Posts Tagged ‘obamacare’

PolitiFact | Reince Priebus says health care law could mean as many as 20 million Americans could lose their employer-based insurance.

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Was it just the way things played out or was it a carefully crafted strategy brilliantly executed?

A year ago the prospect of a second term for Preside’snt Obama presidency looked problematic, at best. A lousy economy, high unemployment and intractable legislative gridlock will do that. And, to make matters worse, Obama’s base sent him to Washington to implement change, not compromise his way to the middle, as was evidenced by the way the health care bill was negotiated; give, give, give and get damned little back in return.

Then came the midterm elections. The house was lost and the incoming Republicans, most of them Tea Partiers, vowed to obstruct Obama at every turn even as he continued to play nicely with others. Frankly, it drove me nuts until the debate over the debt ceiling. It was here that the political calculus seemed to shift.

With the ultra-conservative ideology of the Tea Party holding sway over the House, with Majority Leader and Tea Party favorite Eric Cantor holding a gun to Speaker John Boehner’s head, President Obama held his ground, refusing to provide offsets for the debt ceiling increase. But it was something John Boehner said in a press conference that connected the dots for me. Boehner called on the President to display some leadership and to bring the sides together. In other words, he wanted the President to do what he (Boehner) wasn’t able to do within his own party. To say it another way, he wanted Obama to step into what had become an abyss of irreconcilable differences … differences that had Boehner swinging in the wind. Wisely, President Obama declined to do so in favor of allowing the inevitable dysfunction play out.

Had Obama set a trap going which actually began during the health care debate? Did he get the best deal he could get and, in so doing, keep a campaign promise? Did he wave a white flag during the midterm elections realizing that to do otherwise was a waste of political capital in the face of an overwhelming right-wing headwind against everything he stood for? Did he display an infuriating willingness to compromise with his political enemies in order to appeal to independents? Did he know that the Republican primary would turn out to be a bloodbath with no candidate emerging undamaged? And, most importantly…

…did he know that the Tea Party overreach at the federal, state and even local levels
would energize the Democratic base like nothing else ever could? (See Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Maine, etc.)

Of course, from my liberal outpost in the suburbs of north Jersey I can only speculate as to what the overarching strategy really was (or even if there was one), but if ever there was a time for a trap, this was it. I believe that the Republican Party correctly sees 2012 as the biggest election in generations and, perhaps the swan song of its conservative, trickle-down-economic ideology. The reasons are many but chief among them are increasingly unfavorable demographics as non-white populations continue to increase, and baby-boomers continue to age. That creates an all-in sense of urgency that will make the 2012 Presidential election the dirtiest and the most corrupt in the history of the Republic. Fortunately, the President appears to have recovered from a couple of tough years, while the other side looks like a bunch of monkeys trying to screw a football.

These points and counterpoints were made in response to the prior post entitled “Letter to a Republican friend regarding the health care debate.”

(Republican friend) This conversation should be continued over coffee, don’t you think?

(Me) Drinks or drugs maybe, but I think I can live with coffee.

(Republican friend) I agree that greed is a huge factor in all of this, but unless and until the trial lawyers are reined in and malpractice limits are established, I don’t think we are going to be able to make this mess much better.

(Me) Karen, while the issue of tort reform is worthy of debate, its importance relative to the health care bill is open to question. http://washingtonindependent.com/55535/tort-reform-unlikely-to-cut-health-care-costs

“It’s really just a distraction,” said Tom Baker, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and author of “The Medical Malpractice Myth.” “If you were to eliminate medical malpractice liability, even forgetting the negative consequences that would have for safety, accountability, and responsiveness, maybe we’d be talking about 1.5 percent of health care costs. So we’re not talking about real money. It’s small relative to the out-of-control cost of health care.”

“Although damage award caps could slightly limit the future growth of liability insurance premiums – about 6 to 13 percent over time, says Mello, ‘it tends to be oversold as a solution and it’s pretty unfair to patients.'”

“Annual jury awards and legal settlements involving doctors amounts to ‘a drop in the bucket’ in a country that spends $2.3 trillion annually on health care, Amitabh Chandra, another Harvard University economist, recently told Bloomberg News. Chandra estimated the cost of jury awards at about $12 per person in the U.S., or about $3.6 billion. Insurer WellPoint Inc. has also said that liability awards are not what’s driving premiums.”

