Just pushing for private health care insurance reforms would have been preferable to this
by Tom Rinaldo, Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 06:38:12 AM EST
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.
The choice isn't now, nor has it ever been, between accepting this piece of compromised Health Care Reform legislation or just walking away from Reform efforts. The Republicans always felt smug using fear tactics to oppose a so called socialist government take over of health care. Obama dangling the public option was a useful ploy for them, it helped them organize their base. A simple private health insurance regulatory reform act would have been much harder for them to oppose; it wouldn't have looked nearly as good to threaten a filibuster to preserve the pre-existing condition clauses in current insurance company policies, ending that is socialism people can believe in and Republicans know it. Their leverage would have been greatly reduced and the compromises Democrats would have been forced to accept, given Obama's early insistence on wanting bi-partisan legislation, would have been minimized.
However Obama dangling the promise of a public option was an unmitigated disaster for liberals, and ultimately I believe for the entire Democratic Party. He used the promise of that Will 'o the Wisp to continually wring more concessions out of progressives who wanted to preserve real Health Care Reform, and those concessions came not just on the Public Option itself, but across the board. Progressives in the house would never have swallowed anti-abortion language in the bill they helped pass without it being gift wrapped with a public option sugar coating. And that is just the most recent and most obvious public compromise on principles that progressives got lured into making.
The current Senate Bill is the bad faith product of negotiations made in good faith on false premises. It is not the best that Democrats can deliver on Health Care Reform. It isn't even the best that Democrats can deliver on private health care insurance regulatory reform, even leaving out a public option. It is the fraudulent product of a compromised process. After Democrats swept to power in 2008 with commanding majorities in both Houses of Congress and a new Democratic President who campaigned for a robust Public Option and no mandates on individual purchases, the current effort gets a failing grade. Bush used reconciliation to push through massive tax cuts for the rich with 50 Republican Senators and his Vice President. We bargained away the store after paying for the stolen goods. We've been had.