The death of the Health Care bill

It looks like the President’s healthcare bill is headed for failure. Here’s a clip from the Associated Press:

After weeks of secretive talks, a bipartisan group in the Senate edged closer Monday to a health care compromise that omits two key Democratic priorities but incorporates provisions to slow the explosive rise in medical costs, officials said.

These officials said participants were on track to exclude a requirement many congressional Democrats seek for large businesses to offer coverage to their workers. Nor would there be a provision for a government insurance option, despite President Barack Obama’s support for such a plan…

Essentially that means the thing is dead. It may pass in some form, offering some marginal improvement, but it won’t be the comprehensive solution that most of us were hoping for… Matt Taibi, for one, isn’t surprised. Here’s a clip from a column that he released today.

…It’s the same with this health care bill. Who among us did not know this would happen? It’s been clear from the start that the Democrats would make a great show of doing something real, then they would fold prematurely, ram through some piece-of-shit bill with some incremental/worthless change in it, and then in the end blame everything on Max Baucus and Bill Nelson, saying, “By golly, we tried our best!”

Make no mistake, this has nothing to do with Max Baucus, Bill Nelson, or anyone else. If the Obama administration wanted to pass a real health care bill, they would do what George Bush and Tom DeLay did in the first six-odd years of this decade whenever they wanted to pass some nightmare piece of legislation (ie the Prescription Drug Bill or CAFTA): they would take the recalcitrant legislators blocking their path into a back room at the Capitol, and beat them with rubber hoses until they changed their minds.

The reason a real health-care bill is not going to get passed is simple: because nobody in Washington really wants it. There is insufficient political will to get it done. It doesn’t matter that it’s an urgent national calamity, that it is plainly obvious to anyone with an IQ over 8 that our system could not possibly be worse and needs to be fixed very soon, and that, moreover, the only people opposing a real reform bill are a pitifully small number of executives in the insurance industry who stand to lose the chance for a fifth summer house if this thing passes…

So, if this thing goes belly-up, who’s to blame? Is it the Republicans and the healthcare lobby, or is it Barack’s team? Congresswoman Maxine Waters seems to think some of the blame belongs at the feet of Rahm Emanuel, the President’s Chief of Staff. Here’s a clip:

One of Congress’s most liberal members, Rep. Maxine Waters, (D-Calif.), declared on Tuesday that the White House’s problems getting Blue Dog Democrats to support its health care agenda were largely its own doing — or more specifically, the doing of its chief of staff.

Waters said many of the self-proclaimed conservative Democrats, including those who have stalled legislation on the House Energy and Commerce, were initially recruited to run for office by Rahm Emanuel back when he was head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee…

“Don’t forget,” she said, “[Rahm] recruited most of them, as when he was over in the Congress in the leadership. Rahm Emanuel recruited more conservative members and based on some of the information I’m getting, they told them that they could vote the way they wanted to vote, that they would not interfere with what was considered their philosophy about some of these things”…

So, why isn’t Rahm beating them into submission? Do you think that perhaps Taibi is right, and no one in power really wants to change the current system, in which millions of people continue to go uninsured, and corporate profits continue to rise, as regular Americans have to chose between death and bankruptcy? And why don’t we the people seem to care more? Why aren’t the switchboards at Capital Hill lit up with people demanding meaningful reform?

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  1. sitterhitter
    Posted July 28, 2009 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    Y dee you kwy now ooooooch oooch ow ow owzers? Reaally? Iz just a pwesident. Pwesidents silly queens don’t do dents don’t make change clink klinc. Just pretend sillies!

  2. Charlie G.
    Posted July 28, 2009 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    I’m hoping for more despite the lame Dems, the Big health lobby, and even lamer Repubs.

    It’s a new kind of faith-based reality – a belief that Obama will somehow pull it off. Maybe I should get off my ass and call my congressmen or something.

    My family’s on a Cobra plan right now – there’s four of us that need insurance including two kids 3 and under. It would be nice to have some form of public option to buy into since I’m self employed.

