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Chernynkaya On January - 13 - 2010

The long debate over health care reform has now reached the end game, but there are still some obstacles to overcome before they can get a bill to President Obama’s desk. The question now becomes how the two houses of Congress can reconcile their differences.

The House and Senate versions of reform have many things in common, most important that both are projected to result in more than 30 million more Americans getting some kind of health coverage. The Senate and House bills both set up exchanges in which individuals without employer-sponsored health insurance and small businesses can shop for coverage. Both bills also include major reforms for the insurance industry that would prohibit insurers from excluding people from coverage for pre-existing conditions. Insurers also no longer would be able to base premiums on gender or occupation.

However, there are still some major areas of differences that both chambers must resolve. Here are the most important differences:

1. PUBLIC OPTION (and the health insurance exchange)

2. METHODS OF PAYING

  • Taxes
  • Coverage Mandates
  • Employer Mandates

3. ABORTION

4. MEDICARE

5. MEDICAID

1. THE PUBLIC OPTION

“I would let this bill go to conference committee and see if we can fix this bill more … Let’s see what they add to this bill and make it work. If they can make it work without a public option, I’m all ears.” -Dr. Howard Dean

Senate

No public option. In order to get the filibuster-proof 60 votes for the bill, Majority Leader Harry Reid scrapped the creation of a new government-run health insurance plan. It had been so weakened by the time it made it into Reid’s bill that it was expected to enroll only several million people, but it was still a deal breaker for conservatives like Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.

House

Contains a public option. The House bill would create a new government health insurance plan to compete with private insurers.  But even though they kept a public option in its bill, it would be financed solely by premiums without any government subsidization and is a far cry from the versions that liberals had pushed, which would have pegged reimbursements to lower Medicare rates. This “public option” would have to meet the same coverage requirements as private insurers.

The Negotiations

Although some House members have signaled that they may be willing to drop the public option in order to get a final bill that could get 60 votes in the Senate, they will insist on getting something in return. Probably from the insurance exchange, a web-accessible, marketplace for insurance. The likeliest concession from the Senate would be more generous federal subsidies for individuals and small groups shopping in the exchange, along with possible changes to the scope of the exchange itself.

The Senate bill calls for state-based exchanges, which would have less bargaining power with providers and insurers, but which appeal to moderates in the Senate afraid of big government. The exchange would be national under the House bill. This means that those shopping in the exchange – including many of the currently uninsured – would be bundled together in large pools. If House Dems give up the public option, they may insist that the exchange be national.

The Senate bill does have two other mechanisms for providing insurance outside the standard coverage options. Like the House bill, it would allow for and initially fund creation of non-profit consumer-owned health insurance cooperatives, though most economists say such coops would not have a major impact on the insurance market. The Senate bill would also allow the federal Office of Personnel and Management to contract with private insurers to offer at least two multi-state plans in each state exchange. These OPM negotiated plans could be less expensive than standard state-based insurance offerings, but their overall impact would be far less significant than a public option

The Senate bill would direct the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which oversees health policies for 8 million federal workers and their families, to contract with private insurance companies to offer policies on the exchanges.

2. METHODS OF PAYING

  • Taxes
  • Coverage Mandates
  • Employer Mandates

“I believe that the bill we passed in the House, though not perfect, would have been a major step forward in providing all Americans with quality, affordable health care that guarantees choice, and competition through a public option. Unless the final bill looks more like what we passed in the House, and less what we saw emerge from the Senate, I will not support it.” -Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY)

Both the Senate and House bills would reduce the deficit by more than $100 billion over ten years, but they get there in very different ways. Both the House and Senate bills raise revenue by penalizing Americans who don’t buy health care coverage (mandates). Both bills would reduce Medicare spending, largely from cuts in the Medicare Advantage program. Both bills would also tax medical device makers, with the Senate bill also calling for massive fees on the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries. The Senate bill includes special fees on insurers, drug companies and medical device makers and would impose a 10-percent tax on indoor tanning.

Senate

  • Taxes: The Senate bill would increase the Medicare payroll tax for families earning over $250,000 and individuals earning over $200,000, but would also tax health insurance itself, applying a 40% excise tax on health plans valued above $8,500 for individuals and $23,000 for families. (Only the amount exceeding these thresholds would be taxed.) This new tax on so-called “Cadillac plans” would raise $149 billion over 10 years. Exceptions would be made for Americans over 55, those working in high-risk jobs and (initially) those living in states where health care costs are highest. But the excise tax on Cadillac plans has another purpose – by discouraging high-value insurance plans, health care economists expect overall medical spending to decrease. And, by taxing the fast-growing cost of insurance itself, the Senate plan may have a better chance of keeping up with medical costs, something a high-income tax like the House’s would not accomplish. Research also indicates that when workers get lower cost health insurance plans through their employers, wages increase.
  • Coverage mandate: The Senate mandate would phase in a $750-per-person annual penalty up to $2,250 per family or a penalty of 2 percent of taxable income, whichever is greater. The full penalty would take effect in 2016.
  • Employer Mandates: The Senate bill has no employer mandate–per se. But large firms with more than 50 workers would have to pay a fine of $750 annually per worker if any of their employees obtain federally subsidized coverage on the exchange.

House

  • Taxes: The House plan is to tax high income earners and it generates far more revenue and doesn’t affect the middle class like the tax on health insurance plans likely would. (Municipal employees and manufacturing union members are among those with high value high plans that could exceed the excise tax threshold). The House bill mandate would impose a 2.5-percent penalty tax on income up to the average cost of an insurance policy.
  • Coverage Mandates: The House bill would impose a 2.5-percent penalty tax on income up to the average cost of an insurance policy.
  • The Employer Mandates:  House bill would require employers with payrolls above $750,000 to provide health insurance to workers. Those who do not provide insurance would face a penalty of 8 percent of payroll. Employers with a payroll between $500,000 would pay fines on a sliding scale of 2 percent, 4 percent and 6 percent of payroll. Workers with employer-sponsored plans with costs deemed unaffordable — exceeding 9.8 percent of salary — may drop that coverage and purchase federally subsidized insurance on the exchange. In those cases, the employer would pay a fine up to $3,000 per worker receiving the insurance subsidy.

The Negotiations

Unions have been pushing Democrats hard to eliminate the tax on Cadillac plans or at least raise the threshold for which plans would be taxed, which could bring House Democrats on board without alienating Senate supporters of the excise tax. To make up for the lost revenue, Senate Majority Leader Reid could agree to a Medicare payroll tax higher than what’s called for in the current Senate bill.

3. ABORTION

“I will not vote for the Senate bill regardless of the abortion language,” Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI)

Both sides in the debate generally agree on two things when it comes to health reform: federal funds should not be used to pay for abortions, and women should not lose their access to abortion services. The trick is how to keep public and private funds for abortion separate, and how far restrictions on abortion coverage can go before they effectively limit access.

Senate

The Senate bill, which was amended at the last minute to win the vote of Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson, would let states opt out of including plans with abortion coverage on the exchanges and would require anyone with abortion coverage to write two separate premium checks — one for the abortion coverage and one for the rest.