A”nd a 2004 report by the Congressional Budget Office said medical malpractice makes up only 2 percent of U.S. health spending. Even ‘significant reductions’ would do little to curb health-care expenses, it concluded.”

“A study by Bloomberg also found that the proportion of medical malpractice verdicts among the top jury awards in the U.S. declined over the last 20 years. ‘Of the top 25 awards so far this year, only one was a malpractice case.’ Moreover, at least 30 states now cap damages in medical lawsuits.”

(Republican friend) Too much money, too little regard for humanity…

(Me) This I wholeheartedly agree with. As I said in my response to you, this debate has never been about unmet human needs, it’s only about money.

(Republican friend) …and too much rhetoric on both sides is not helping at all.

(Me) I agree with the fact that the unfolding rhetoric is unhelpful, but it’s the nature of the rhetoric that makes it that way. This nation has a long history…going back to Truman…of trying to fix the health care system. The same arguments used against Clinton and Truman before him have been recycled to attack the current effort. The rhetoric is designed to defeat the attempt at reform, not to shape it.

President Harry Truman was among the first Americans who saw a need for health care reform. Decades ahead of his time, he was unable to make meaningful changes during his tenure as president in the late 40s and early 50s, but he’s acknowledged by some as the inspiration for the establishment of Medicare and Medicaid under the Johnson administration.

Following are a few quotes that illustrate Truman’s opinions on this matter:

“We should resolve now that the health of this nation is a national concern; that financial barriers in the way of attaining health shall be removed; that the health of all its citizens deserves the help of all the nation.”

“Millions of our citizens do not now have a full measure of opportunity to achieve and to enjoy good health. Millions do not now have protection or security against the economic effects of sickness. And the time has now arrived for action to help them attain that opportunity and to help them get that protection.”

“I do not understand a mind which sees a gracious beneficence in spending money to slay and maim human beings in almost unimaginable numbers and deprecates the expenditure of a smaller sum to patch up the ills of mankind.”

(Republican friend) While I understand what you are saying, I fundamentally don’t think government involvement in any more of our lives makes sense.

(Me) I think we can agree that the current system is broken. With the highest healthcare costs in the developed world, you would think we would do a better job at keeping people healthy. But we don’t and the reason is the fundamental disconnect between profit and care. Surely, this argument must resonate with you. Likewise, Medicare works. Is there Medicare fraud? You bet and it must be reduced. Is there a problem in paying physicians fairly for what they do? Yes, and it has to do with funding and the inability for Medicare to negotiate directly with big pharma. Medicare part D is a scam that was written by the drug lobby. That’s not an overreach for affect. It was literally written by the lobby staffers and then presented to Congress. But, going back to your point about not wanting more government in our lives, the government will not decide on if and how I will be treated. Can you say that about insurance companies?

(Republican friend) I also don’t want any more corporate money influencing our lives, either.

The Supreme Court has supported, on several occasions, the notion of corporate free speech. In fact, you might find the information at the end of this link useful: http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2009/09/05/corporate_free_speech_since_when/ . Since I am most certainly not a jurist or versed in 1st amendment subtleties, I can only comment as a citizen who feels trampled by well-organized and well-funded special interests whose only intent is to make money. I regard this as a frontal assault on the rights of Americans to be heard in the marketplace of free ideas. Interestingly, the rightees who claim that Obama is some sort of Fascist seem to have overlooked the incredibly close connection between business, the government and ideology of the Christian right. Under George W, the parties all slept together and they seemed to like it. I can only hope that this evil triumvirate can be broken up before the people’s push back takes to the streets.

(Republican friend) I am well on my way to becoming a libertarian like my youngest brother.  There is just so much corruption of the public good when money gets involved.  I have to fight with my insurance company every month over benefits explanations that make no sense and never go in our favor–the mistakes are always in the company’s favor.  But I also would rather do that than fight with the government over my insurance coverage every month.  At least, with the private insurance company, I can complain to my husband’s employer, and then they get involved in straightening out the insurance. But if the government runs the whole thing, where is the counterbalance?

(Me) Karen, where is the counterbalance how? And, yes, coffee sounds nice…