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Myra Bronstein
11-02-2009, 03:37 AM
Surely this won't surprise anyone here.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/11/01/public-option-plan-will-c_n_341408.html

"Public Option Plan Will Cover Few Americans, New Statistic Reveals
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RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR | 11/ 1/09 07:35 AM | AP

WASHINGTON — What's all the fuss about? After all the noise over Democrats' push for a government insurance plan to compete with private carriers, coverage numbers are finally in: Two percent.

That's the estimated share of Americans younger than 65 who'd sign up for the public option plan under the health care bill that Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is steering toward House approval.

The underwhelming statistic is raising questions about whether the government plan will be the iron-fisted competitor that private insurers warn will shut them down or a niche operator that becomes a haven for patients with health insurance horror stories.

Some experts are wondering if lawmakers have wasted too much time arguing about the public plan, giving short shrift to basics such as ensuring that new coverage will be affordable.

"The public option is a significant issue, but its place in the debate is completely out of proportion to its actual importance to consumers," said Drew Altman, president of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. "It has sucked all the oxygen out of the room and diverted attention from bread-and-butter consumer issues, such as affordable coverage and comprehensive benefits."

The Democratic health care bills would extend coverage to the uninsured by providing government help with premiums and prohibiting insurers from excluding people in poor health or charging them more. But to keep from piling more on the federal deficit, most of the uninsured will have to wait until 2013 for help. Even then, many will have to pay a significant share of their own health care costs.

The latest look at the public option comes from the Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan economic analysts for lawmakers.

It found that the scaled back government plan in the House bill wouldn't overtake private health insurance. To the contrary, it might help the insurers a little.

The budget office estimated that about 6 million people would sign up for the public option in 2019, when the House bill is fully phased in. That represents about 2 percent of a total of 282 million Americans under age 65. (Older people are covered through Medicare.)

The overwhelming majority of the population would remain in private health insurance plans sponsored by employers. Others, mainly low-income people, would be covered through an expanded Medicaid program.

To be fair, most people would not have access to the new public plan. Under the House bill, it would be offered through new insurance exchanges open only to those who buy coverage on their own or work for small companies. Yet even within that pool of 30 million people, only 1-in-5 would take the public option.

Who's likely to sign up?

The budget office said "a less healthy pool of enrollees" would probably be attracted to the public option, drawn by the prospect of looser rules on access to specialists and medical services.

As a result, premiums in the public plan would be higher than the average for private plans. That could nudge healthy middle-class workers and their families to sign up for private plans.

"The concern was that the public option would destabilize the bulk of private insurance, but in fact what Congress has fashioned is very targeted," said economist Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund. "It's not going to be taking away the insurance industry's core business."

It's unclear whether there are enough votes in the Senate for a public plan. The version that Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has offered would let states opt out, probably leaving a smaller plan that the House would want.

Insurers aren't buying the budget office analysis. Asked if it might soften that opposition, industry spokesman Robert Zirkelbach of America's Health Insurance Plans responded with a curt "No."

While a government plan might start out modestly, insurers fear that Congress could change the rules later, opening it up to all people and setting take-it-or-leave payments for hospitals and medical providers, instead of negotiating, as the House bill calls for.

For the same reason, employer groups also remain wary. Big companies don't want to lose control of their health care budgets and instead have the government send them a tax bill.

"That cost is going to come back to you one way or another ... and it's coming back in the way of taxes and liabilities," said Eastman Kodak's chief executive, Antonio M. Perez, speaking for the Business Roundtable. "We just don't believe that there are miracles out there."

If Congress passes a public plan that's not much of a sensation, Democrats might have reason to regret all the time and energy they invested in it."