House

Also singles out abortion coverage as something patients must separately pay for, but by purchasing a rider. The House bill contains tougher language and it places stricter limits on abortion, prohibiting any insurance plans that cover abortion from participating in the public exchange and receiving subsidies.

The Negotiations

Reconciliation of the two versions is a numbers game for the Democratic leadership. Pro-choice politicians in both chambers are reluctantly willing to accept the abortion language in the Senate bill, but they have vowed to oppose health reform if the more restrictive House version wins out. At the same time, anti-abortion Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak, who authored the abortion restrictions in the House bill, is warning that he’ll bolt if the Senate version emerges from conference committee.

But the Senate version is strong enough for many of those anti-abortion Democrats, who are not insisting that Stupak’s language go untouched. And other changes in the Senate bill — including cost-saving measures, the elimination of the public option and certain family-planning measures such as increased adoption tax credits that anti-abortion Senator Bob Casey got put in — could pick up some additional Democratic votes even without Stupak’s support.

4. MEDICARE

“To those on the left, who are disappointed in what the bill does not do — and in some cases are even calling for its demise — I implore you to reconsider, to be a part of this solution even as we keep working on others, which I promise you I will do.”—Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)

Much of the cost containment in both bills centers on Medicare– for two reasons. First, because the Medicare is such a big component of the federal budget, and second because it drives much of what happens in the private health insurance market as well— spending more than $450 billion a year. Both bills reduce the reimbursements that Medicare pays health care providers and Medicare Advantage plans.

Senate

The Senate bill contains an element that President Obama, and many economists, consider to be a potential game changer on health care costs. That is a 15-member independent commission, known as the Independent Payment Advisory Board. The board would have the power to bring down Medicare spending when it exceeds a certain measure of inflation. There would be limits to what the board could do though. It would not be allowed to recommend anything that would ration care or change benefits for current Medicare recipients. Congress could block the commission’s recommendations, but only if it turns them all down at once rather than picking and choosing.

House

The House bill does not contain such a commission, mostly because lawmakers wanted to retain the ability to set Medicare payments (which can be channeled to hospitals in members’ own districts), and partly because the proposal has come up against opposition by senior citizens groups.

The Negotiations

President Obama has stated that he wants the Independent Payment Advisory Board in the final bill, so some version of it probably will be. What remains to be seen is whether there will be an effort to weaken the commission’s authority, and as a result, its ability to impact health costs.

There are also a number of other differences in the two bills with regard to Medicare. The House measure, for instance, would require that the HHS Secretary negotiate pharmaceutical prices directly with the drug companies — something that the Senate is not likely to go along with. And both bills would establish a number of pilot programs to test innovative methods of coordinating medical care among providers; one major question is how much power the HHS Secretary will have to implement those programs on her own, rather than having to seek Congress’ permission to do so.

5. MEDICAID

“We need strong leadership so close to the finish line, not efforts to water down a bill to the breaking point.” – Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (D-Ariz)

The Medicaid program is jointly administered (and paid for) by the state and federal governments. Both bills would transform and vastly expand its mission. Currently, depending on each state, it is generally available to low-income people only if they are also elderly, disabled or pregnant. Both bills would make qualifying for Medicaid available on the basis of low income alone. Many health-care experts have said this is the most efficient and cost-effective way of expanding coverage to those of limited means. However, there are differences in how the two bills would expand Medicaid.

Senate

The Senate bill would put fewer people into Medicaid and set the upper limit at 133% of poverty (or $29,300 a year for a family of four).

House

The House would put more people into the program. Under this bill, those earning up to 150% (or $33,000 for a family of four) of poverty would qualify. The bill is also more generous in helping states pay for their share of the newly eligible Medicaid recipients.

The Negotiations

State governments have a huge stake in this and will watch the negotiations. States’ budgets are already nearly broke, and they say that they cannot afford the additional burden. That is one reason Ben Nelson negotiated a special deal in which the government would pay the whole tab for the expansion. There are likely to be other lawmakers clamoring for similar arrangements. Additionally, some governors have warned that their states do not have enough providers willing to accept patients under Medicaid, which in many states pays very low reimbursement. The poverty level in 2009 for an individual was $10,830 and for a family of four $22,050. Many states have eligibility requirements below that level.

HOW WILL THE BILLS BE MERGED?

Leaders of the two chambers are still working out how they will go about doing this—and momentum is important. One option may be to forego the conference committee, which would have to bring more negotiators — including Republicans — into the room, and instead have the leaders and their key committee chairmen try to hammer out an agreement that would then be submitted to the House and Senate for a final vote.

Senate and House Democratic leaders, the chairmen of the five congressional committees that wrote the legislation and top White House officials will negotiate the final bill. Most of the discussions are likely to be held behind closed doors. Republicans obstructionism makes them irrelevant, so the talks will be on settling differences among liberal and conservative Democrats to win the needed 60 votes in the Senate and at least 218 in the House.

HOW QUICKLY CAN IT BE DONE?

Since the two chambers are working with similar bills, the final negotiations likely will weeks rather than months. Democrats would like to have a final bill by the time Obama delivers his annual State of the Union address to Congress. Presidents usually give the annual address in late January, but Obama could deliver it in early February, giving more time to congressional Democrats to secure a final deal. One factor that could delay things is that they need cost estimates from the Congressional Budget Office to make sure that the price tag for the final bill remains below $900 billion over the next decade — an amount that Obama has insisted upon as the upper limit.

CAN ANYONE KILL THE BILL?

It would be hard for opponents to kill it. The bill is the top legislative priority for Obama. His fellow Democrats are motivated to give him a major victory at the start of his second year in office. Most analysts say the final healthcare bill will be signed into law within the next several weeks despite Republican opposition and efforts to slow it down.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE HOUSE AND SENATE REACH AGREEMENT?

Both the House and Senate must pass the final version of the bill before it is sent to Obama for his signature.

Once it is enacted into law, some provisions would go into effect immediately, such as barring insurers from excluding coverage for children due to pre-existing conditions.

Democrats will emphasize the measure’s benefits as they try to protect their House and Senate majorities in November congressional elections. Republicans, who stand a good chance of taking some Democratic seats, are expected to stress Medicare spending cuts and tax increases in the bill.

Federal agencies will start writing regulations to implement the overhaul. A provision requiring everyone to purchase healthcare insurance might face a court challenge from people who believe the Constitution does not give Congress authority to require everyone to purchase a product from private companies.

“Nowhere has there been a bigger gap between the perceptions of compromise and the realities of compromise than in the health care bill. Every single criteria for reform I put forward is in this bill.” -President Barack Obama

Written by Chernynkaya

I am an artist and have lived in Los Angeles all of my life, except for a brief hippie period when I lived in SF. I am currently (semi-unwillingly) retired, but have had several careers.

105 Responses so far.

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  1. KQuark says:

    Cher another update. Like we talked about yesterday their seems to be a compromise deal with labor unions on the Cadillac taxes. It sounds like a good deal for them now. I like the common sense exemption for high cost healthcare states as well.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100115/ap_on_bi_ge/us_health_care_overhaul

    In a significant victory for unions, the 40 percent excise tax would not apply to policies covering workers in collective bargaining agreements, state and local workers and members of voluntary employee benefit associations through Dec. 31, 2017.

    Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., and others said the tax would apply to fewer plans than was the case in the Senate-passed bill and would exclude the value of dental and vision coverage. They added it would provide an exemption for residents of states where the cost of health care is particularly high, as well as for employees of high-risk professions.

    A positive unintended affect I was thinking about is that it could be a factor in more workers seeking collective bargaining agreements in future. With all the pressure to destroy unions in this country the playing field needs to be leveled even more.

    • choicelady says:

      KQ -- I totally agree that this could definitely increase union membership. But think of it! Hedge Fund Operators Local 101!!! Creepy Bogus Lenders Amalgamated!!! Brotherhood of United Overpaid Executives! Why -- the possibilities are endless!

      Seriously, thank you for this since it’s VERY GREAT NEWS. I knew they’d find a way!

      • KQuark says:

        😆 well they do have the sports players unions which are about the same.

        • choicelady says:

          Mentioned this to a labor union ally, and she said this is untrue because AFL-CIO said it was not very good.

          My whole reaction, even as one who taught and loved labor people at Cornell U. over many years, is -- HUH?

          I am fed up with the nit-picky pesky “hates” that people seem to need to have. It is very discouraging to have people get something beneficial and have them disparage it because it’s not perfect.

          I want to tell my allies: PEOPLE!!! REMEMBER 2000-2008!!! No matter what happens to almost anything, it is head and shoulders BETTER!!!! Get over yourselves! Grow up! Get a life!

          I really have to learn not to hold things in so much, doncha think?

          • nellie says:

            We’re under a real “rewrite history” assault from the Republican Party. I just find people to be too gullible. Too ready to believe what they hear instead of their own experience. It seems to be just part of the human condition. There will always be those who follow — even if it’s over the edge of the cliff.

  2. bitohistory says:

    As Much as I hate chasing the hourly rumor, I am going to post this tidbit. FWIW: Charlie Rangel says they are shooting for the compromise by this Friday. Like I say, For What It’s Worth

    • KQuark says:

      It seems like the end game is close. How are you doing Bito?

    • choicelady says:

      Hi- that would confirm what I was told yesterday save for the fact that it still has to go through some vetting in each house. I think there is still room for input during next week -- still in ping pong mode, but I’m not sure how locked it it will be to prevent the delaying tactics of the conservatives. I’m good with CA state stuff. Have to admit The Hill baffles me often. There are rules and exceptions to rules that I think one has to discover from being there. Has the transparency of various Mystic Orders sometimes…NOT.

      • bitohistory says:

        C’Lady, If you confirm, I believe.~~ House rules are hard to follow and they can be changed much easier than in the Senate. Just when one thinks they understand, smething new comes up. The one thing I do know, I want a size 15 foot in the door to get us to single payer, or insurance becoming controlled like a public utility.

        • Emerald1943 says:

          Someone wrote earlier that if we had regulation of the insurance industry, we would not need the public option or single payer either. And that’s a good point. But you know as well as I do that the insurance lobby is never going to allow that. They have what seems to be an unlimited amount of money to stuff into our lawmakers’ pockets!

          • choicelady says:

            Hi Em -- maybe not so much anymore. There are a number of things moving that would clamp a lid on them, and this is part of the deal that has to come if the pro-public option Dems are to pass whatever comes out. That was the best news I heard yesterday! I think the outrage against the insurance companies is felt all the way inside the Capitol by more and more legislators. I have some real hope that the exemption from anti-trust and the need to prove they have to have rate increases will be at least two major provisions of the bill when it’s finished. For me, hope springs eternal!

            • Emerald1943 says:

              Wow! Choice, This is the first I have heard of this about the anti-trust. Please, please…keep us posted. You seem to have some very good contacts to get information. Also, the rate increase thing. They should have to justify those increases just as the public utilities do.

              Maybe there’s light at the end of the tunnel…and it’s NOT an oncoming train! :-)

            • choicelady says:

              I’m glad to convey what I know since I talk to congressional staffers, but what I know can be obsolete five minutes later! That’s the problem with the closed doors -- we just do NOT know what’s going on. I understand why (so tea baggers don’t run amok)but it’s awfully frustrating!

        • choicelady says:

          Agreed! My size 5 1/2 (OK -- small but mighty) wants the same. But I’m a realist and cannot, as a single payer ally of mine insists, advocate to scrap this plan and go back to the drawing board. There are those 18 million people. How can I say to them, “Too bad. You’ll have to wait 2-10 years to get that breast cancer treatment you need.” I just CANNOT do that to anyone who is facing chronic illness or even death. But that said, I also CANNOT say to people “Too bad. You will have to spend a fortune on your health care and have no choice other than NO insurance again.” I am hoping that Pelosi, Rangle, Waxman, Reid, Dodd, Harkin et al. are being mindful of real human beings in real peril.

          Wish to hell I were a fly upon the wall. Where is Harry’s invisibility cloak when you need it?

  3. Chernynkaya says:

    Good Morning everyone! I slept late today and just got here to find that a wonderful discussion had occurred and to read such great compliments-- Thank you all for your support! It really matters what you guys think.

    • SueInCa says:

      For someone like me, it is hard for me to get my head wrapped around this whole debate. So for someone like you to take it on (someone I trust) it is all good. Thanks for all the hard work. My understanding from hearing Kucinich talking to Ed (i think) on MSNBC, the real sticking point is going to be that tax on excess for families and individuals? He said it averages out to .70 per hour of pay. I wonder if that means the overall cost of the premium yearly or the part the employee pays? I would think the overall premium. We pay, 5076.00 per year and PG&E matches that so a little over 11k a year. We are retired so not sure if that tax would apply to a pension check either.

      • Chernynkaya says:

        Hi, Sue! At this point they are still negotiating on the excise tax-- which I strongly disapprove of. Retirees are in a separate category in general, but municipal workers might wind up paying the tax on their plans. I have yet to read a convincing argument for not taxing the wealthy. I cannot find anything-- so far-- to really answer your question, but I will try!

        • SueInCa says:

          Hey Cher, you don’t have to do that, if it happens, we will just have to make the best of it, just like our recent increase(100 per month) and our increase in our mortgage because Wachovia miscalculated our taxes………grrrrrh We are always paying for bankings mistakes.

        • choicelady says:

          Alternatively, I keep hearing the tax is to be on the insurance companies, not the individuals. Both plans are afloat, but I understand (can’t recall from where) that the WH and Pelosi et al. are pressing for it either to be on REALLY huge plans that mostly are NOT given to working people OR on the companies. With some overall rate control, so they can’t pass that on, this could be very useful as a starting place for eroding the profitability of corporations that provide insurance. Which is a stupid way to provide health care coverage unless it IS controlled as in Europe. I’m OK with the latter. I doubt that the Dems are stupid enough to throw away labor support over this. I hope…

          • Chernynkaya says:

            C’lady, first off, thanks for adding so many informative comments to this thread!

            But about the taxes on the plans--I believe that there is the possibility that there will be taxes on both the insurers and on the plans. They are not mutually exclusive, and as you have said, none of this is finished yet.

            I think that even if insurers are taxed, they will have several years in which to raise their rates to compensate for the taxes. Different parts of the reform will go into effect at different times, allowing lots of chicanery.

