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Scheherazade On December - 19 - 2009

Despite the fiasco that the Senate has made of things we are now faced with a simple question: what now? We know we aren’t going to get what we want. In fact we knew that the minute that single payer was off the table, but now we’ve got even less to be enthusiastic about, or have we? It seems that people have their views on this matter and are expressing them everywhere. Andy Stern has told us “[d]on’t [k]ill the [b]ill. Fix it.” Howard Dean has told us this “wouldn’t bring real reform.” The list of people who have opinions on this matter include Bill Clinton and Victoria Kennedy as voices of experience. However, there is one person who has been left out of this discussion, and that one person is suppose to be the real reason we’re doing this. The American citizen’s voice seems to get lost in this, but it didn’t get lost in an article I read on Talking Points Memo. In it we read the following:

From TPM Reader AK …
If I feel abandoned, it’s not by Obama and the Democratic party, it’s by those on the left advocating to kill the bill.
I am unemployed and have a pre-existing condition that requires daily medicines, quarterly doctors visits and an annual test. I am on COBRA, which runs out mid-2010, when I will have to find new health insurance. I will need to purchase some kind of health insurance, assuming I can find provider who will insure me
I don’t pretend to understand all the intricacies of the health care reform bill, but I do read a lot. From what I can glean, if the bill passed, I would be able to find health insurance because I could not to be turned down due to my pre-exisiting condition. And based on my income at the moment, my premuims [sic] would be subsidized.
Am I disappointed in the reform effort? Yes. I believe in single payer. I was terribly disappointed the Medicare buy-in for 55 and older was dropped, not because I give a rat’s ass about Lieberman or the political wrangling involved, but because I am two years shy of 55 and I would have loved to be able to tough it out on the private market for a little while longer knowing Medicare coverage was just around the corner. Believe me, it’s scary being 52 and unemployed with a medical condition. Any form of security is vital.
My case is not unique or unusual. In fact, it is common. I am one of thousands if not millions with the same issues that this bill would affect. And when I read or hear people from the left arguing against the bill that would likely provide me and people like me with some modicum of security because the bill doesn’t accomplish everything they had hoped it would or it doesn’t help every last person or the insurance industry will benefit, I do feel abandoned.

Have we become so wrapped up in ideology or pragmatism that we’ve forgotten about AK?

None of us are truly happy with this bill. I stopped feeling enthusiasm when the Public Option was removed. In my view the fact that Medicare was being expand wasn’t enough. As I saw it no Public Option meant no bill. The choice between Public Option and expanding Medicare is now gone. So the question remains: is this a good bill?

We’ve all seen the fear mongering and heard how this is a takeover. We also know that these myths have long since been debunked, but now we actually face the possibility that the mandates might become the problem the right has been claiming all along. I certainly don’t mean to say that it would be the end of the world that wingers have claimed, but could we really be fined because we don’t have coverage? Does this really show that we’re about to become slaves to the insurance industry? In the words of a well known critic of this administration “the objections over the mandate are largely identical — it’s a coerced gift to the private health insurance industry that underwrites the Democratic Party.” To me this is an oversimplification of the matter. Ed Kilgore has explained things more concisely.

[T]here’s now a tactical alliance between conservative critics of “ObamaCare,” who view the regulation and subsidization of private health insurers as “socialism,” and progressive critics of the legislation who view the same features as representing “neo-feudalism.”
To put it more bluntly, on a widening range of issues, Obama’s critics to the right say he’s engineering a government takeover of the private sector, while his critics to the left accuse him of promoting a corporate takeover of the public sector. They can’t both be right, of course, and these critics would take the country in completely different directions if given a chance.  But the tactical convergence is there if they choose to pursue it.

Kilgore’s words give me reason to pause and wonder if perhaps we’ve all become so caught up in idealism or pragmatism that we’ve lost all sense of what this is about. Are we really Obama’s doormat, or is this the best chance we have to make progress? Without knowing what’s going to be in the bill I can’t know if it’s worth passing, but I do know AK thinks it might be.