Myra Bronstein
11-03-2009, 05:58 AM
Matt Taibbi (http://trueslant.com/matttaibbi/)

Jul. 28 2009 - 10:21 am
The Health Care Bill Dies?
The AP reports that “after weeks of secretive talks, a bipartisan group in the Senate edged closer Monday to a health care compromise that omits two key Democratic priorities but incorporates provisions to slow the explosive rise in medical costs.” The deal was likely to “exclude a requirement many congressional Democrats seek for large businesses to offer coverage to their workers” and a “provision for a government insurance option.” The Wall Street Journal says that “individuals familiar with the negotiations suggested” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus “would like to unveil a deal later this week. But unclear Monday was whether” ranking Republican Sen. Charles Grassley “would sign onto the deal and pave the way for committee action next week.”
via USNews.com: Political Bulletin: Tuesday, July 28, 2009 (http://www.usnews.com/usnews/politics/bulletin/bulletin_090728.htm).
Well, as the French would say… Quelle surprise!

It’s funny, earlier this summer I was watching the Federer-Roddick Wimbledon Final. Great match in a way, final set was 30 games long, one of the all-time epic battles. And yet, as I watched it, I thought to myself, “This has to be the least suspenseful epic sporting event of all time.” Because there was never any doubt in my mind that Federer was going to win the match. I simply could not envision a scenario where anything else than a Federer victory could happen. I think I even turned it off at 7-7 in the final set, figuring I could catch Federer’s award ceremony later on.

It’s the same with this health care bill. Who among us did not know this would happen? It’s been clear from the start that the Democrats would make a great show of doing something real, then they would fold prematurely, ram through some piece-of-shit bill with some incremental/worthless change in it, and then in the end blame everything on Max Baucus and Bill Nelson, saying, “By golly, we tried our best!”

Make no mistake, this has nothing to do with Max Baucus, Ben Nelson, or anyone else. If the Obama administration wanted to pass a real health care bill, they would do what George Bush and Tom DeLay did in the first six-odd years of this decade whenever they wanted to pass some nightmare piece of legislation (ie the Prescription Drug Bill or CAFTA): they would take the recalcitrant legislators blocking their path into a back room at the Capitol, and beat them with rubber hoses until they changed their minds.

The reason a real health-care bill is not going to get passed is simple: because nobody in Washington really wants it. There is insufficient political will to get it done. It doesn’t matter that it’s an urgent national calamity, that it is plainly obvious to anyone with an IQ over 8 that our system could not possibly be worse and needs to be fixed very soon, and that, moreover, the only people opposing a real reform bill are a pitifully small number of executives in the insurance industry who stand to lose the chance for a fifth summer house if this thing passes.

It won’t get done, because that’s not the way our government works. Our government doesn’t exist to protect voters from interests, it exists to protect interests from voters. The situation we have here is an angry and desperate population that at long last has voted in a majority that it believes should be able to pass a health care bill. It expects something to be done. The task of the lawmakers on the Hill, at least as they see things, is to create the appearance of having done something.

And that’s what they’re doing. Personally, I think they’re doing a lousy job even of that. I lauded Roddick for playing out the string with heart, and giving a good show. But these Democrats aren’t even pretending to give a shit, not really. I mean, they’re not even willing to give up their vacations.

This whole business, it was a litmus test for whether or not we even have a functioning government. Here we had a political majority in congress and a popular president armed with oodles of political capital and backed by the overwhelming sentiment of perhaps 150 million Americans, and this government could not bring itself to offend ten thousand insurance men in order to pass a bill that addresses an urgent emergency. What’s left? Third-party politics?

Peter Lemkin
11-03-2009, 08:19 AM
"Surprise, surprise, surprise.....!" - Gomer Pyle

Myra Bronstein
11-08-2009, 07:03 PM
http://kucinich.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=153995

"Washington, Nov 7 -

After voting against H.R. 3962 - Affordable Health Care for America Act, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today made the following statement:

“We have been led to believe that we must make our health care choices only within the current structure of a predatory, for-profit insurance system which makes money not providing health care. We cannot fault the insurance companies for being what they are. But we can fault legislation in which the government incentivizes the perpetuation, indeed the strengthening, of the for-profit health insurance industry, the very source of the problem. When health insurance companies deny care or raise premiums, co-pays and deductibles they are simply trying to make a profit. That is our system.