            And let’s not forget the mandates-- which are a form of taxation IMO. Call it a fee, a penalty, a mandate-- all require money from consumers’ pockets.

            Finally, I agree that if ins.cos. were truly regulated, it would be closer to single payer-- but not really. There would always be the issue of who is regulating. Look at the EPA under Bush, e.g.

  4. kesmarn says:

    Cher, a very quick note to say how much I admire the hard work, thought and beautiful writing that is in this article. A serious mainstream publication would be crazy not to hire you away from the Planet and pay you mega-mega-bucks to do this. Don’t leave us, though!
    Looks like a work day for me, so I can’t take all the time I’d like to tell you how truly wonderful this piece is. But it is.

  5. Emerald1943 says:

    Good morning, Cher!

    Brilliant work! I haven’t seen anything like this comparison anywhere.

    Back during the heated debate over last summer, I fought long and hard for the public option to be included in the bill. I even traveled to Washington in September to attend a march in support of it, at some considerable personal expense. Our march was scheduled for the day AFTER the Glenn Beck/teabag demonstrations.

    It takes five days for a permit for any march or demonstration in the capitol. Mysteriously, our permit was canceled, with no reason given, four days prior to the march, while the teabaggers were allowed to go ahead with theirs. It was obvious that someone up there did not want us seen or heard that day. We were able to hold a small rally in the park adjacent to the Senate Office Building, out of sight and with no media…a tiny blip on the radar at best.

    I came back from that trip, discouraged and disillusioned. I wish I had a buck for every petition, letter, email and phone call I made in the belief that our Congress would do what is just and right for the American people. But that is exactly what they are NOT doing. This debacle may be viewed as “progress” by some, but in my opinion, this is nothing but a gold-plated give-away to the health insurance industry! And our representatives have been well paid to provide it for them! It looks like our government is totally under the control of the lobbyists and special interests, and there is not a damned thing we can do about it. They will pass this watered-down, bastardized bill mandating coverage without a public option. Never in the history of this country has there been a federal law passed requiring the purchase of a product from a private company. How can this pass the constitutionality smell test? I suppose you could mandate away homelessness by requiring that everyone buy a house…

    As the proceedings drag on, watch the insurance company stocks. You will be able to quickly tell who is winning this battle…and it ain’t the American people. It will be almost amusing to see what else they strip from the bill in committee…at least, it would be if it were not so deadly serious.

    I have written it before, and no doubt, I will write it again…until we demand sweeping campaign finance reform, we will not see any legislation passed by Congress that benefits the American working people over the big corporations! We do indeed have the best government money can buy!

    Sorry for the long rant, but this is a major sore spot with me! Thanks again for your hard work on this article. This is what I would call “REAL” journalism. I look forward to more from you!

    • KQuark says:

      I totally understand your frustration but I knew the PO was dead when it was not open to everyone. The last House version was a token PO and is not much different from a bill without the PO.

      I disagree that it’s just a giveaway to private insurance unless you say it’s also a giveaway by the federal government to give tens of millions of middle class families relief from paying higher premiums as well.

      Also the healthcare industry does not want this bill for good reason. It will finally reign in their worst practices and even limit their profiteering. It simply will benefit too many Americans then to summarize it in such stark terms.

    • choicelady says:

      Emerald -- We vigorously (and pretty much alone) opposed Gov. Schwarzenegger’s plan to mandate purchase in the private market. There is not even a term in economics for that! Only precedent I can find -- feudal tribute. That said, the way they seem to be moving is as Switzerland and Germany started -- yes, everyone has to have insurance, but the government (national or state is still an issue) regulates their premiums and makes HUGE provision (unlike CA) for lower-income people to have major support financially AND significant limits to deductibles and out of pocket expenses. MA and CA were proposing (and MA has) deductibles of $5K with OOP at $10K per person per year, and that’s outrageous. What I have read -- and who knows if this is still in the works -- is real subsidies and the possibility that all preventive medicine for the maintenance of health is NOT subject to deductibles -- that would come in for only hospitalization. If those provisions prevail, then this moves us WELL toward truly affordable health care coverage. If it capitulates to the insurance industry and follows the MA plan, it will not. Too many people in MA are using their insurance for only catatrophic care -- that is horrible.

      My organization is watching closely because what happens with the terms of the mandates does determine the degree of our support or opposition. Our principles of humane treatment of all people rests on understanding that health is a human responsibility, one to the other, and that we must share the abundance of our resources freely even as we practice good stewardship with them. My biggest problem is the bar to documented immigrants -- if they have lived here and paid taxes, why the five year wait? That’s outrageous. Compassion AND good health judgements also mean it makes good sense and is a moral imperative that undocumented immigrants be permitted to purchase insurance in the national exchange. Germs and viruses don’t know boundaries. All human beings deserve to have access to some kind of coverage. That also means the House desire to expand community clinics is essential -- that is where rural and urban poor as well as undocumented immigrants get the best assistance now. We need a much better network of those.

      So much of this hangs on details. We would prefer single payer, but if this follows the Swiss and German models, it will be moving us in the right direction for that. One of the strongest single payer supporters in CA has said if we had absolute rate regulation, you would not NEED single payer. That then remains a way of soothing the savage breast of fear mongers AND achieving what Switzerland and Germany have done.

      Getting what you want quietly and through incremental change always struck me as “the American way”!!!! We seem utterly incapable of massive alteration of the status quo, so starting well matters a very great deal. An earlier post (sorry I forgot whose) on Social Security, Medicare, et al. showed how long that took us to get right.

      Hope that brings you some small optimism, Em?

      • KQuark says:

        The Netherlands, Singapore and many countries have private only systems and most countries have hybrid systems like Japan that are lower cost than ours and more effective. With Medicare and Medicaid our system is actually going to be a hybrid system. It is now but without the universal coverage.

      • Emerald1943 says:

        Hey choice! Here is the quote from Cher’s article that I mentioned below:

        “Once it is enacted into law, some provisions would go into effect immediately, such as barring insurers from excluding coverage for children due to pre-existing conditions.”

        While this is most worthy of immediate passage, what about the rest of us? The devil is in the details.

        • choicelady says:

          Hi Em -- I’m answering above and below -- seemed easier.

          I learned yesterday from Sen. Sherrod Brown’s (D-OH) staff person on health that no, it’s NOT just for children. If all goes as planned (and I cannot be definite) then everyone with a pre-existing chronic or life-threatening condition and uninsured 6 or more months will immediately go into a catastrophic care pool and be covered. I have no idea what the terms of this might be, but it is intended for those who simply cannot afford or obtain coverage. That would be 18 million men, women, and children right off the bat.

          A word about the lack of transparency. Like Colbert’s The Word: tea bag (OK -- TWO words). The outrage from the right (and let’s be honest with Ms. AH even the left) has forced them to do this behind closed doors so their energies don’t have to go in putting out fires based on lies (You LIe! and Death Panels!) instead of creating a decent bill. I don’t like it. I do understand it. If I were there, I’d do the same. There are only so many fools a body can entertain in a day.

