In watching town hall after town hall, many of us have looked at attendees frantically spouting nonsense about "death panels" and comparing the public health insurance option to Hitler and wondered, "where do they get these people?"
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Archive for August, 2009
Democrats plan hundreds of reform rallies - Politico
Faced with a souring public mood on health care reform, Democrats and their supporters are launching a national grassroots push Wednesday to show lawmakers that the majority of Americans still support overhauling the system.
A leading House Democrat on Monday said Democrats are prepared to pass healthcare reform without Republican support, echoing comments made over the weekend by a leading Senate Democrat.
Hoping to rein in costs, some are taking a stand on health care reform
Grassley Airs Doubts About Health Bill - Wall Street Journal
Sen. Charles Grassley signaled growing skepticism about the likelihood of Democrat-led health-care legislation passing this year, telling a town-hall meeting here Monday, "Now is the time to do this right or not do it."
On August 24, 2009, RNC Chairman Michael Steele wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post regarding seniors' health care and outlining the GOP's "Seniors Health Care Bill of Rights." However, instead of offering real solutions or finally agreeing to cooperate with Democrats, Steele's piece spreads falsehoods and misinformation with the goal of derailing efforts to help America's senior citizens.
Supporters of health care reform dominate town hall session - Kansas City Star
After an August dominated by their opponents, health care reform advocates pushed back on Monday.
Dueling Words on Medicare - New York Times
In the campaign for the hearts and minds of older Americans — the cohort most nervous about a health care overhaul — Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, was on a news media tour Monday promoting a Seniors’ Health Care Bill of Rights.
Policy Experts Call Fear of Medical Rationing Unfounded - New York Times
It is what many people say they fear most from an overhaul of the health care system — the prospect of the federal government’s limiting the medical care they can receive.
Besides the US Chamber of Commerce, anyone out there feeling at all bad about the US House Energy & Commerce Committee asking large national health insurers about their finances? Certainly not I, especially after what we learned about the Wall Street bail out and big institutions that received billions in federal bailouts who in turn were handing out bonuses and continuing with other corporate spending that certainly raised the eyebrows – and ire- of the American public. Various health reform proposals will no doubt have a financial impact on the insurance industry (ie: by imposing a requirement that all people obtain health insurance and providing subsidies for those who can’t afford it). Representatives Waxman and Stupack have it right: before health reform creates a “bonanza” for the health insurers, let’s at least understand their current spending and business practices. It seems fair to me to ask the health insurers about their profits, salaries and bonuses for employees earning over $500k, how much they’re spending on retreats, etc.
Well, kind of.
Today, the Republican National Committee released a "Seniors' Health Care Bill Of Rights" meant to get down on paper principles for protecting seniors health care under health reform.
Good thing all of their principles are met in the current legislation being considered by Congress.
Here are the principles:
- PROTECT MEDICARE AND NOT CUT IT IN THE NAME OF HEALTH CARE REFORM
Medicare is indeed protected under the health reform bills being proposed by Congress, and in fact, the Medicare trust fund is extended. Medicare benefits will not be touched and waste and fraud will be eliminated. In fact, the bill being considered by the House substantially strengthens Medicare [pdf] by stabilizing reimbursements for physicians and fully eliminating the Part D "donut hole" (the policy that makes prescription drugs unaffordable for seniors) over time.
- PROHIBIT GOVERNMENT FROM GETTING BETWEEN SENIORS AND THEIR DOCTORS
No bill being considered by Congress puts government in between anyone and their doctors. In fact, these bills give you more choices and more freedom to get the care you need. Under health reform, you would be able to keep the insurance and doctor you have if you like it, or you would be able to choose from a range of plans - both private and public - to find the one that fits your need. With choice like that, an insurance industry bureaucrat need not get in between you and your doctor ever again.
- PROHIBIT EFFORTS TO RATION HEALTH CARE BASED ON AGE
There is no rationing of care in any plan being considered, by age or otherwise. In fact, it is expressly prohibited.
- PREVENT GOVERNMENT FROM INTERFERING WITH END-OF-LIFE CARE DISCUSSIONS
The bills being considered keep government out of end-of-life care altogether. In fact, they do seniors one better. Under the bill being considered by the House, doctors would be paid for end-of-life counseling with their patients if their patients choose to have it. Of course, they can choose not to have it if they don't want, that's up to them.
- ENSURE SENIORS CAN KEEP THEIR CURRENT COVERAGE
As noted above, there are no cuts to Medicare benefits under any health reform plan being considered, and for the rest of us, choice is preserved or expanded. Health reform would eliminate waste from the system and close the "donut hole."
- PROTECT VETERANS BY PRESERVING TRICARE AND OTHER BENEFIT PROGRAMS FOR MILITARY FAMILIES
Nothing in the bills being considered would touch veteran's benefits, so they are indeed preserved. Health reform would guarantee members of the military can get quality, affordable health care during their military service and when they choose to retire.
