Sunday, December 27, 2009


When Barack Obama ran for President, he promised that reforming healthcare would be

a top priority. He asked Americans to vote for him to change the status quo, expand health

insurance to millions who don't have it, drive down costs, slow premium increases, institute

competition into the system, and improve quality of care. He campaigned in favor of a public

option to compete with private insurance companies.

The House of Representatives passed a bill which accomplished many of these goals.

However, the Senate is about to pass a bill which accomplishes few if any of the President's

stated goals. In fact, the Senate healthcare bill doesn't even leave a few crumbs for middle

America. The Senate Democrats gave away the public option. They retreated on opening

Medicare to 55 year olds. They failed to allow Americans to import cheaper prescription

drugs from nations like Canada and they dropped all language which would have made health

insurance companies subject to the same anti-trust legislation all other corporations must

adhere to. Why is this? Is competition among healthcare providers somehow the exception

to how business is done in this most capitalist of all nations?

On one hand, the bill prohibits the denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions; but

on the other allows insurance companies to charge higher premiums for a variety of problems

ranging from high blood pressure to liver spots. Remember when the President promised

that we would no longer have to fear losing our homes or going bankrupt because of illness?

The Senate bill does not prohibit insurance companies from capping annual benefits; thereby

allowing them to crush those with long-term illness by limiting their coverage, forcing them

into bankruptcy or destitution. That's a broken promise.

If you don't like that broken promise, how about this one? The President now supports

a mandate that all Americans buy health insurance. Candidate Obama specifically opposed

doing this. In plain English it means that we, the taxpayer, will be required to subsidize

premiums for poor people; and this will mean hundreds of millions of tax dollars to private

insurance companies for millions of new customers. At the same time, there will be no

subsidies for middle class families who will be required to buy insurance they cannot afford

and they will get no help doing it.

The Senate bill is a disaster for middle class America. Not only will there be no subsidies

to help defray medical costs, there will be no pressure to keep costs down. Middle class

workers will be expected to shoulder a larger and larger share of their healthcare provided

by their employers and will be forced to choose between a pay raise or higher healthcare

premiums. Small businesses will not be able to shop around for a better deal because in many

states one company will control 60-70% of the entire market. Americans lucky enough to

have union health plans will face a tax increase if the programs are too generous. All of this

is bad news and hits middle class America squarely in the pocket book.

A member of Congress recently said we have to be careful not to sacrifice the good in

search of the perfect. The problem is, the Senate bill as it now stands is neither. I have tried

to remain optimistic about the end game. I have always thought the strategy would be to get

a bill out of the House and Senate and then fix it in a conference committee. I am hopeful

this could still resolve the situation. However, to fix the Senate bill in conference would mean

essentially adopting the original House bill and that simply is not going to happen. It's time

to face reality. If the final product contains no public option, no expansion of Medicare, no

expansion of Medicaid, and has a mandate for all Americans to buy health insurance, if the

final bill does not prohibit either lifetime or annual benefit caps and allows insurance

companies to charge more for a menu of health-related problems associated with growing

older, if insurance companies are allowed to maintain and expand their monopolies, if we

cannot import cheaper drugs and the insurance companies are allowed to charge older

customers four times as much as younger customers; then the former Vermont governor and

Democratic Party Chair, Howard Dean, is right when he says the bill must be killed.

Obama is left with the worst of a bad series of choices. If no bill is passed, he and the

Democrats will be accused, correctly, of not being able to get anything done. If the Senate

version prevails, middle America will abandon him in droves and Republicans will hang every

odious provision around his neck. Passing a bill which increases taxes, lowers competition,

and doesn't reform, will cripple the President with his base.

Is the irony lost on anyone that our current President "of the people" has been able to get

Republican support to bail out Wall Street and to expand the war in Afghanistan; but failed

to get any support to fix the nation's healthcare system, pass an energy bill, or even close

down Guantanamo Bay? Are we seeing a pattern here?

Now I get to rant. How is it the Democrats get such weak, namby-pamby leadership in

the Senate? First, Tom Daschle and now Harry Reid show they cannot impose any discipline

on Democratic senators. How could Reid allow Joe Lieberman in his caucus without exacting

a promise to vote with the caucus? If the Senate bill passes as is, or has to be killed to save

middle class America, Reid needs to lose his re-election bid and be thrown into the dustbin

of history. No one has been more critical of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi than I have.

However, she got a bill passed and it's a bill which accomplishes far more than the current

Senate version. If Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman ends up being the reason a good

healthcare bill isn't passed, Democrats need to strip him of his committee chairmanship and

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, the "enforcer", who knows how to play hardball

politics, needs to let Lieberman know that no bill with his name on it will pass for the next

three years.

We were promised a good healthcare bill. A "good" bill would prohibit denial for pre-

existing conditions, create competition to drive down costs, expand coverage to millions of

Americans without insurance, and end insurance company monopolies. In relation to the

promised "good" bill, a "bad" bill would at least have expanded Medicare and Medicaid, and

helped millions of our most vulnerable Americans. But, instead, what we are offered is an

"ugly" bill; a bill that doesn't stimulate competition, ends no monopolies, shields no individual

or family from economic disaster, leaves the status quo in place, and continues to force

Americans to buy health insurance they can't afford.

There is only one slim chance left to fix this; and that is in the conference committee. If

proper repairs are not made at that time, be prepared to call or email Congresswoman Lynn

Woolsey. Tell her and the Progressive Caucus to vote against the bill. Call, write, or email

Senators Boxer, Feinstein, Widen, Schumer, Feingold, Whitehouse, Brown, and Stabenow.

Demand they kill the bill in the Senate. It will be a shameful defeat that will confirm to the

distressed citizens of this country that our politicians are no longer willing or able to tackle

major problems and fix them.

And why were we defeated? At the forefront of our defeat are the insurance companies...

the worst corporate citizens in this nation! Millions of our healthcare premium dollars, those

hard-earned dollars we assumed go directly toward our unforeseen medical expenses, were

used against us, spent on lobbying to kill the very thing we've been crying for for over seventy

years, healthcare reform. And if that were not bad enough, these nefarious lobbying costs

will be totally recovered as tax deductions...the perfectly legal and simple cost of doing

business. Taken all together, it's a rigged game. Billions of taxpayer dollars, in various ways,

are given to the multimillionaires who run the nation's private health insurance companies.

Republicans are chuckling all the way to the ballot box and Democrats have no toes left to

shoot off. They win. We lose.

This national problem goes much deeper than the inability of our political leaders to

enact much needed healthcare reform. When the people are promised the good but are

offered the ugly, exactly who do "they" think "we" are? It would seem they've come to think

we are stupid. I happen to feel that's a big mistake on their part. Wouldn't you agree?

What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to

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