          Do I have hopes? Yup. The parties involved are all progressives save Baucus, whose personal problems with favoritism for his girlfriend have subdued him, and that means a great deal. The Baucus “Never Met an Insurance Donation I Did Not Like” bill is dead. Doesn’t mean we will get the public option (though I wish the WH and Reid would now melt Lieberman into the ground for the 60th vote) but we will likely get a vastly better plan than Baucus’s with a lot of what the House prefers.

          Pelosi and Obama are leaning HARD on true affordability and broad access with an emphasis on fulfilling the essential democratic and humane promises of America. This information I derived from Pelosi’s health care consultant yesterday, and I believe it.

          One thing I asked Brown’s consultant was whether the conservatives could use delaying tactics, and she said not much -- there will be a couple of 60-vote hurdles, BUT when this bill comes forward, IT CANNOT BE AMENDED which leaves out the Reep playbook of stalls and obfuscations!

          Because it cannot be amended it is essential that we all express our wants NOW. It really does matter. Write to Reid and Pelosi if no one else -- they take email from everyone.

          Will this be perfect? Nope. But it can be beneficial to millions if we make clear that we won’t settle for paying for something we cannot afford to use. I really believe we are being heard, and I think this will prove to be a good first step.

          Hope that helps?

          • Emerald1943 says:

            Choice, yes it helps. It has been difficult to get much detail in the past couple of weeks, I guess, due to the closed door meetings. I don’t like it either, but I can understand. It has been nice not to see Mitch McConnell or John Boehner on TV everytime there is an open mic.

            Yesterday, I believe it was Chuck Todd of NBC that made the statement that the White House was “exhausted” from political battles…not his exact words but that’s the gist. I would imagine that they are! They are probably glad to take a little media break from all the hoopla on this subject.

            • choicelady says:

              Indeed! I respect the degree to which the President has left this to Congress and then the degree to which he is now wading in. That is a critical balancing act. He learned from the Clinton debacle that this had to be done by Congress first. He knows from history that now his presence and leadership are essential. I’m very admiring of his respect for the democratic process. Democracy is messy. No way around that.

            • Emerald1943 says:

              I got really PO’d at how the President was being crucified for not getting into the fray earlier. I had written the same thing that he was a student of history and knew well what the Clintons went through. I just hope he will be very involved now. We need him to be!

      • Emerald1943 says:

        Hi Choice! Good to see you here! Yes, I know that the incremental way is the way change will have to come. We don’t do too well with the pitchforks and torches in the streets like the French do! :-)

        I agree with you about the responsibility part. We all do need to participate to make sure that the least of us has decent medical care. But I fail to see how that is going to happen with this bill. Forcing people to buy expensive insurance from the same greedy bastards who have been ripping us off for years doesn’t seem like the best way. If I could see some serious cost controls or rate regulation, I might feel better about it. As I said, it will be interesting to see how much more is stripped out of the bill in committee.

        I noticed one item in Cher’s article about the denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions…it mentioned only children. Perhaps I read it the wrong way.

        • choicelady says:

          Hi Em -- you made me laugh a lot because with respect to the CA budget, I end my emails to allies: “Pitchforks! Torches! To the streets!”

          You have to save that for REALLY big stuff, and Arnold’s disgusting, anti-people budget would be that big stuff.

          On the other hand, I don’t see anyone behind me with more pitchforks…Sigh.

          • Emerald1943 says:

            Choice, neither do I. :-(

            The problem, I believe, is that so many millions in this country have employer provided health care coverage and are happy with it. The public option, for instance, will not affect that many people, and many of those are the poor, the unemployed, some of which really don’t have access to let their voices be heard. They do have advocates but those advocates are drowned out by the lobbyists and the industry scare tactics. It’s hard to get the average American couch potato to get up, turn off the TV, and get involved, especially when they listen to Faux every day and believe the lies and distortions.

    • javaz says:

      Good morning, Em.
      Was a reason given for denying or canceling your permit?
      This is disturbing to learn about this, and makes me wonder about the motives of those who issue such permits for protest.
      Very troublesome and my conspiracy-loving mind is kicking into overdrive.

      • Emerald1943 says:

        Hi javaz! I never learned of any reason for the permit to be revoked. It was apparently arranged some weeks in advance by a Democratic Congressman…can’t recall his name but will find it and let you know. Apparently, his office was responsible for pulling the permit too. ???????

        We were originally supposed to gather on the National Mall at noon that day. If you have been there, you know it’s HUGE, stretching from the Washington Monument to the Capitol building. We were supposed to meet and march to the Capitol. The organizers attempted to contact everyone by email to let them know NOT to meet there, but instead to go to the park next to the Senate building up on the hill. I suspect that many people did not get the message and when arriving at the Mall, did not see the rest of us. It is a rather secluded spot, surrounded by large trees and out of sight of the Mall itself. I saw one local TV cameraman there, but no other coverage. If you remember, the teabaggers got PLENTY of coverage of their event.

        The circumstances were just too strange! I remember seeing a group of Jamaicans, perhaps 250 in number, demonstrating on the very steps of the Capitol Building at that same time. I guess that was more important than our little issue…snark, snark!

        • choicelady says:

          Hi Em -- at the same time, a fair number of progressive faith leaders were given the same standards as yours -- off to the side, mostly out of sight. It was their belief that the issue was safety -- that even though the teabag group was quite small, it was considered potentially very dangerous. So the Capitol police moved to keep the groups very much apart. Since the teabag folks had gotten the first permit, the rest (you, clergy) were in second-class space. I don’t LIKE that, but upon reflection, that might have been a good strategy. The teabag people here in Sacramento last summer were downright scary. I’m usually pretty outspoken, but I avoided them like the plague. So it might not have been designed to silence you so much as to protect you. Can’t say that for sure, but that is what happened to the clergy group.

          • Emerald1943 says:

            Thanks choice! That makes sense, except that the tea baggers were there the day before, not on the same day. Some of them were still in town but were mostly doing the tourist bit, visiting museums, etc. I saw some of them in the Smithsonian while I was there. They were in their charter buses all over town, but very few on foot as we were.

            You’re right about them being scary though! Thanks for the info.

            • choicelady says:

              Gosh Em -- the clergy were there with the teabag folks, so your experience is deeply troubling. I’d missed the fact it was AFTER they’d disbanded. That is NOT good. I don’t understand that. Has anyone asked the Capitol cops WHY? Sometimes it takes a direct question to get an answer (true, indifferent, or bad!) I don’t like to read this though -- those are leftover Bushie tactics.

            • Emerald1943 says:

              I was not among the organizers of the event. I sent several emails after I returned home, trying to get some answers, but I never got any reply. I really never thought of calling the Capitol police.

              Another march was to be held in October, but it never took off. There was some talk of a march scheduled for tomorrow in Washington..Jan.15th,but I have heard nothing about it from MoveOn or anyone else. I don’t know if it’s still being held.

        • escribacat says:

          Emerald, I was wondering what happened with that. I remember getting emails and reading posts about it but then it seemed to just vanish when the time came. Very strange. And how frustrating that people like you went to all the effort to go here.

          • Emerald1943 says:

            Hi e-cat! Good to see you! It was really strange. I am going to try to find the name of the Congressman who got the permit…and then had it revoked. I wonder if he is on the lobbyists’ payroll!