    Here’s a Daily Kos link and clip from the Madoff show of Howard Dean taking on what is happening in the Senate committee:

  3. Kim
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Find your Congressperson here:

  4. Kim
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Find your Senators here:

    Please call or write as soon as possible. Every call counts.

  5. Meta
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    From Alternet:

    How Corporate Media, Sellouts in Congress and Industry Bigs Have Hijacked the Health Care Debate

    If you can frame the terms of a debate, you’ve gone a long way towards winning it before you’ve begun. Tragically, Republicans, the health care industry and business-friendly Blue Dog Democrats have largely been able to do exactly that, with a substantial assist from the corporate-owned media.

    They’ve successfully focused the health care debate on the short-term costs to the federal government’s bottom line, obscuring the potential impact that a meaningful realignment of the health care system would have on the economy as a whole. In so doing, opponents of reform have hoodwinked much of the public into believing that investments in America’s national health care system will wind up costing individuals more than they’d gain from the effort.

    In fact, they’ve done such a good job that much of the discourse has revolved around what is arguably one of the least relevant aspects of the proposals being debated in Congress: whether they “cost too much” or are “deficit neutral” in terms of their impact on the federal budget over the next 10 years.

    Much of that discussion has been fueled by a series of estimates issued by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) — estimates based on incomplete drafts of the legislation now moving through Congress. Yet by and large the mainstream media have dutifully repeated the spin without mentioning that the critics are touting the CBO’s preliminary projections as definitive and final.

    Even worse, a study of cable news reporting by the media watchdog group Media Matters found that when the CBO issued a follow-up to an earlier, more pessimistic projection of the bill passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) Committee, it went all but unreported by the cable news networks. CBO projected it would cost $611 billion, while an earlier estimate — which was dissected eight ways to Sunday by the same cable networks — suggested it would run an even trillion.

    There are also benefits contained within the proposals that are impossible to score in limited budgetary terms. For example, if the House bill were passed as it stands today, it would all but eliminate health-care related bankruptcies by capping the amount of out-of-pocket expenses with which a family or individual can be burdened. A group of researchers from Harvard studied over 2,300 bankruptcies filed in 2007 and concluded that more than 6 in 10 were due to medical causes. What is it “worth” to our society to ease that kind of pain? It’s not in the purview of the CBO to say.

    That’s just one of several reasons why the budgetary impact over 10 years of a program of long-term reforms is such a poor metric for judging its value. First, the very same preliminary CBO estimates that are being used to gin up fear of a budget-busting boondoggle that will saddle our grandkids with debt for generations to come also suggest that the proposals would extend health coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans. Why such a significant improvement in the health and economic security of so many real people should be expected to come at no cost to the government’s balance sheet is a mystery.

    Second, it fundamentally obscures the actual terms of the debate in Congress. Leaders in both the House and Senate have promised that the final legislation will be fully-funded — “deficit neutral” — and the battle lines have in fact been drawn not only around what form the final bill will take, but also how to pay for it.

    Moreover, the narrative is based only on the impact of the proposals on the federal budget in isolation, all but ignoring the larger effect that fixing the system (if done right) might have on the economy as a whole. Under consideration are various proposals designed to rein in the spiraling cost of health care across the entire system.

    So these are not sunk costs, but investments that analysts expect will have a significant pay-off. A study by David Cutler of Harvard and the Rand Corporation’s Melinda Beeuwkes Buntin estimated that just three elements within the larger proposals offered by Democrats so far — all of which come with start-up costs in the beginning — would result in $550 billion in savings to the larger health care system over the next 10 years (PDF).


  6. Ryan
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    The reason nobody in Congress supported this bill is because they work for the insurance companies, not you. Republicans and Democrats alike. Any discussion beyond that only serves to over complicate the issue distract people from the root of the problem. Also, even if it did pass it was designed to let the insurance companies continue to exist which is pretty absurd.

    I’d love if more people would wake up and stop voting for these fascists. I want to get my teeth cleaned.