We're glad Republicans recognize how good health reform will be for seniors, veterans, and for everyone in this country. What makes the whole thing curious if the fact that they're dead set against health care reform legislation. Seems like if they really wanted to protect seniors, they'd be for it.
Senate Democrats said Sunday that they were fleshing out plans to pass health legislation, particularly the option of a new government-run insurance program, with a simple majority, instead of the 60 votes that would ordinarily be needed to overcome a filibuster.
Last week, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), the most conservative member of the so-called bipartisan “Gang of Six” working on the Senate Finance Committee’s health care bill, stated that he preferred that Congress deal with reform incrementally. “I think the only way it will happen is we need to break it down into smaller parts than we have now and put it through one at a time,” he said.
Rep. Maxine Waters a hard-liner for public healthcare option - Los Angeles Times
At a town hall at L.A. Southwest College, the congresswoman says she'll back a package only if it includes a government-run insurance plan. The issue seems to be dividing lawmakers in Washington.
Daschle Has Ear of White House and Industry - New York Times
Six months have passed since the morning when Tom Daschle, the former Senate Democratic leader, under fire for not paying certain taxes, called President Obama in his study off the Oval Office to withdraw his nomination as health secretary and reform czar.
Health care plan tests Pelosi's leadership - Associated Press
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent her 256 caucus members home for the August recess armed with pocket cards listing Democratic health care talking points, then started stumping herself, working to convince Americans of what they'd gain under the plan.
GOP Targets Seniors and Medicare, Renews Opposition to Public Option in Health Care Overhaul
Henry Waxman's insurance probe began in July - Politico
House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman raised eyebrows this week when he launched a financial probe into the nation’s largest insurance companies, which are at the center of the health reform battle.
I’m beginning to think that the Kool-Aid being served at meetings of the Senate Finance Committee’s soon-to-be infamous Gang of Six is coming from either fantasy land or the health insurance industry.
For those of you who might not be following the sorry machinations of health care reform in the Senate Finance Committee, the Gang of Six is a group of three Democrats and three Republicans hand-picked by Committee Chair Max Baucus, who is one of the three Democrats. The gang meets often, supposedly drafting a bipartisan bill. In reality, if such a bill emerges, it will be a gift to the insurance industry because the gang includes some of the industry’s best friends on Capitol Hill.
There's a lot out there that the media is missing. Especially the national media, who prefer to concentrate on crazy people at town halls. And yet, I get dozens of reports every day of pro-health care reform rallies all across the country. Here are some of those reports.
In North Carolina, our partners are protested in front of the biggest insurer in the state. Blue Cross Blue Shield is raking in the profits [pdf] (up $48 million per year from 2004 to 2007 alone) while premiums skyrocket (up 75% in seven years). A call went out far and wide to health reform supporters, asking them to show up.
We received this message in response:
I am 82 years old and would stand with you if only I could. I agree one hundred percent that Blue Cross, Blue Shield should not even be a for profit company. When I joined this company I was told that it was a non-profit company. And that is not true!
My heart is willing to stand with you, but my osteoarthritis knees cannot do it. I hope that a big crowd will be there. I will be pulling for you.
Thanks for all you are doing to help us get a public option for our new health care reform.
We will be standing tall in your honor, Jane.
And in New York, Rep. Tonko spoke about the need for real health care reform. First, Beverly Padgett spoke:
Beverly Padgett, who nearly died when her sugar level rose to a dangerous level, was one protester who argued for the public option. "Right now in America, if you're poor, you get poor health care. Those with the Cadillac health insurance plans can afford to pay the high price for comprehensive coverage. That type of coverage should be accessible to all Americans no matter their income level", said Padgett, "Within our current system you either pay now or you pay later." Because of a lapse in her insurance due to inability to afford coverage she was hospitalized for several weeks with complications due to diabetes. She is now faced with exorbitant medical bills. With the public option there would be standardized levels of care for all insurance plans and thanks to subsidies people like Beverly would be able to afford the coverage they need to stay healthy.
And then, Rep. Tonko took the stage:
The rally was pro-reform, not a protester in sight. Check out the video:
And these kinds of things happen all over America every day. But this is what Congress is hearing, and it remains the truth: America is for health care reform, real health care reform with a real public health insurance option, and we're going to get it.
Obama Insists Health Plan Will Pass - New York Times
President Obama said Thursday that he “would love to have more Republicans engaged” in the health care negotiations under way in Congress, but expressed doubt that a bipartisan compromise could be reached because he suspected the party’s leadership was intent on defeating his signature domestic priority.
Key Senators Discuss Trimming Health Bill - Washington Post
Senate health-care negotiators agreed late Thursday to ignore the increasingly strident rhetoric from Republican and Democratic leaders and to keep working toward a bill that can win broad support from the rank-and-file in both parties, according to sources familiar with the talks.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said legislation to revamp the U.S. health-care system won’t get through her chamber unless it creates a government-run insurance program to compete with the private industry.