            • Emerald1943 says:

              Hey Choice and E-cat!

              I just found the Congressman’s name…Chaka Fattah, D-PA 2nd.

              He was reportedly the one who obtained the permit in the first place. I was told that it was his office that requested that it be revoked.

              I just looked at his campaign donations and will have to do a little more digging. The donations listed were not broken down into categories such as health care, etc. I’ll post more when I find it.

            • bitohistory says:

              Em, did you go to this site and do a search on him? http://www.govtrack.us/
              You may find a list of his contributors there.
              Edit: govtrack uses opensecrets, so never mind.

            • Emerald1943 says:

              I went to OpenSecrets.org and it looks like Rep. Fattah did not receive a large amount of health care lobbying money, so that blows that theory. He did have much more from Labor than other categories.

  6. AdLib says:

    Cher, your remarkable article is evidenced by the remarkable responses it has inspired.

    Especially mine.

    Seriously, excellent and thorough job!

    As to the points you raise, it would be wise for Obama to back and the Senate to support a nationalized exchange. The Progressives have had the Public Option ripped away from them, this could be at least a modest salve on that wound and not be another unnecessary kowtowing to the insurance corporations.

    On methods of paying, this seems like a simple one. The wealthy, who have made more money than ever off of destroying health care and our economy pay or the middle class and lower middle class pays. Obama doesn’t seem to recognize that people have to pay their taxes just two months before primary elections. They will indeed remember having to scrape up thousands of dollars to pay taxes (which the wealthy don’t have to pay their fair share of due to offshore banking and loopholes). And the reason for those taxes? They have good health insurance plans.

    Huh? People should be taxed BECAUSE they have excellent health insurance? That is so messed up! This will undermine Obama if it is the case, the union folk will not donate generously as they did in 2008 since they will have to donate thousands to the IRS instead.

    There is a possible wild card in passing HCR. If Coakley was to lose Teddy’s old seat in MA to a Repub, they would not have 60 votes in The Senate. Then what?

    It is possible though not probable that she could lose, she has been losing her lead in polls taken on probable voters.

    I just wish we had a Senate Leader with balls who would just use the Nuclear Option to get rid of the filibuster, bring democracy back to The Senate and pass the robust health care reform with a Public Option open to all, just as the public wants.

    • KQuark says:

      Cher’s story exemplifies the type of journalism we are missing today. First it answers all the W questions and How which is the foundation of journalism. She states the facts in a tremendously organized fashion with quotes from the key news makers. Then she intertwines her thoughtful opinion with the facts in a wonderfully written argument. Most of all she shows by omitting present day hyperbolic spin that you can have a straight opinion piece based on facts that does not have a hidden agenda.

      Speaking of budget reconciliation, one thing we have not heard about at all is how this Congress is going to deal with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts.

  7. whisperingn woods says:

    Wow, first of all a very impressive article by Cher, very informative!
    I like the house version better. A bill with taxes and no public option, what was Reid thinking?

  8. Chernynkaya says:

    Got his in my email today from Rep. Anthony Weiner. It is worth replying to, methinks.

    Dear xxxx,
    Many of the questions and comments I got when I convened an open chat about health care reform last month expressed concerns about the direction of the negotiations to combine the House and Senate health care bills. We know the Senate passed a weaker bill. I

  9. Hopeington says:

    I’m going to have to save this til later Cher, but, from what I’ve read so far, I can tell I’ll be better informed after I do!!
    I’ve got to go take care of things outside before the rain starts pouring down again!!

  10. Chernynkaya says:

    Editors: Thank the WordPress gods or godesses for fixing that pesky glitch in the bulletin points. I tried and tried, repeatedly screwing up ALL the formatting and still couldn’t get that weird bullet to behave!

  11. KQuark says:

    Cher excellent rundown of the situation and substantial differences in the two bills. Obviously the House bill is better, save for the Stupak amendment, for progressives.

    I’m not totally against taxing private insurance for their highest cost plans. The biggest problem I have now is that the ceiling is too low and will affect too many middle class workers. One of the things that perpetuates private insurance is that they get a double free ride by cooking their books to maintain “non-profit” status like BCBS and no matter how high premiums go up they are tax exempt. Both these factors lead to upward pressure in premium costs and worse solidifies the employee based system we have.

    I’m glad the president is supporting the House version of the national exchanges because that’s the biggest way in a private and non-profit model to put downward pressure on healthcare costs.

    Time an time again I try to get this point across but it falls on deaf ears many times, just pooling the risk in a universal or near universal system lessens the increase in healthcare costs by the largest factor. I learned that from Krugman and an unaffiliated Commonwealth Fund study.

    How universal healthcare lowers costs.

    http://www.commonwealthfund.org/Content/Publications/Fund-Reports/2009/Jun/Fork-in-the-Road.aspx

    With no universal healthcare costs will rise 6.5%
    With only private universal healthcare costs will rise 5.8%
    With universal healthcare with public option costs will rise 5.6% (keep in mind this number was tabulated considering the PO would be available to all not only to the uninsured like the last House version so cost decreases would be much lower.)

    The Commonweal Fund has done another study of the two bills and this biggest difference is the House bill will provide more coverage to more people faster and cheaper.

    http://www.commonwealthfund.org/Content/Publications/Fund-Reports/2010/Jan/Health-Insurance-Provisions.aspx?page=1

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Thanks KQ! One of my greatest frustrations with the way this debate has been framed is that almost every member of Congress involved keeps on claiming that the goal is to reduce costs of premiums. That is clearly not the case. As you point out, only universal coverage (or even mostly “universal”) will meaningfully cut costs. And they know it and we know it.

      While I am still opposed to taxing union plans, I am somewhat mollified after learning the excise tax on Cadillac plans has another potential advantage of decreasing overall medical spending. (Now, from what I read I am not at all sure that a decrease in SPENDING is a decrease in COST!) And, by taxing the fast-growing cost of insurance itself, the Senate plan may have a better chance of keeping up with medical costs, something a high-income tax like the House

      • KQuark says:

        I’m so glad to find someone who can speak the language and understand all the ramifications of each policy issue.

        I consider universal coverage to be the greatest moral issue. The fact is both plans don’t do enough but the House is better.

        The most direct way to exempt unions is to exempt collective bargaining agreements but of course the consequence of that is non-union people with cry foul. The ceiling is way to low now if they make it much higher it will exempt many union plans as well.

        I see where today that Dem leaders are meeting to resolve these issues.

        http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100113/ap_on_bi_ge/us_health_care_overhaul

        • javaz says:

          I so agree that health care for all is a moral issue and that is the one thing that I do not understand about the Christian right of the Republican Party.
          I know, I know, the GOP talk a good talk, claiming to be the party of God, since they are anti-choice, abstinence only, and anti-gay marriage but those are their only issues.
          A person might think that the religious leaders, the evangelicals that preach against choice, pre-marital sex and gay marriage would also preach about caring for those among us who are sick and cannot afford care.
          Religion has always had its own hypocrisy, but I just cannot understand how any Republican voter that considers themselves Christian, cannot see that health care for all is exactly what Jesus would have wanted.
          I’m not up on my bible verses, but didn’t Jesus say something about helping the poor among us?
          What you do for the poor, you do for Me? kind of thing?
          Then again, look at the evangelical response to Haiti.
          Remember the evangelical response to gays and AIDS.
          I consider myself a religious person, even though I no longer go to church, and one of the reasons is because of GWB and the hypocrisy of even the Catholic Church in supporting the GOP.
          (sorry for rambling, but I detest hypocrisy)

          • choicelady says:

            Brilliant analysis Cher! I was finally on a call with Rep. Pelosi’s health care consultant, and we did not get such specifics. This is great -- where DID you get the info? It’s just superb.