  7. Posted July 29, 2009 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Is it not just possible that millions of Americans don’t want their health care decisions made by government bureaucrats? I mean, I count myself in that group, so the less these Washington clowns do, the better. Not that the current situation is optimal, but more government isn’t gonna make it better — only worse.

    (And yes, I know which blog I’m on — get your rotten tomatoes ready to throw.)

  8. Kim
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 10:57 am | Permalink


    I think you may be misunderstanding. The government wouldn’t be replacing your insurance. Existing plans would still continue to exist. The government would only be creating an option for those who have no other options. People will not be forced into it, but they can opt for it, if they feel as though there is greater value than with their existing plan.

  9. Posted July 29, 2009 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    I’ve heard this before, but I think if you believe that, I need to stock up on my inventory of bridges to sell folks.

    The following article sums up pretty well exactly how each government power grab leads to another until, yes, you end up with the situation where people’s medical decisions will be made by their government masters and not medical professionals and themselves:

    Others may not find the arguments persuasive, but I’d just ask: What government program in history ever really, truly reduced the cost of something (in total, not just via subsidy for a given group)? Or even came in somewhere near its budget estimate? (Medicare, anyone?)

    I’m not trying to be antagonistic… I just don’t understand how anyone can be sentient and still actually believe that the state can somehow wave its magic wand of violence and improve medicine or lower its costs.

  10. Jen
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    A good letter from a guy to his Senator.

  11. Meta
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    From Think Progress:

    Sorting Myth From Reality

    Congress may be moving one step closer to reforming health care, as the Senate Finance Committee nears agreement on a bipartisan compromise. Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) vowed that the committee would wrap up its work by the end of next week. This deal, however, will most likely not contain a public option or a mandate for employers to provide employees with health insurance. While many progressives are upset with this outcome, it’s important to remember that this is not the final legislation: After the bill passes the Senate Finance Committee, it will still need to be reconciled with the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and House bills, both of which include a public option. While these lawmakers continue to hammer out the details, many Republicans, conservative activists, and industry lobbyists continue to spread misinformation and push for indefinite delays in the hope of killing any chance at change. Yesterday in a “tele-town hall” sponsored by AARP, President Obama addressed this obstruction, underscoring that no one is talking about “socialized medicine,” despite what conservatives are charging. “I think that we’ve been so accustomed to hearing those phrases that sometimes we can’t sort out the myth from the reality,” Obama said.

    NOT GOING FAR ENOUGH: Instead of a public option, the Senate Finance Committee plan will likely include regional, non-profit cooperatives, which have been pushed by Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND). Though Conrad asserts that his co-ops will accomplish “much of what those who want a public option are calling for,” co-ops have historically had trouble fulfilling their goal of offering small employers and individuals a choice in health plans and reducing costs. The inclusion of a so-called “free rider” penalty instead of an employer mandate comes from the misguided belief that a mandate would lead employers to stop offering insurance. The free rider provision would require employers not offering coverage to pay a penalty “based on how much the government ends up paying for workers’ coverage.” The problem with this plan, notes the Wonk Room’s Igor Volsky, is that “employers in low cost areas would be subsidizing workers in high cost areas, and vice versa.” Additionally, this free rider provision would make it “considerably more expensive for employers who do not offer health insurance to hire workers from lower-income families,” so employers would “have strong incentives to tilt hiring toward people who have a spouse/parent with a good income.”’s Nate Silver observes that the Senate Finance proposal “looks an awful lot like the incomplete draft of the HELP Committee’s bill that the CBO scored last month,” which was widely criticized for costing $1 trillion over the next 10 years but only reducing the number of uninsured by 16 million. It was only when the final HELP bill came out — which included both a public option and an employer mandate — that the CBO estimated that it would reduce the uninsured ranks by 37 million for the same cost.

