Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Health Care Plan Going Down the Toilet or Just Clogging the Pipes?

The health care plan, as President Obama and many others conceive it, is being systematically chipped away to a shadow of its former self. The "pipes" I refer to are the conduits of cash flow to congressional coffers via special interest groups, e.g. insurance companies, drug companies, lobbyists for large business categories, etc.

Below are just some of the headlines:

Senate Finance Committee Dropping Dem Health Goals

DAVID ESPO | 07/27/09 11:11 PM | APpost - Senate Finance Committee Dropping Dem Health Goals: AP

WASHINGTON — 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, officials said.

These officials said participants were on track to exclude a requirement many congressional Democrats seek for large businesses to offer coverage to their workers. Nor would there be a provision for a government insurance option, despite President Barack Obama's support for such a plan. . .

Health Policy Now Carved Out at a More Centrist Table

Published: July 27, 2009

WASHINGTON — On the agenda is the revamping of the American health care system, possibly the most complex legislation in modern history. But on the table, in a conference room where the bill is being hashed out by six senators, the snacks are anything but healthy. . .

The fate of the health care overhaul largely rests on the shoulders of six senators who since June 17 have gathered — often twice a day, and for many hours at a stretch — in a conference room with burnt sienna walls, in the office of the Senate Finance Committee chairman, Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana. . .

Already, the group of six has tossed aside the idea of a government-run insurance plan that would compete with private insurers, which the president supports but Republicans said was a deal-breaker.

Instead, they are proposing a network of private, nonprofit cooperatives.

They have also dismissed the House Democratic plan to pay for the bill’s roughly $1 trillion, 10-year cost partly with an income surtax on high earners.

The three Republicans have insisted that any new taxes come from within the health care arena. As one option, Democrats have proposed taxing high-end insurance plans with values exceeding $25,000.

The Senate group also seems prepared to drop a requirement, included in other versions of the legislation, that employers offer coverage to their workers. “We don’t mandate employer coverage,” Senator Olympia J. Snowe, Republican of Maine and one of the six, said Monday. Employers that do not offer coverage may instead have to pay the cost of any government subsidies for which their workers qualify. In the House, centrist Democrats have temporarily stalled the health care bill, many lawmakers want to see what Mr. Baucus’s group produces before voting on tax increases in the House bill. . .

Senators Progress as House Delays Again on Health Bill

By CARL HULSE and ROBERT PEAR NY Times Published: July 27, 2009

...The average employer-sponsored insurance plan has a premium of about $5,000 for individual coverage and $13,000 for family coverage, according to the Congressional Budget Office. . .

Obama's top domestic priority has suffered numerous setbacks in recent weeks, and Republicans have stepped up their criticism. A Senate vote has been postponed until September. Administration and Democratic leaders hope to show significant progress before lawmakers begin their monthlong recess in hopes of regaining momentum.

In the House, the leadership sought to allay concerns among the rank and file. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said, "We're on schedule to do it now or do it whenever," when asked whether the House would complete its bill before lawmakers leave at the end of the week for their summer break. . .

I do not pretend to understand the ins and outs of such a complex bill. But we need health care reform. I make a pretty damn good living and I do have an employee sponsored plan that costs me, out of pocket, $8400 and my employer another $5,000.00. I remember when self-insurance plan for a "family" of four, in the state of California, was about $400 per month, total. That was in 1997, just before we moved to N.H. Since then, the escalation of health insurance and medical bills has sky rocketed and most of us, without employer sponsored plans, cannot afford it. As soon as my sons turn 24, they are off my family plan. No way will they be able to pay for health insurance.

Why are these meetings "secretive"?

Why should "large businesses" like Wal Mart, etc not have to "offer coverage to their employees"?

"Private, non-profit cooperatives" competing with large insurers sounds like a red flag to me. There are plenty of so-called non-profit companies who manage to not only control pricing but also operate under the auspices of for-profit companies. I know this because my husband was employed by one such company and I happen to volunteer on a non-profit arm of our for-profit chamber of commerce.

There is no doubt, the complexities of such an undertaking should be thoroughly worked out. We don't want another TARP piece of legislation hastily put through the Congress and Senate and then realize it has more holes than Swiss cheese. I do, however, feel a Congressional recess/vacation, etc., should be postponed til this is ironed out. Nancy Pelosi's cavalier comment "to do it now or whenever" doesn't cut it. These are the same folks who have fantastic, "gold-plated health care" as I believe our President put it the other night.

We're the ones who elected them. We are the ones who should be front and center to put the pressure on to get this done publicly with the full knowledge and understanding of the issues contained therein.

Here are some petition sites to click and sign & have sent to your congressman or woman:





Susan said...

I've been itching to kick some damn "Blue Dog" Democrat ass! Did you read Paul Krugman's op-ed in NYT? It made me want to puke that they are absolutely ruining the health care plan by pulling the rug out from under it! There won't be anything left by the time they and the Repugs are finished! AARRGGHH!

Susan said...

I linked you to my Facebook page.

Nancy said...

I hope all these blue dog dems realize this is their last term.

Reya Mellicker said...

One of my clients is a congressional staffer (a lawyer) working on this legislation. Did you know the bill is 1,000 pages long? So no one has a really comprehensive idea of what's in there. Everyone is working from broad sketches.

I'm hoping they slow down so that when they DO legislate, it comes from a place of being well informed.

Marguerite said...

It certainly is a big mess! They need to take a few lessons from France or Canada and put all of this b.s. aside. Cheers!

Baino said...

Far be it to buy into your politics but there are health models that work! Why don't thes captains of industry emulate their success. The French system is totally free. No private health care required, no waiting lists. Australia and Canada are pretty similar. The US? I just don't get it.
Sure you pay a more tax for socialised health but look how much you're paying for cover now? That's well in excess of what I pay for private insurance.

There's only 20 million of us and we have access to free health if we need it (ok waiting times suck) but with basic health cover (I pay about US$400 a month for hospital and dental. Australian employers don't offer health care.

Just saying that rather than reinvent the wheel, why don't they look at some successful regimes and model the new system on that?

Minka said...

I don't really understand all this, as we are almost automatically insured from birth on. I've heard a lot on TV and so. I can only send you my best wishes - may it work out for you at last. Obama seemed like such a promising change when he was elected. But there is only so much one man can do. Hope the administration figures it out. I guess it must be difficult for such a big country to reorganize a complex system like health care.

ArtSparker said...

Nate at fivethirtyeight has a different take on this - worth looking at I think. You may be right, but I have found him to be very judicious.


People that have sided with special interests over the years are not going to wake up and see the light. Their constituents need to bring a lot of pressure to bear, that would help. Also, something that doesn't seem to be in the equation is the rationing of services, which is probably going to have to be a factor in a workable system.


by Cole Scott