            As far as the religious right (I represent the religious left, so to speak) the rationale lies in things I’ve discussed elsewhere. If you believe in nothing but Jesus as personal salvation, you believe the YOYO principle of life: you’re on your own. The idea of the Common Good -- surely embedded in the Sermon on the Mount and the whole message and teachings of Jesus -- is rejected. The dovetailing of individual salvation with individualism in the secular world works well for them -- look out for No. 1, and hang the other guy. There are those extremists who claim there is a code in the Bible that says that now we’re in the “End Times” before the Second Coming, the teachings of Jesus are no longer operational. Very convenient, if you believe exclusively in the UTTERLY AMORAL FREE MARKET. The mainstream Protestant denominations believe in the Common Good and most Catholics never mind the Bishops. We have a national network supporting key principles that this bill must embrace, and we were told Pelosi and the lead folks in the Senate actually target these goals as well -- Accessible, Accountable, Affordable, Inclusive. Nancy Pelosi calls it a bill with a “Triple A Rating”. To see the vision statement (I helped write it) go to faithfulreform.org. It is where the majority of faith people are on this issue.

            The religious right is faltering. One has only to listen to Pat Robertson on Haiti to know their own days are numbered.

            We support single payer, are part of the CA OneCareNow campaign to get it, but it’s not on the table at the federal level. Instead, we’re building a system that’s rather like that in Switzerland and Germany, based on regulated private insurance. Ours, as theirs was in early days, is imperfect, but I have great hope that the really good stuff will prevail, and that the 18 million who are in dire straits and who will immediately get covered for their chronic or life-threatening conditions, will now find relief.

            In Matthew 10 Jesus told the disciples that they needed first -- before anything else -- to go into the communities and heal the sick. Not miraculously but through the standards of medical care of the time. First heal, then, when people are well, talk about a new form of faith that embraces the equality of all human beings. Any Christians who thinks health care should be private, that you don’t have to care about your neighbor’s well being and that of even the stranger among us, is turning his or her back on their own origins.

            Thank you, Cher. This is incredibly helpful.

            • Khirad says:

              Were you referring to the pseudo-Kabbalistic Bible Code or Dispensationalism?

            • choicelady says:

              Neither -- it’s standard evangelical/Pentecostal views. In the hands of the dispensational folks, it’s become rabid -- repent or burn in hell when the End Times are here. But it has permeated all conservative theology -- it binds so wonderfully with the self-centered aspects of capitalism. Mainstream Protestantism tends to be Social Gospel oriented -- learning from the teachings of Christ and the prophets to bring about paradise on earth for the good of all. KQ -- can’t reply to you below, but it Khirad is drawing from the extremist theology that has led vast numbers of RW people to believe this is the end of days for which you must prepare. First comes the Rapture when the saved are whisked into Heaven. Then 7 years of Tribulation which is hell on earth. You can still be saved -- the rules are unbelievable -- then Christ will come again. One rule -- Christians must be nice to Jews. Must be comforting after 2000 years of persecution to know that for 7 years Jews will be accepted. It’s here that extremist Christians such as Hagee make pacts with Israel to fulfill the prophecy of rebuilding the Temple so Christ can return. It’s terribly bizarre.

            • Khirad says:

              I figured it was all an issue of terminology. 😉

              Looking into how they rationalize it Biblically is even more alarming. It’s the ultimate in picking and choosing to fit a preconceived objective.

            • KQuark says:

              Ah that movement I am aware of but have not studied it enough to learn the jargon.

            • Khirad says:

              Well KQ, the Evagangelicals/Pentacostals, etc, having dropped their earlier blood libel attitudes towards Jews allied with the AIPAC neocons in part on Dispensationalist interpretaion of the rebuilding of the Temple Mount and ushering in the End Times. This is the most dangerous intersection of Religion and politics. Watch the 700 club and their ‘rabbi’ (he’s the most disgusting of all, how does he feel about being used to be sent to hell?).

              I know you’re aware of this all. Dispensationalism (and I forget which specific type, Millennial?) is the name of what they base their foreign policy on -- or at least the base from which they cynically exploit to gain support for it.

            • KQuark says:

              What language are you writing your post in Khirad? 😉

              I have to admit I’m ignorant about most religions and if they did not affect government and society I probably would know nothing about them.

          • SueInCa says:

            The Jesus they worship is the guy with the blood dripping from his sword and he is a he-man jesus, it not the Jesus the rest of us know about.

          • Chernynkaya says:

            Hi Javaz!We need ChoiceLady here to tell us that most Christian Churches are not like the ones we hear about. (At least, I hope that’s what she’d say.)

            • choicelady says:

              That’s what I’d say!

              Most Protestants do not dwell on the suffering -- that is not the point for us at all. Mel Gibson’s movie is almost pornographic in that regard. MANY people suffered what Jesus did -- crucifixion was commonplace.

              In Protestant churches you don’t see the cross with the body hanging on it (sorry Catholic people but I find that unsettling.) It is the empty cross -- the symbol of a choice Jesus made, for that’s what it was -- a choice , that moves us so deeply.

              After his 40 days of agonized solitude trying to decide what to do, Jesus returned to Jerusalem KNOWING that his fate was going to be hideous. That is the choice: to walk into peril for what he believed. It has been similar to the courage of MLK, Jr. and others who consciously risked everything for a better world. That is what makes me cry on Good Friday, not the crucifixion but the CHOICE to stand against the powers of the time and risk everything to proclaim that there could be a vastly better world of equality.

              Amazing for then and even for now to have that notion we are all one, all equal, all worthy. He knew that proclaiming equality of all people and defying the powers that be would cost him his life in a horrible way. And he did it anyway.

              I never liked Easter because I don’t believe it literally, but a very wise minister told me that what comes is not a phantasm but HOPE. Hope for a better world.

              It’s the hope, the possibility, the ability to make change, the focus on our common humanity that drives most of us on.

              And if there is anything to which I feel committed as a manifestation of that, it is to assuring that for those in pain, suffering, fear, terror at losing a loved one because you cannot get health care -- that all that wretched injustice ends with the health care bill.

              We work not for personal salvation but for justice for all people. That is WHY Christ re-entered Jerusalem. Not to save individual souls (no matter what Pat Robertson says!) but to spread the message that we don’t have to be victims of undue power, class warfare, want, pain, or injustice ever again.

              And what better way to begin than to assure that people can be healthy?

              So yup. That’s what choicelady the Churchlady would say.