    PROUD OBSTRUCTIONISTS: Conservatives have been trying to claim that they are in favor of reform and that it’s the Democrats’ fault that the process is being slowed down. “That they have had to slow down is because so many Democrats, including so many Democrat governors, know this is something that can’t be rushed, because it’s very dangerous in some of the forms it could be,” said Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) this week. On Fox News yesterday, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) claimed, “This isn’t being held up by Republicans.” Unfortunately, a delay and kill strategy is exactly what conservatives are doing. Earlier this month, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) declared, “I take pride with being an obstructionist.” Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) has similarly said, “Maybe we could put something underneath that and say: ‘Slow Down’ or maybe in the language of my State ‘Whoa.'” These talking points mirror a political memo written by conservative strategist Alex Castellanos, which advised, “If we slow this sausage-making process down, we can defeat it, and advance real reform that will actually help.” Industry interests have been teaming up with conservatives on this strategy, with one lobbyist admitting that they are purposely “creating delays” in order to better seize any “opportunity to outright kill a proposal.”

    SPREADING LIES, INFLAMING FEARS: Conservatives are attempting to create these delays through misinformation and outright intimidation. A group called “Patients First,” a project of the lobbyist-funded Americans for Prosperity, has been going around the country hosting tea parties in opposition to “government-run health care.” Republicans are now attacking a small provision in the House bill that would allow Medicare to cover advanced care consulting. The Republican National Committee sent out a research document yesterday claiming the House legislation is encouraging euthanasia. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) went on the House floor and said it was placing “seniors in a position of being put to death by their government.” Of course, these claims are baseless fear-mongering. The House bill would simply give seniors the option of speaking with an expert about advanced care issues, such as living wills. “This measure would not only help people make the best decisions for themselves but also better ensure that their wishes are followed,” responded AARP Executive Vice President John Rother. “To suggest otherwise is a gross, and even cruel, distortion.”

  12. Glen S.
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 1:05 pm | Permalink


    Has the current, for-profit system improved medicine or lowered costs? Every day, something like 14,000 Americans lose their health-care coverage, and those still lucky enough to have coverage face premiums that are increasing much faster than the rate of inflation — or worse, risk losing or not being able to obtain coverage because some insurance-industry bureaucrat deems them to have a “pre-existing condition.”

    I don’ t believe the introduction of a government-funded public option will totally solve the health care crisis, but I think it will help. Meanwhile, the argument that we can continue letting the “market” dictate who, in our society, is “worthy” or “not worthy” of basic medical care is clearly (ahem) D.O.A.

  13. dragon
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    Dave you stated:
    –“you end up with the situation where people’s medical decisions will be made by their government masters and not medical professionals.”–

    Who exactly do you think makes those decisions now?

    From Congressional hearings last month:
    –The documents show, for instance, that one Blue Cross employee earned a perfect score of “5” for “exceptional performance” on an evaluation that noted the employee’s role in dropping thousands of policyholders and avoiding nearly $10 million worth of medical care.

    WellPoint’s Blue Cross of California subsidiary and two other insurers saved more than $300 million in medical claims by canceling more than 20,000 sick policyholders over a five-year period,

    I know I don’t want someone incentivized to provide the least amount of care.

  14. kjc
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Wendell Potter, former CIGNA VP/chief spokesperson turned whistleblower, has been on Moyers, Democracy Now, and in front of Congress testifying to every dirty detail, including how insurances companies plotted to make Michael Moore look like a radical precisely because they knew he wasn’t one. If I had a magic wand and could make these people no longer responsible for the health care of Americans (petty bureaucrats seeming relatively harmless in comparison), I gladly would. But no one’s talking about magic.

    Except maybe the magic market.

    Potter’s story is that he went to a health fair in Wise County, Virginia, saw people waiting in line to see drs (like refugees, they seemed to him) and realized there were actual people on the other end of these machinations to drop coverage at every opportunity.

    Then he feared for his soul.

  15. James Madison
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    KJC – thanks for your comment! Fearing for one’s soul is something that more of the rich and powerful should do. If i had done so while living, i’d not have ended up in this special department of Hell where slave-owning politicians are condemned to suffer forever. And I know from first hand observation that another special Department of Hell exists for corporate officials who made money by denying health care coverage to people. It’s already well populated, and new souls arrive there each day, for an eternity of torment.

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