In the 1960s my father-in-law provided health insurance for employees of his small business. Little did we know how ahead of his time he was. A survey by the Small Business Majority found that even today only 46% of small business owners provide health insurance, but 76% of them struggle meeting their premiums. The 54% who do not provide coverage say they cannot afford it. Let me pause here: The majority of small business owners do not provide health insurance for their employees. It is their employees who most likely are caught in private individual plans which get slammed over and over and which get canceled at the drop of a hat. Some companies drive up the cost of policies solely to induce "high risk" patients to drop their policies. It is clear that both individuals and small businesses need both relief and reform.
Meanwhile, the upward trajectory of health care costs for small businesses continues. In 2009 costs are around 3.42 billion. MIT economist Jonathan Gruber estimates they will go up to around 7.43 billion in 2018. One of the most vocal opponents of health insurance reform is the national Chamber of Commerce, which runs particularly troublesome and questionable ads. They do not get it. Not only would health insurance reform reduce personnel costs, a real public option would could ultimately produce far greater savings. With Medicare overhead costing only 4%, private insurance pales in efficiency of delivery. Further efficiencies in delivery of Medicare services, such as elimination of over-payments to the so-called (fake) Medicare "Advantage" plans and greater effort at fraud reduction will drive home even more savings. (Proponents of reform failed utterly to explain these over-payments and their ruinous effect on the future of Medicare. It is the absence of reform which hurts Medicare.)
The shortcomings in the Senate version of health care reform are well-know and completely documented by the infotainment cable talking heads who are loving all the negativity toward President Obama from the left wing of the Democratic Party. I would like to focus on the good side of the bill.
I have pledged to myself that I will focus on the hundreds of thousands of Americans (up to 450,000 over the next decade by some estimates) whose lives will be saved by the provisions of this bill, no matter how flawed it is. Plus, I know that there will be tens of thousands of Americans who won't have to face personal bankruptcy because of health care costs and lack of insurance.
(By the way, it wasn't until Sunday morning that Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) finally announced that he would support the bill. He had voted for several Republican amendments that failed to pass.)
Sen. Ted Kennedy's (D-MA) widow, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, sat in the front row of the spectator gallery to watch the vote in the early morning hours of Monday. Several senators embraced Mrs. Kennedy after the vote.
"Without him, it never would have happened," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told her.
Remembering that other far-reaching social programs started out as limited and open to the criticism that they weren't worthy of passage, let's look at the positive details and focus on that:
Somewhere in America, a man (with no insurance and no money for the medications he needs to ease the pain) is dying. Some with dangerous complications of H1N1 cannot get treatment. A woman (who thought she had insurance) was told her "benefits" had run out. In Arkansas, a third-stage cancer patient lined up for one-time free care. See the video above or Firedoglake.com here for the story about the woman with third-stage cancer.
All the while, the Senate could only think of Thanksgiving turkey. As Lowell suggests, (my paraphrase) Reid wrangled his 60 votes (only) to debate in preparation to vote to end the filibuster to vote to pass health care. In other words, it's just too much work to stay till Wednesday and bring up a real vote. The self-congratulatory behavior in the Senate yesterday appalls, even now.
Perhaps, it's just too unpleasant before the holidays to face the American people with the bad news that there aren't the votes actually to pass the bill, that there aren't the votes for even the most useless watered down "public option" emerging from the Senate this past week. Instead, Saturday night on CSPAN appeared far too much like "Live from New York, It's Saturday Night." But it wasn't a joke, unless a cruel one.
After all the hysteria, all the lies, all the astriturfing, all the badmouthing by our own side of the Aisle (especially from the Blue Dogs), the CBO finally releases its numbers. And the envelope, please...
The most popular of the House Health Reform bills is competitive w/ Baucus' bill and reduces the deficit within 10 years. Here's the story
CBO also found that the Democrats' bill reduces the deficit in the first 10 years.
This new CBO estimate, which aides caution is not final, is significantly less than the $1.1 trillion price tag of the original House bill that passed out of three committees this summer. More importantly, it comes under the $900 billion cap set by President Obama in his joint address to Congress last month.
CBO analyzed what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls a "more robust" public option -- one that ties reimbursement rates for doctors to current Medicare rates, plus a 5 percent increase.
Many may not know that Hawaii has near universal health care. Even part-time employees working 20 hours per week are covered by law. For 34 years, Hawaii has required employers to provide relatively "generous" benefits, according to an article in the New York Times today. I urge you to read it. Where has this story been this past year? Better late than never.
Among the most important lessons is that even small steps to change the system can have lasting effects on health. Another is that, once benefits are entrenched, taking them away becomes almost impossible. There have not been any serious efforts in Hawaii to repeal the law, although cheating by employers may be on the rise.
But perhaps the most intriguing lesson from Hawaii has to do with costs. This is a state where regular milk sells for $8 a gallon, gasoline costs $3.60 a gallon and the median price of a home in 2008 was $624,000 - the second-highest in the nation. Despite this, Hawaii's health insurance premiums are nearly tied with North Dakota for the lowest in the country, and Medicare costs per beneficiary are the nation's lowest.
This devastating (for supporters of real reform) interview aired this morning on Democracy Now.
