Just pushing for private health care insurance reforms would have been preferable to this

That is what makes this current compromise surrender to special interests so doubly tragic. Like any exercise in legislative sausage making, near infinite deals and trade offs went into crafting the piece of Health Care Reform legislation that lies in front of us today. From day one Liberals went along with many of them only as a way to preserve a viable public option within the overall Health Care Reform package, since you have to give up something to get something blah blah. For one thing, sundry formulas that directly impact private industry's bottom line were negotiated and agreed upon early in the process on terms Liberals might not have ordinarily agreed upon, with the understanding that there would be a real public alternative preserved as a result of those concessions, one that would offer real competition to private industry, forcing it to think long and hard about continuing to price gouge their policy holders.

What resulted was a classic shell game. All of the liberal concessions went right to the bank and got cashed, while liberals held onto their legislative I.O.U. Now the shuffling has stopped and the shells have been lifted and there is no Public Option under any of them, let alone a robust one. There is no medicare buy in either. Instead we find restrictive language on abortions.

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Weekly Pulse: No Public Option: Worse Than Nothing?

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium Blogger

In search of the elusive, filibuster-proof 60th vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid eviscerated the Senate's health care reform bill on Tuesday. Potential GOP swing voter Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) confirmed that Reid promised to kill both the public option and the expanded Medicare buy-in, according to Brian Beutler of Talking Points Memo.

Snowe didn't pledge to support the bill, of course. She didn't even promise to cooperate on the procedural votes required to pass the bill before Christmas, a deadline that the Obama administration has its heart set on. In other words, Reid gave away the progressive crown jewels of health reform on spec to a senator who cheerfully turned around and continued the Republican stalling strategy. From Snowe's vantage point, that's a great move. The longer the bill hangs in limbo, the more Reid will give away.

Former Democrat Joe Lieberman (I-CT) seems determined to kill the bill. Lieberman must be motivated more by a desire to spite liberals than any principled policy stance. He keeps threatening to filibuster policy proposals he once campaigned on, like the Medicare buy-in. Lee Fang of TAPPED notes that Lieberman told the New York Times that he now opposes the buy-in because it's beloved of lefty single-payer types like Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY); and the policy wonk behind the public option, Prof. Jacob Hacker.

The Women's Media Center has launched the #UnderTheBus campaign, which calls on supporters to contact their representatives and urge them not to let Lieberman and his close, anti-choice ally Ben Nelson (D-NE) sell out women's health care for political gain. Nelson has hinted he won't vote for the bill unless it contains strong abortion funding restrictions.

Stephanie Mencimer reports in Mother Jones that a bunch of teabaggers decided to stage a sit-in to oppose the health bill at Lieberman's office. Mark Meckler and some Tea Party Patriots showed up at Lieberman's office and asked to meet with the senator. When they were told he wasn't available, they all sat down. When they tried that routine at Sen. Barbara Boxer's office (D-CA), her staff ignored them. Lieberman's staff called the cops. (Note to teabaggers: Sit-ins are for enemies, not allies.)

The senate bill is so watered down that it wouldn't even stop insurance companies from capping benefits, as Roger Bybee reports at Working In These Times.

Former congressional candidate Darcy Burner says she'd rather see the bill die than have it pass in its current state. She argues that if health care reform doesn't curb costs, it's just a Band-Aid on a gaping wound. She writes in AlterNet:

The fundamental failing of the newest Senate proposal is that it requires individuals to purchase health insurance, but does nothing to rein in what insurance companies charge. There is nothing to stop spiraling health costs from eating up an ever-increasing percentage of our national productivity.

The House bill has two major cost-control mechanisms: the public option and the 85 percent medical-loss ratio requirement. The Senate bill is on track to have neither, and nothing new to replace them. The Senate bill is a recipe for national disaster. If it's that bill or nothing, I prefer nothing.


Adding insult to injury, the Senate also voted down a bill yesterday that would have made it easier for consumers to purchase cheaper prescription drugs abroad. Mike Lillis of the Washington Independent suggests that the White House was relieved to see the Dorgan-Snowe bill defeated because it would have violated the deal it struck with pharmaceutical companies earlier this year. The drug companies promised up to $80 billion for health care reform if Democratic leaders withheld support for several initiatives that would cut into drug company profits.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

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Obama Last Week: Medicare 55-64, Real Financial Reform

On domestic policy, progressively speaking, last week wasn't so terrible for Obama, looking at the latest Senate health care bill and the new House financial industry reform bill. But the pwoggie bloggie coverage of him was pretty damn negative. (Perhaps understandable in the backwash of his War is Peace Prize and rapid escalation in Afghanistan, but I'm focusing on domestic policy.)