“Clearly, the insurance companies are the problem, not the solution. They are driving up the cost of health care. Because their massive bureaucracy avoids paying bills so effectively, they force hospitals and doctors to hire their own bureaucracy to fight the insurance companies to avoid getting stuck with an unfair share of the bills. The result is that since 1970, the number of physicians has increased by less than 200% while the number of administrators has increased by 3000%. It is no wonder that 31 cents of every health care dollar goes to administrative costs, not toward providing care. Even those with insurance are at risk. The single biggest cause of bankruptcies in the U.S. is health insurance policies that do not cover you when you get sick.

“But instead of working toward the elimination of for-profit insurance, H.R. 3962 would put the government in the role of accelerating the privatization of health care. In H.R. 3962, the government is requiring at least 21 million Americans to buy private health insurance from the very industry that causes costs to be so high, which will result in at least $70 billion in new annual revenue, much of which is coming from taxpayers. This inevitably will lead to even more costs, more subsidies, and higher profits for insurance companies — a bailout under a blue cross.

“By incurring only a new requirement to cover pre-existing conditions, a weakened public option, and a few other important but limited concessions, the health insurance companies are getting quite a deal. The Center for American Progress’ blog, Think Progress, states “since the President signaled that he is backing away from the public option, health insurance stocks have been on the rise.” Similarly, healthcare stocks rallied when Senator Max Baucus introduced a bill without a public option. Bloomberg reports that Curtis Lane, a prominent health industry investor, predicted a few weeks ago that “money will start flowing in again” to health insurance stocks after passage of the legislation. Investors.com last month reported that pharmacy benefit managers share prices are hitting all-time highs, with the only industry worry that the Administration would reverse its decision not to negotiate Medicare Part D drug prices, leaving in place a Bush Administration policy.

“During the debate, when the interests of insurance companies would have been effectively challenged, that challenge was turned back. The “robust public option” which would have offered a modicum of competition to a monopolistic industry was whittled down from an initial potential enrollment of 129 million Americans to 6 million. An amendment which would have protected the rights of states to pursue single-payer health care was stripped from the bill at the request of the Administration. Looking ahead, we cringe at the prospect of even greater favors for insurance companies.

“Recent rises in unemployment indicate a widening separation between the finance economy and the real economy. The finance economy considers the health of Wall Street, rising corporate profits, and banks’ hoarding of cash, much of it from taxpayers, as sign of an economic recovery. However in the real economy -- in which most Americans live -- the recession is not over. Rising unemployment, business failures, bankruptcies and foreclosures are still hammering Main Street.

“This health care bill continues the redistribution of wealth to Wall Street at the expense of America’s manufacturing and service economies which suffer from costs other countries do not have to bear, especially the cost of health care. America continues to stand out among all industrialized nations for its privatized health care system. As a result, we are less competitive in steel, automotive, aerospace and shipping while other countries subsidize their exports in these areas through socializing the cost of health care.

“Notwithstanding the fate of H.R. 3962, America will someday come to recognize the broad social and economic benefits of a not-for-profit, single-payer health care system, which is good for the American people and good for America’s businesses, with of course the notable exceptions being insurance and pharmaceuticals.”

[Emphasis mine.]

Myra Bronstein
11-11-2009, 06:52 AM
It is time for Dennis Kucinich to become an Independent.


November 9, 2009

Why Progressives Should Back a Filibuster of the Health Care Bill

http://www.counterpunch.org/murphy11092009.html

Can Lieberman Save Single Payer?

By JOHN A. MURPHY
"Cowardice asks the question ‘is it safe’? Expediency asks the question ‘is it politic’? Vanity asks the question ‘is it popular’? But conscience asks the question ‘is it right’? And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but we must take it because our conscience tells us that it is right."
-Martin Luther King
On Saturday, November 8 the Democrat Congress gave us a corporate driven healthcare bill which amounts to nothing more than a de facto bailout of the healthcare insurance companies. The carnival conducted by the Democrats, masquerading as a debate around healthcare, demonstrates conclusively how craven are Barack Obama and the Congressional Democrats.