Jane Hamsher of Firedog Lake describes for Amy Goodman the problems with the bill passed yesterday. It is a chilling look at how we have been played.
We got virtually nothing from Baucus. What we did get is a Snowe job. We also got the bill that Rahm Emanuel preferred, according to Hamsher. Essentially more people can get and pay into the system. But we got little to no real reform. Those of us with insurance have zero choice. We cannot leave a punitive or disingenuous company. We cannot shop for a better deal. We are trapped. For most Americans, there is:
(Please follow for some of the ways we were had, below the fold.)
Could Maine be a harbinger of things to come for other states? This is pretty appalling. Now states are being asked to prop up additional profits for already wealthy health insurance companies. Take a look. You decide.
Those of us who are old enough remember that "Deep Throat," the tip-off guy who fed information to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post reporters seeking to unravel the scandal known as the Watergate break-in, said to "follow the money" have less trouble than some other people in figuring out why the Senate Finance Committee voted down the public option.
(By the way, for you younger folks, Mark Felts, who was an associate director of the FBI at the time, was the source for information that led Woodward and Bernstein to the information that ultimately uncovered the cover-up of the Watergate break-in which ultimately brought down the presidency of Richard Nixon, the only president to resign from the office.)
Taking Felt's long-ago advice, let's "follow the money" as we try to explain the vote in the Senate Finance Committee, where the public option was defeated 13-10 on Sen, Schumer's (D-NY) amendment. Note well: That's in a committee that has 13 Democrats and 10 Republicans. If the world worked as it should, the vote would have been 13-10 in favor.
The three Democrats who voted against a public option were Kent Conrad (D-ND), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), and Max Baucus (D-MT). It's easy to "follow the money." Just follow the campaign contributions.
Update (hattip to TPM): The Insurance Industry, through it's lobbyist, Karen Ignani, has thanked Max Baucus. Therefore, we must nix his bill. Read the leaked memo for yourself.
Mad Max's summer of enabling health reform opponents has come to an end and now he's belatedly holding committee meetings to work on over 500 amendments. He says he and his committee worked 100 whole hours on this! 100 hours! That's about 2 weeks (or less) for average Americans. And he thinks we should be impressed. What has Max been doing for the past year? Better yet, does he even know what the typical American work week is? The fact is he recycled most of what he proposed last fall. And he has changed little since he put forth his framework earlier this summer. And then he stonewalled long enough for the Town Halls and their Freedom Works yellers to do their stuff. The bill is bad for most of us. It's especially bad for the sick, women, low-income workers, and more. There's no real public option to keep insurance companies honest. There is nothing to control costs, except those levied against individuals.
Documents from several insurance companies reveal that it's not just those with major illnesses who are being denied insurance coverage. Consumer Watchdog found documents revealing that everyday life is now used to disqualify Americans from coverage. Here's the story from The Washington Post. So, the following disqualify someone seeking health insurance.
• Pregnancy (automatic rejection)
• Being an expectant father (automatic rejection)
• Intention to adopt (automatic rejection). Talk about anti-life!
• Hazardous occupations (police, firefighters, migrant workers, test pilots, stunt people, circus workers)
• Therapy or counseling
David Sirota reports that a lobbyist for United Health Care has announced a fundraiser for Speaker Nancy Pelosi just as Pelosi appeared yesterday to be stepping back from the public option. Here's the text of the invitation which Sirota got a hold of.
From: Steve Elmendorf [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Friday, September 11, 2009 8:31 AM
Subject: event with Speaker Pelosi at my home
You are cordially invited to a reception with
Speaker of the House
Thursday, September 24, 2009
6:30pm ~ 8:00pm
At the home of
2301 Connecticut Avenue, NW
To RSVP or for additional information please contact
Carmela Clendening at (202) 485-3508 or firstname.lastname@example.org
GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS SOLUTIONS
900 7th Street NW Suite 750 Washington DC 20001
(Josh puts things as bluntly as possible. Perhaps you disagree? If so, then we can have a spirited discussion. I will tell you that what he writes would have been supported by most attendees at Netroots Nation in Pittsburgh. - promoted by teacherken)
The "greed, lies, and gullibility" crowd have had quite a run. They've dominated the headlines and cable shows for nearly a week, and now a deranged micro-minority seems set to undermine the will of the American people thanks to the miserable capitulation of cowardly Senate Democrats.
It ain't gonna happen, but get ready for the fight of your lives. The backlash against right-wing greed, lies, and gullibility is going to cost the conservative movement much more than they'd hoped to win. Payback is a bitch.
An August 6 article by Chad Terhune and Keith Epstein in Business Week reveals that the senator has no clothes. What the article exposes is that, even though the senator was elected to represent the citizens of Virginia--elected with a president who seeks affordable, reliable, and effective health-care for all Americans--the senator chooses to represent the interests of the health-care industry, especially the UnitedHealth Group.
The practice of relying on and repeating the "research" and "analysis" by UnitedHealth and the Lewis Group, which is owned by UnitedHealth, shows careless narrowness--careless of the citizens of Virginia--and troubling neglect regarding independent and non-partisan research on health-care reform.
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