            • Hopeington says:

              Wow choicelady, I was moved by this comment. I had consciously put aside my thoughts and knowledge about Jesus for years.
              I was raised Catholic, I left at 15, and have always had the mind set of, “leave Jesus out of it”. I felt they had used and abused his life and teachings, I didn’t want to be part of it.
              40 odd years later it seems his name is even more used and abused than ever.
              But, what you said, or how you said it, allowed me to remember some
              Good Vibes about Jesus I’d denied myself for so long…Thank You

            • KQuark says:

              Excellent find Khirad.

              I can see some dumb fuck from Alabama now saying “Jesus was a what!?” watching that.

              He better not come back like that because the right wing in this country will be first in line to crucify him. If one of our drones did not get him first of course.

            • KQuark says:

              On your point the Roman Catholic church is a guilt manufacturing machine.

            • KQuark says:

              ChoiceLady my favorite is the Catholic official picture of Jesus. A blond light skinned man with Roman features.

            • javaz says:

              I’m not a person that watches those religious preachers on the tee-vee, but I have seen Joel Osteen, and when I see him on Sunday mornings while flipping channels, I admit to watching him.
              I really like him for the things he says.
              He’s uplifting and doesn’t quote scripture, but is more of a positive thinking kind of guy in relation to God.
              He speaks of hope and tells jokes, instead of condemning people or preaching hate.
              He’s apolitical, which really pisses off the evangelicals, and they are trying very hard to destroy him.
              Google his name and read the hate from the right about him being a fake Christian.
              Osteen is very very popular though, because he is a kind, gentle soul, and sure, he’s in it for the money, but it’s his message that resonates with people, imho.
              And he’s the head of one those humongous church’s, and when he publishes a book they are always best sellers.
              He’s so unlike the evangelical TV preachers.

              Hi Cher!!!
              Am very concerned for b’ito.
              He had that medical app’t today and I sure hope he’s okay.

            • choicelady says:

              I once saw Alex Baldwin’s kid brother -- one of the most extremist RW Christians -- say, “I love Jesus! I just LOVE Jesus” to which my response was -- gag me with a spoon. It’s creepy. Then I watched that Discovery program -- and saw a Jesus that fought BACK against his slaughter, A Jesus that was REAL and HUMAN and determined, brave, not submissive. And it flashed through my mind, “I love you.” I was floored by that. That’s so NOT me! But it opened this flood of understanding that I do the work I do because yes -- THAT Jesus, like MLK, Jr. like Gandhi, Mendala, and so many amazing people, stood in front of hate, let his life go -- an act of incomparable courage -- to profess the truth of love, justice, and a better world. And suddenly, I realized that Baldwin gagged me because his Jesus is HIS alone -- embraced for his personal gain (getting saved) while this depiction was of someone I could passionately admire and follow, NOT for my own sake (I think when you die that’s pretty much it) but for whatever I can do to make the world better. It was transformative. The docudrama was the first ever that made Jesus someone worth paying attention to. And he was NOT blonde and blue eyed!

            • Khirad says:

              As far as the megachurch types go, he is a vast improvement to the old fire and brimstone order.

            • Chernynkaya says:

              I know — about Bito I mean (can’t say i ever watched Osteen :-) ) We’ll have to stay on the lookout!

            • SueInCa says:

              She would. I am sure of it. You need to watch out for the evangelical groups, not all of them, but most. They are very deceptive. For instance just because they are Assemblies of God, does not mean they are extreme, you have to see if they have denounced/changed their theology from the HQ church. Palin’s church is of the dominionist theology, most of the AOG are not.

            • choicelady says:

              My experience with AOG is not good. They were and are in the forefront of a lot of things such as the anti-abortion extremism. John Ashcroft is a deacon or elder in AOG. But as things go these days, they are hardly the worst of them. In terms of hate crimes and acts of violence, most extremists belong to very NON mainstream evangelical or Pentecostal churches -- splinters of splinters like Coral Gables and Crystal Cathedral that are non-aligned with any major denomination. Roll your own Christianity has a lot to answer for! Much of it is grounded not in churches but political organizations and movements. It’s gotten very weird.

        • Chernynkaya says:

          Likewise, KQ. And yes, we haven’t even touched on the moral issue, but it also needs to be discussed-- Obama himself did so during the debates.

          I have read that AFL-CIO head Trumpka has pretty much given up on no taxes at all for union plans, but I can tell you that union members are very angry. We have made so many salary concessions to get those, and I don’t believe for a second that salaries will rise in lieu of health care benefits.

          • choicelady says:

            One thing I do keep hearing is that the tax would be on the INSURANCE corporations, not the individual. That I could live with. Seems like a sensible thing to do. Trumpka is ever so right to be mad!

          • KQuark says:

            They have a good argument to be angry and that’s why Dems should seriously consider higher ceilings and exemptions.

            There are many factors pushing down salaries, healthcare is but one. Other factors like an over productive workforce and outsourcing will not go away. I heard the head of Manpower the other day and he frankly said businesses are happy with the current environment because they are getting more from employees for less. The biggest untold conspiracy in big business is how companies collude to depress salaries.

            • choicelady says:

              KQ -- you are right on the money.

              A book everyone should read (from the library -- it costs a lot these days) is “Crisis of Democracy” by Michael Crozier, Samuel Huntington, and Joji Watanabe. It was published in 1975 and is THE blueprint for building a global economic system. First thing -- repress democracy (they call it the democratic distemper) and extablish control by informed elites. Do away with unions to control all wages and thus improve profits. End a free press -- they need compliance and free PR. And on and on and on. It was sponsored by the Trilateral Commission and was imported into the White House by Jimmy Carter who was a member. It was he who laid the ground for Reagan, the neo-cons, and the global movement to build a worldwide ruling class with the rest of us subservient to that system. And it’s all come true. It’s not a conspiracy, it’s a blueprint. Always good to know these things -- it’s how you start to right the wrongs. BTW -- it’s still being used in colleges, so we need to keep up with its directives. The forces of dominance have NOT gone away!

            • choicelady says:

              Yes Khirad -- THAT Samuel Huntington. I don’t hear much about the Trilateralists either, but that may be because it’s succeeded so well it does not matter so much. It may also be because Bush wanted a UNIlateral US dominance and brought the corporate types with him. God forbid he, as a born again pseudo-Christian, should want to SHARE. Seriously, I think the organization is less needed because they have accomplished so much of what they set out to do in 1975.

            • Khirad says:

              Is that the same Huntington as Clash of Civilizations Huntington?

              Haven’t heard the Trilateral Commission for a long time.

              I believe this covers what you were talking about with Carter --

              http://www.chomsky.info/books/priorities01.htm

            • Chernynkaya says:

              God, KQ that’s a great comment. Someone, (hint, hint) should really write about that!

            • KQuark says:

              Unfortunately all the evidence is in the result because corporate America does a great job to get their employees to enter the cone of silence when it comes to salaries. Many companies still fire employees that tell other employees their salaries. It’s almost like a de facto racism case which is the most difficult to prove. Salaries are just way too close in the same regions and professions for their not to be collusion.

  12. nellie says:

    Cher, you are awesomeness.

    I have to read this a few times before I comment, but wow — what a great job of reporting.

  13. Chernynkaya says:

    Hi Nellie-- thanks for suggesting I do this! Now, once again, I failed to post it on the main page, didn’t I? 😳


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