We have witnessed cynicism in other administrations but the Obama administration has as raised cynicism to a veritable science. Imagine promising the poor and desperate people of this country healthcare reform and passing legislation which will not only hurt the working class but strengthen the very forces which oppose real reform – the healthcare insurance companies!

The darling of the Democrats, Alan Grayson, voted in lockstep with most of the other so-called progressive Democrats to destroy any possibility for meaningful healthcare reform for the next 40 years. How easily the Democrat rank and file is impressed. Grayson only had to bad mouth the Republicans, something which should be part of the job description of any elected Democrat. For doing the bare minimum he is hailed as a hero. So far removed from real heroism have the Democrats traveled. So ineffective and slimy have the Congressional Democrats become in sucking up to their corporate pay masters so they can keep doing more harm to the American people, that they are praiseworthy simply for criticizing the opposition. Imagine! The Democrat rank and file is impressed by a Democrat Congressman who criticizes the Republicans but votes for a healthcare bill that will spread misery on national level! Only Dennis Kucinich remained steadfast in his opposition to a corporate welfare bill masquerading as a health care reform bill. Perhaps Kucinich does more harm than good by remaining in such a party. By remaining a Democrat he legitimizes the actions he opposes and keeps millions of well intended people from forming a truly progressive opposition party believing the myth that the Democrat Party can be changed form within.

All of the Congressional Democrats and even the successor to George Bush himself recognize that universal single-payer health care (Medicare For All) is the only meaningful solution to the health care crisis in America. But these Democrats have decided that keeping their jobs is much more important than saving the lives of 45,000 Americans. By passing this most cynical piece of legislation they have put their thumbs in the eyes of the American people while the silk tongued oratory of the successor to George Bush will praise this bill even as he delights in the idea of how many people will live in misery.

Obama is so ignominious that even in this miserable mockery of health care reform he will deny benefits to the slave population in the United States as well as to women who need abortions. Obama continues to refer to the slave population created by the heinous William Clinton as "illegal immigrants". We have 13 million slaves; they are not illegal immigrants. They are economic refugees created by trade agreements like NAFTA which allowed companies like Archer Daniels Midland and ConAgra to ship billions and billions of tons of cheap corn into Mexico destroying the Mexican family farm. We are not talking about dirt poor farmers but farmers who employed 10-15 people. Having lost their farms, they wandered into the streets of Mexico City looking for jobs in those corporations that moved to Mexico thanks to the beneficence of that ever hated sperm stain, the successor to Ronald Reagan, who murdered a million innocent Iraqi men, women and children with bombs and sanctions.

When the US corporations closed up their plants in Mexico and moved off to China and Bangladesh where they could pay people $.50 an hour and $.35 an hour these former farm owners had the option of watching their families starve in the streets of Mexico or live as slaves in cardboard boxes in the underpasses of the United States. They have now become a new slave population, paying taxes and Social Security using phony identifications but denied even what would be considered hospitality anywhere else in the world – health care! Only the proslavery Democrats treat human beings in this way. Just as William, the stain, Clinton destroyed the women's movement with his "Welfare Reform Act" which threw tens of thousands of single mothers into the streets and forced tens of thousands of others into the slavery of Wal-Mart like jobs, so also will Barry The Bomber’s healthcare reform continue pummeling the already staggering working-class American.

Here we have a health care bill which will not only drive up insurance costs but will not even permit the government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies, thereby driving up pharmaceutical costs as well! The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that only 2% of Americans will be able to participate in this plan while 33% of Americans will remain either uninsured or underinsured. The bill even was stripped of the Kucinich amendment which would have permitted states to develop their own single-payer options. Americans will now be forced to buy health care plans from private insurance corporations. Forced!

