leaders are not leading, and the President is not leading.
I’m having a difficult time believing that FOX calls this an interview. The elephant in the room is that FOX and much of its audience want to believe that everything would be OK without any sort of health care reform. That assumption seemed to be driving the questioning. In the past few months, though, I’ve been meeting more and more people who are going without health insurance, which can lead to tragic foreclosures and bankruptcies. This situation is not tenable.
With regard to this frustrating interview, I do find some fault with President Barack Obama too. He’s claims both that we know what’s in the bill and that we’ll someday see what’s in the bill. And he speaks as though there is going to be a meaningful comment period. I’ll be watching to see how many hours tick by after passage of this bill, before the bill is rammed home at the White House. We’ll see how much input the citizens will have. And from what we suspect, the Obama bill will apparently be a huge gift to corporations that are gaming the health care system. But you wouldn’t know any of this based on the questions by this hack interviewer.
We desperately need to reform the health care system, though I think that most of that work, and much of the sacrifices will need to be incurred by individual Americans. The national debate thus frustrates me because it is, I think, fundamentally dishonest. We, the People need to take far better care of their bodies and quit expecting our (incredibly talented) health care professionals to bail us out of problems we create with our terrible eating habits and sedentary lifestyles. And we might need to better understand that more high-tech medicine does not necessarily lead to better for real-life health and mortality rates. Americans are dreaming to think that they can pay less and get the same or more of the same type of healthcare that they are currently consuming. Something’s gotta give. Maybe a lot of things gotta give.
Mostly, we need meaningful exchanges of information in order to improve health care delivery. We need civilized debate and straight talk. This “interview” was pathetic–I do put most of the blame on the shallow-minded sputtering “interviewer,” who came equipped mostly with barking points, rather than any interest in developing useful ideas. This session should be shown in journalism schools a an example of how not to conduct an interview. I’d never seen Bret Baier until this interview. I’d bet that he never again gets a chance to conduct any high profile interview. I really have to wonder about his objective going in, other than a dozen barking points.
Representative Alan Grayson is pushing hard for Medicare for anyone who wants to buy into the program. It’s a four page bill. It’s understandable. The framework is already set up for implementing it. It is cost-effective. Grayson sent me this mass-distributed email for further explanation.
72 hours. 66 cosponsors in the House. 21,254 citizen cosponsors at WeWantMedicare.com.
The Public Option Act. It’s simple. It’s popular. 82% of Scott Brown voters favor it. It lets anyone buy into Medicare at cost. You want it, you pay for it, and you’re in.
You know and I know that it’s a winner.
Private insurers make money denying us the care we need, when we need it most. Medicare doesn’t. So we want Medicare. And we want it now.
Ask your Member of Congress to stand up for us. Call your member of Congress now, and ask him or her to cosponsor HR 4789, the Public Option Act.
Call the switchboard: (202) 224-3121
This is the week to act. We are likely to vote on a healthcare bill without a public option. We should get a vote on the Public Option Act as well. The four-page bill opens Medicare to all. It’s that simple.
Call your member of Congress now, and ask if he or she has the guts to stand up for you.
Call the switchboard: (202) 224-3121
Why do we need the public option program Grayson suggests? Because we currently and needlessly have a for-profit health insurance industry that provides the insureds no benefit for a big chunk of the premiums they pay. Grayson recently explained at Huffpo:
Health insurance companies charge as much money as possible, and they provide as little care as possible. The difference is called profit. You can’t blame them for it; that’s what a corporation does. Birds got to fly, fish got to swim, health insurers got to rip you off. And if you get really expensive, they’ve got to pull the plug on you. So for those of us who would like to stay alive, we need a public option. In many areas of the country, one or two insurers have over 80% of the market. They can charge anything they want. And when you get sick, they can flip the bird at you. So we need a public option.
Congressman Anthony Weiner fields health care reform questions from FOX’s panel of right-wingers:
Howard Dean on what pretends to be “health care reform”:
Real reform would significantly lower costs, improve the delivery of health care and give all Americans a meaningful choice of coverage. The current Senate bill accomplishes none of these. Real health-care reform is supposed to eliminate discrimination based on preexisting conditions. But the legislation allows insurance companies to charge older Americans up to three times as much as younger Americans, pricing them out of coverage. The bill was supposed to give Americans choices about what kind of system they wanted to enroll in. Instead, it fines Americans if they do not sign up with an insurance company, which may take up to 30 percent of your premium dollars and spend it on CEO salaries — in the range of $20 million a year — and on return on equity for the company’s shareholders. Few Americans will see any benefit until 2014, by which time premiums are likely to have doubled. In short, the winners in this bill are insurance companies; the American taxpayer is about to be fleeced with a bailout in a situation that dwarfs even what happened at AIG.
I entirely agree with Dean. I would like to tear up the current proposals and start over. I’d do it in two steps. First, quickly pass a bill with all of the low-hanging fruit, to get them out of the way: for example, requiring portability and prohibiting rejection of new customers based on pre-existing conditions. Only then, proceed with the brunt of the program. Let the expensive part of the program live or die on its own merits. Undistracted by the low-hanging fruit, we can better evaluate how much the new program would cost and what the tax-payers would get for their money.