Medicare 55-64:

I'm a bit behind the pwoggie politicos, who all seem very upset (Jason Rosenbaum, Jane Hamsher, the AFL-CIO) about the Senate ditching the pathetically feeble public option but offering in its place Medicare for uninsured people ages 55 and 64. Sucks if you're 54 and under, but we'll all be 55 someday, right?? So, good on all of us? And it being for uninsured folks only: hey, without cost controls on insurance plans in Obama's insurance deform, employers will be foisting crap insurance on us or ditching it altogether over over the next lost decade. And employees will start demanding their companies NOT provide health care as a benefit if Medicare at decent rates becomes available.

(Okay, yeah, right, this morning the White Houseis telling Harry Reid that Medicare 55-64 is a bad idea. Alright, now that, if true, is worth getting upset at Obama over.)

Of course, the 55-64ers will have to pay for their Medicare (but why can't we force their employers, if they have them, to kick in their fair share?), it won't be a welfare program for them like it mostly still is for 65 and uppers. But there's a real need here that the legislation would fill:

Currently, there are about four million people in that age group who are uninsured, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. They often have a hard time finding or affording coverage.

And just look who's opposed to the idea: Joe Liberman, the hospitals, the doctors, and the Wall Street Journal. What a fine bunch of assholes to piss off.

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The Ben and Joe Pony Show

Let's begin with the fact that Senator Joe Lieberman was asked to be a member of the so-called Gang of Ten composed of five left to progressive Democratic Senators and of five centrist to conservative Democratic Senators last week to hammer out a compromise in the healthcare bill but he failed to show up to two of the meetings and was replaced by Senator Tom Carper of Delaware. Despite his no-show, the Democratic leadership believed that they had secured Senator Lieberman's agreement to go along with a compromise the Gang of Ten had reached to overcome the impasse. Apparently not.

The story in the New York Times:

on Sunday, Mr. Lieberman told the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, to scrap the idea of expanding Medicare and to abandon the idea of any new government insurance plan, or lose his vote.

On a separate issue, Mr. Reid tried over the weekend to concoct a compromise on abortion that would induce Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, to vote for the bill. Mr. Nelson opposes abortion. Any provision that satisfies him risks alienating supporters of abortion rights.

In interviews on the CBS News program "Face the Nation," Mr. Lieberman and Mr. Nelson said the bill did not have the 60 votes it would need to get through the Senate.

Senate Democratic leaders, including Mr. Reid and Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, said they had been mindful of Mr. Lieberman's concerns in the last 10 days, so they were surprised when he assailed major provisions of the bill on television Sunday. He reiterated his objections in a private meeting with Mr. Reid.

A Senate Democratic aide, perplexed by Mr. Lieberman's stance, said, "It was a total flip-flop, and leaves us in a predicament as to what to do."

Here's what it would take to get Joe's vote:

Mr. Lieberman described what it would take to get his vote. "You've got to take out the Medicare buy-in," he said. "You've got to forget about the public option. You probably have to take out the Class Act, which was a whole new entitlement program that will, in future years, put us further into deficit."

The Class Act refers to a federal insurance program for long-term care, known as Community Living Assistance Services and Supports.

Mr. Lieberman said he would have "a hard time" voting for bill with the Medicare buy-in.

"It has some of the same infirmities that the public option did," Mr. Lieberman said. "It will add taxpayer costs. It will add to the deficit. It's unnecessary. The basic bill, which has a lot of good things in it, provides a generous new system of subsidies for people between ages 55 and 65, and choice and competition."

Mr. Lieberman cautioned Senate Democrats to limit their appetite for expansive new programs.

"The bill itself does a lot to bring 30 million people into the system," Mr. Lieberman said. "We don't need to keep adding onto the back of this horse, or we're going to break the horse's back and get nothing done."

I wouldn't be bringing up horse parts there Joe, otherwise we might tempted to compare you to one.

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One Voice

The Progressive Video Project is a new group of filmmaking professionals recently formed in Los Angeles collaborating to produce video spots advocating progressive goals. The above clip is their first spot. The ad is to air in Louisiana targeting Senator Mary Landrieu, in Arkansas targeting Senator Blanche Lincoln, in Nebraska targeting Ben Nelson, and in Connecticut targeting Senator Joe Lieberman.

Please consider contributing to help keep these ads on the air: Act Blue - One Voice. Thank you.

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Diaries

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