26 January 2010

Health Care Reform - It's Not "Mother May I?"


Let me set the record straight. Both the House and Senate versions of health care reform are positive steps in the right direction. However, one is reminded of the child's game of "Mother May I?", in that the House bill is a "giant step" while the Senate bill is a series of "baby steps", "side steps" and "back steps". The issue should be clearly understood, we're not playing a child's game!

Right up front, we find the house bill contains a "Public Option" and the Senate bill does not. That fact alone should be sufficient to give one pause---and it has. Last summer when the House bill was passed, the majority of Americans favored it and supported a "Public Option". After the Senate bill was voted through, the public became wary and suspicious and support plummeted despite the administration's nearly frenzied attempts to whip up "grassroots" support.

By eliminating the Public Option the Senate and administration have capitulated to the Insurance Tsars and Drug Moguls and put forth a piece of legislation that will insure that those vested interests have no real competition and become even more powerful and rich from our illnesses, health conditions, and accidents than they already have.

But, like a late-night TV huckster, the Senate says, "But that's not all..." and targeted older Americans with charges and costs much higher than would be allowed under the House bill. They also targeted union workers and retirees who negotiated away higher wages and "fringe benefits" in order to obtain better health care coverage. the unions manage to push back some of that, and therein lies a lesson for all of us...fight back and organize, educate and mobilize others to join you.

Under McCarran-Ferguson, Fortune 500 insurance companies enjoy antitrust exemptions which would be repealed under the House bill but not under the Senate version. If it were to be included in the final version the Feds could go after the Insurance Tsars for misleading or dishonest business practices.

Appalled yet? Well consider this. The House bill would provide coverage to 94 percent of the uninsured while the Senate bill will leave 6% of the uninsured----still uninsured!

Supporters of the Senate bill say pass it, any bill bill is better than no bill and we'll improve it as we go along. I strongly disagree. In any negotiation process what you get is what you're going to have...Medicare Part D is resounding proof of that!

So what's to be done. Quite simple really. The Senate has 59 Democrats, well sort of actually, and 41 Republicans. In the vernacular of the day, "Do the math". Surely they could muster a simple majority of 51 and Lieberman, Nelson, etc.. be damned!

With that majority, the Democrats could do what the public, unions, progressive organizations and most members of the house want: Pass extension of Medicare to 55-64 year-olds, close the Medicare donut hole, allow Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices and the Medicaid expansion which both houses have already approved. The more contentious items such as the Public option can be passed by a simple majority in the parliamentary process known as "reconciliation".

Of course, for this to happen, Democrats need to develop the will, and stop reaching for the tissues every time a Republican sneezes, and stop playing "Mother May I?"


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