88 Responses so far.

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  1. Chernynkaya says:

    The email just now from Nancy deParle at the White House:

    “Dear Friend,

    After months of debate this year, and decades of gridlock before, our country is closer than ever to passing the single most important piece of domestic legislation since Social Security. This is no small feat. There’s a reason that presidents from Truman to Nixon to Clinton have called for, but been unable to achieve, health reform: it’s incredibly difficult.

    The current legislation in Congress includes many of the protections found in the bipartisan Patient

  2. Chernynkaya says:

    No cost control of premiums is a big problem. And while there is a prohibition on refusing pre-existing conditions, I have read that the penalty to insurers is only $5000 per refusal. Also, more important, is that they can charge more (either 3x or 5x)for the older subscribers and for those with pre-existing conditions. Combine that with the mandate, and it is unaffordable and unacceptable.

    • Scheherazade says:

      To tell you the truth I’m still feeling this bill is redo, but I wanted to make the point that even though I may feel that way the reality is there are those who desperately need help who really should have a say in this. Ultimately we don’t really have a say in the matter. That’s been made clear. :(

      From the Wall Street Journal:

      Rahm Emanuel: Don

      • bitohistory says:

        Bernie Sanders (with Cardin) held a press conference today saying he was on board with the bill.

      • Chernynkaya says:

        Scher, I am glad there is a “progressive backlash against the progressive backlash.” But that’s only among pundits. I am afraid that low information Dems won’t be as mature.

        • Scheherazade says:

          Something I may not have conveyed effectively is that I too feel rather torn about this. From an idealistic perspective I don’t like this bill at all. From a practical perspective I honestly don’t know when we will be able to pass legislation like this again. Nevertheless, I still worry that it will cause more problems than it will solve. :(

  3. Scheherazade says:

    From Talking Points Memo:

    Reid Confident He Has 60 Votes To Pass Health Care Reform
    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seems confident that he has the 60 votes he’ll need to pass health care reform. Asked by a reporter at a press conference moments ago whether his caucus is united to end a filibuster of his bill, Reid joked, “seems like it!”

    In order to secure the support of all 58 Democrats, and both independents who caucus with his party, Reid had to make significant concessions to centrists, including eliminating the public option, and tightening the language restricting federal funds from paying for abortion.

    He also apparently had to guarantee that the federal government would cover the entire cost of expanding Medicaid in the state of Nebraska--home to Sen. Ben Nelson. Reid insisted today that this Medicaid agreement, contained in the manager’s amendment was a “small part” of winning Nelson’s support for the legislation, but it’s indicative of the sort of political trading that was necessary for Democratic leadership to win unanimous support for the legislation from the caucus.

    And it seems to have worked. Reid will need his caucus to stay united for the next several days, and possibly into next month if a health care reform package is to become law. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) told reporters this afternoon that unless the timeline for passage is lengthened into January, she’ll likely support a filibuster of the bill.

  4. Chernynkaya says:

    Did anyone see a clip of Ted Kennedy on last night’s The Ed Show? I am still trying to find it.

    That is what we need now. From our President. Kennedy lost the battle for health care reform, but he rallied the Democratic base. Sometimes, it is not only results that keep us fighting, but the passion of our leaders.

  5. PepeLepew says:

    Many news outlets are reporting they do have the 60 votes in the Senate for their watered-down version:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34488616/ns/health-health_care/

  6. boomer1949 says:

    Maybe much of the backlash is not at the actual bill but because the perception is that Eyore/Droopy Dog got his way. There is a great deal of anger toward this man because a) he is being a jerk, and b) because his is being a jerk, c) all of the above.

    And I forgot to add…if Ted Kennedy were still here, his voice would be the same as his wife, Victoria, has indicated. Who among us would/should/could know him better than she?