New Rx for Health Plan: Split Bill - Wall Street Journal
The White House and Senate Democratic leaders, seeing little chance of bipartisan support for their health-care overhaul, are considering a strategy shift that would break the legislation into two parts and pass the most expensive provisions solely with Democratic votes.
SurveyUSA: Given a ‘choice,’ 77 percent of Americans like public option - Minnesota Independent
A new SurveyUSA poll released on Thursday shows a solid majority of Americans back a public option as part of health care reform. Seventy-seven percent said it was extremely important or quite important that health reform efforts include a public option along with maintaining the private insurance infrastructure.
In an interview with Fox News' Neil Cavuto, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) made it clear, again, that current proposals for health insurance reform will not receive any Republican support. "For either the bill that passed the House Committee or the bill that passed the HELP committee in the Senate, I don't think a single Republican in the Senate would support either of those bills," he declared. Kyl went on to say that the three Republicans engaged in talks with Democrats, led by increasingly erratic Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), are finding negotiations "very difficult" because of the "liberals in both the House and the Senate."
The summer of Astroturf - Politico
The August recess may not have done much to clarify the health care debate, but it has shined a bright light on one of Washington, D.C.’s secrets. The town is paved with Astroturf.
Jacob Hacker, the father of the public option policy idea that became part of the health care plan President Obama won and ran on, has laid down the definitive word on co-ops today:
The Senate Finance Committee’s cooperative model is not good, nor even not-so-good. It is “ugly.” Although few specifics about the model are available, there is absolutely no reason to think that cooperatives of any sort could achieve the three crucial goal that a competing public plan must accomplish—provide a backup option offering health and financial security to individuals without employer coverage, a cost and quality benchmark, and a cost-control backstop that drives payment and delivery system reform.
In a call with Representatives Grijalva and Ellison, Hacker released his new report on the public option proposals in Congress, calling the co-op proposal a "cop-out."
He doesn't just say it, of course. He proves it:
Consumer cooperatives would have several severe disadvantages. First, they would require building a new set of plans largely from scratch in markets often dominated by one or two powerful insurers. This would mean forfeiting the administrative, economic, and political advantages of building on the Medicare infrastructure to a get a new alternative to private plans up and running quickly. Second, such models would also require forfeiting another major advantage of a Medicare-like public plan: the ability to provide enrollees with a broad choice of providers. The only two sizable examples of consumer health cooperatives, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound and HealthPartners in Minnesota, are both health maintenance organizations (HMOs) with restricted provider networks. And they have had decades to become established. New cooperatives would face the same problems breaking into markets that smaller private competitors face in many markets today. Analysts at Oppenheimer, Carl McDonald and James Naklicki, report that “as the co-ops are currently described, we think they would be a big positive for the managed care group, but it seems to us that they would be destined to fail from the moment of creation.”
The history of health cooperatives backs up McDonald and Naklicki’s pessimism. Cooperatives of various sorts have been discussed and sometimes created to provide health care in the past. After the Great Depression, the Farm Security Administration encouraged the development of health cooperatives–which at one point had about 600,000 members, mostly in rural areas. But the cooperatives crumbled in the face of physician resistance (including boycotts), the lack of financial wherewithal of the cooperatives themselves, and the eventual withdrawal of government support.
Even today’s remnants of the cooperative movement do not provide the most inspiring of lessons. The only survivor of the 1940s experiment is Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound. It is a well-regarded HMO, paying doctors on a salaried basis but, unfortunately, is now little different from other nonprofit HMOs, with around a half million members in Idaho and Washington State. By contrast, WellPoint—the nation’s largest insurer and a major force behind the defeat of health care reform in another West Coast state, California—has more than 33 million members.
As Hacker says, this co-op idea will not work to hold insurance companies accountable and drive down costs, and as such, in his words, it's "not ready for primetime."
SurveyUSA did NBC/WSJ's work for them after they failed to poll people on what Obama's health care plan actually said.
Contrary to the tepid support the biased NBC/WSJ poll found, SurveyUSA, when they polled with the original question NBC/WSJ used - a question that asked folks whether they want a choice of a public health insurance option as the legislation on the table provides - they found overwhelming support.
Here was the question NBC/WSJ asked in June, when they found 76% supported:
In any health care proposal, how important do you feel it is to give people a choice of both a public plan administered by the federal government and a private plan for their health insurance–extremely important, quite important, not that important, or not at all important?
SurveyUSA asked that same question yesterday, with as close to the same sample population as possible, and they found 77% support, with the number of people feeling this element of health reform is "extremely important" rising to 58%.
The conclusion here is pretty clear. When you ask people if they support the President's plan - a choice of a public health insurance option - they support it. When you leave out that critical element of choice, an element that accurately reflects the President's plan, there is less support. Choice isn't a biased word, as Chuck Todd contends. It's an accurate reflection of the policy, and people like it.
Maybe that's why NBC/WSJ changed their tune completely yesterday and will use this accurate poll question in their next poll.