Even a little arithmetic indicates what a horror show this nasty piece of legislation creates. Imagine a family at roughly 300% of poverty -- around $55,000 a year. It will cost them in the neighborhood of $15,000 in taxes, $14,000 in mortgage or rent; close to $20,000 on childcare and they'll need around $7,000 for food. That puts them in debt already! Now they will be forced to buy health care -- forced! Under penalty of law! Even with government subsidies they will still be in debt! (There is not enough money in the bill to subsidize all the people who will need it). Now imagine a medical catastrophe. Even if caps are eliminated this family will be deeper in debt as the insurance companies increase their profits!

But wait! It gets better – worse if you please. The Congressional Budget Office also explained that one of the other reasons why so few people would be able to buy into this plan is that it "would typically have premiums that are somewhat higher than the average premiums for the private plans." Yes, you read that correctly: "premiums that are somewhat higher".

What about those people who don't get coverage through their jobs or who have their health insurance dropped at work because there will now be an incentive to dump benefits? History already provides us the answer to that question. Most of the adults who tried to buy insurance on the open market never bought a plan because they could not afford it or they could not find a plan that met their needs. Now the prices will be higher! What a choice: buy insurance coverage or pay a penalty of hundreds or even thousands of dollars per family if they decide to forgo insurance.

LIEBERMAN TO THE RESCUE

The Senate version of health care reform is even more draconian than the House version but the real hero of this tragedy, Joe Lieberman, promises to join a Republican filibuster! The independent senator from Connecticut, hated by liberal Democrats may yet save us! The senator told "Fox News Sunday" today that Democrats can certainly count him in the "no" column if they keep in a government-backed insurance plan. "If the public option is in there as a matter of conscience, I will not allow this bill to come to a final vote," signaling as he has before that he would back a Republican filibuster -- which Democrats need 60 votes to break.

While it is never morally acceptable to do something wrong even for a good reason (the ends never justify the means), it is always morally acceptable to do something right even for the wrong reasons! Lincoln, for example, did not free the slaves because it was the morally correct thing to do. He did it for political reasons but nevertheless he did do it and it was the right thing to do. We may not like Joe Lieberman and Max Baucus but ironically we may be in their debt if they join the filibuster to block this anti-working class, corporate welfare legislation. We should be castigating Conyers and Grayson because of their vote in the House while we may have to heave sigh of thanksgiving for people like Lieberman and Baucus if they are successful in preventing this very dangerous piece of legislation.

Magda Hassan
11-11-2009, 06:59 AM
I see that Denis Kucunich voted against this bill. Did the other Democrats that voted against it vote for similar reasons?

John Kowalski
11-11-2009, 06:04 PM
The congressman says that co-pays etc. is "our system". The congressman is wrong, it is the private insurers' system. This system only exists because the private insurers profit from it. I doubt that Americans really get much information about other health care options that are available, otherwise "our system" would be a universal health care system, not the for-profit disaster that exists today.

An issue that has been lost in the current health care crisis is the state of American democracy. The failure of the US to adopt a policy such as universal health care, that is clearly in the interests of a vast majority of its citizens, clearly demonstrates that the interests of the a minority, the wealthy, outweighs the needs of the majority, the middle class and the poor in the making of legislation, and that is not democracy.

David Guyatt
11-11-2009, 06:19 PM
The congressman says that co-pays etc. is "our system". The congressman is wrong, it is the private insurers' system. This system only exists because the private insurers profit from it. I doubt that Americans really get much information about other health care options that are available, otherwise "our system" would be a universal health care system, not the for-profit disaster that exists today.

An issue that has been lost in the current health care crisis is the state of American democracy. The failure of the US to adopt a policy such as universal health care, that is clearly in the interests of a vast majority of its citizens, clearly demonstrates that the interests of the a minority, the wealthy, outweighs the needs of the majority, the middle class and the poor in the making of legislation, and that is not democracy.

No, not a democracy at all, but rather a pretend one. A very effective pretend one too. The majority of Americans - and Brits for that matter - are participants who vote - and thus continue the charade - from the perspective of happy slumber.