    • Chernynkaya says:

      I agree, Boomer. But if that accomplished something good, people would forget that, I think. Besides, I do feel it is never good policy to base legislation (or lack thereof) on punishing someone. Do what is good for many, not just bad for a few. Unfortunately, I still don’t see how this is, in reality, good for many.

  7. choicelady says:

    Really good post! Now, I’d like to give you my view as a lobbyist (not in DC) and see what you all think.

    Reid put ONLY progressives, including himself, on the Conference Committee. Baucus is the only Blue Dog but has problems facing censure at least for his cheesy handling of promoting his girfriend. He’s quite subdued, so I’m of the belief he’s a lot more compliant than he was.

    What goes to Conference Committee (CC) from the Senate is almost irrelevant. In CC it is my belief much of what is in the House bill will prevail, plus a restoration of the Capps’ Amendment on abortion which allows a woman to obtain that option with her own money but does not prohibit federal funds for her other health care.

    I believe the sudden nose dive in public support coupled with an amazing upsurge in voices of labor, the faith community, the progressives such as MoveOn, and the general public have sent a signal loudly and clearly that we WANT a public option and real fair play in this bill.

    CC will NOT have to take the Senate bill. All this uproar in the media presumes somehow that this is the last word, and it is NOT.

    When the CC bill comes to the floors of the respective houses, THAT is when the gloves will come off. Matt Taibi from Rolling Stone noted that in the past presidents and congressional leaders have “brought out the rubber hoses” -- threatened loss of committee status, NO money for the person’s state, etc. But since you can do that only ONCE, the time for that is not this week -- give the troglodytes what they want to get cloture -- but it WILL be when the bill comes to the floors after CC rewrites.

    For Reid and Obama to do this NOW is to assure Lieberman and Nelson move to the right. To wait til after the Conference Committee is to use muscle when it is needed AND most effective.

    So that is my hope. I have historic precedent on my side, I have public energy on my side, and I have the make up of the SENATE CC members on my side. I don’t play on Capitol Hill, so I might be too optimistic, but that’s what I believe is going on.

    Does money talk on Capitol Hill??? Do bears… Of course. But what talks as loudly is citizen VOTES. With so many groups in a fury about the Senate capitulation to the insurance industry, that can and is greatly offsetting the money interests. Public pressure has REAL impact, and we cannot let up our efforts. The focus must be on the Conference Committe, and our “ask” must be persistent and unrelenting. It is the moral course, the democratic course, and the humane course, and we are united in our desires, so we cannot be ignored. The handwriting is on the wall for us to get BACK what we want. Have hope, but work like hell through CC to get a real reform out of Congress!

    • Chernynkaya says:

      It is my understanding (based solely on Lawrence O’Donnell) that nothing can be ADDED to the bills in CC. In other words, the bills are blended, but nothing that was not in either final bill from the House or Senate can be added. While the House has a PO, I am not sure it can be added to the Senate bill. In short, while I completely agree with your analysis of how to play the game with Lieberman et al, I am not sure how the two bills get reconciled.

  8. KQuark says:

    Excellent article Scheherazade. Give us the uninsured AND need it the vote on this one.

    The truth is always in the middle. Yes it’s universal nature and stiff regulations is government reigning in the private insurance industry and yes the subsidies is a very liberal scheme by taking money from the rich and those that have and giving it to those that don’t. On the other hand the use of private insurance is not liberal because the government is outsourcing an essential service now.

    So what do you do? You look at the present system and determine if this bill makes progress. Most of the system now IS private insurance and it IS running amok. These reforms reign in the private sector much more than many industries. Populist would be jumping for joy now if the government was giving people more publicly backed loans if they got into debt trouble with homes or credit cards only in this case the subsidies and forcing private insurance to accept people with pre-existing conditions is seen as a bad thing by populists. I don’t know why people cannot see the fundamentals at play in this case.

  9. Scheherazade says:

    “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much it is whether we provide enough for those who have little. ”

    -- FDR


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