Public option voted down, twice, by cowardly Dems

The Senate Finance Committee voted twice this afternoon against the creation of a government-run health insurance plan, or “public option.” Members of the panel first voted 15 to 8 against Senator John D. Rockefeller’s proposal, and then followed up by voting 13 to 10 against the proposal put forward by Senator Charles Schumer.

Among those voting against the first proposal were five Democrats: Committee Chairman Max Baucus (Montanna), Blanche Lincoln (Arkansas), Kent Conrad (North Dakota), Bill Nelson (Florida) and Tom Carper (Delaware). Here’s hoping they all find themselves without insurance after being resoundingly voted out of office.

Baucus, of course, says it’s not his fault that he voted no. According to him, he only did so because he knew that they wouldn’t be able to get the 60 votes they needed in the Senate to overcome a Republican filibuster.

And where in the hell is the Democratic leadership on this? Why, when public polling consistently shows that 75% or more of Americans favor a public option, can’t they get it done? It’s got to be corruption, right? It’s got to be the money pouring in from the health insurance lobby. There’s no other explanation for it.

If you like signing petitions, MoveOn just launched one. You can find it here. Or, better yet, invest a little time in finding individuals to run against these so-called Democrats come election time.

update: At least one person is encouraged by the outcome of today’s votes. The following clip comes from Robert Creamer:

In a surprising vote Tuesday, ten Democrats voted to add a public option to the most conservative of the five health insurance reform bills working their way through Congress. That’s just two votes short of passage.

This robust support for the public option — in what most observers consider the most conservative committee in the Senate — signals a sea change in Congressional opinion toward the public option. The odds are now very high that some form of public health insurance option will be included on the final bill when it emerges from a House-Senate Conference Committee later this fall and is ultimately passed by Congress…

update: Huffington Post Editor Roy Sekoff on MSNBC’s “Ed Show”:

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

update: And here’s a little something on the money trial, by way of Open Secrets and Intershame.

…Americans support the notion of a government administered health insurance plan by a margin of 65% to 26%. According to the same poll, people who identify themselves as Democrats favor the public option by a margin of 81% to 12%. That’s nearly 7 to 1 in favor of, yet the representatives of the Democrat party in the Senate Finance Committee only voted for the public option at a ratio of 8 to 5. Perhaps the most interesting number revealed by this poll is that Republican voters favor the public option 47% to 42%.

So why can’t the people’s representatives in Washington get behind the public option? Specifically, why can’t these five Democrats get behind it when 81% of people in their party want the option. The answer I’d like to hear is that less than 50% of the voters they represent back home oppose the public option so they’re voting on behalf of their constituents, however, the numbers we see in the NYT/CBS poll make that extremely unlikely. So if that’s not the reason, what is? One likely answer is money. Look at the amount of money the health industry has pumped into these five Democrat’s coffers:

Max Baucus got $7,734,102, Blanche Lincoln received $4,190,592, Ken Conrad took in $3,287,891, Bill Nelson was given $2,414,895 and Tom Carper accepted $1,592,380 from health industry interests.

Can someone please remind me why this isn’t illegal? It’s that we determined that cash is free speech, right?

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34 Comments

  1. egpenet
    Posted September 29, 2009 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    First, the bill versison have to come out of the several senate committees. Then, the senate debates to create a single version that can pass. Then, the House passes its bill. Then, the senate and house versions go to conference, where a single bill can emerge.

    Somewhere in all of that we’ll either get a public option or a “trigger” mechanism or a watered-down “co-op” plan that allows low income folks a chance to buy into the program for a safety net form of insurance short of applying to Medicaid.

  2. Trish
    Posted September 29, 2009 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    At this point, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if, after all the hard fighting and fine rhetoric, the final bill ends up helping big insurance and pharma companies at everybody else’s expense.

    These are the same people (Congress) who voted for the bank bailouts, despite massive public outcry against them.

    Don’t be fooled as to who butters their bread. They sure aren’t.

  3. Posted September 29, 2009 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    It’s worth noting that Senators Nelson and Carper, while voting no on the first amendment, came around and votes yes on the second.

    So please focus your anger on Baucus, Conrad and Lincoln.

  4. Posted September 29, 2009 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    Nelson’s still kind of a dick, though.

  5. George
    Posted September 29, 2009 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    Last week the DNC called me to ask me to donate money. I told them that I would only give them money if the Public Option passes. I emailed every one of the five Senators who voted against the Public Option today and told them that I was going to send money to their competitors campaign. More democrats like me need to follow suit. We need to defeat these bastards for the sake of our country and our children’s future. We can not afford to have people like these in political office.

  6. Oliva
    Posted September 29, 2009 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    We have a term for Senators like that [polling poorly], and it is “soon-to-be-former-Senators.” Blanche Lincoln needs this health care debate right now like she needs a case of shingles.

    –http://realclearpolitics.blogs.time.com/2009/09/29/want-to-know-why-blanche-lincoln-voted-against-a-public-option/

  7. Scott K
    Posted September 30, 2009 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    One step closer to victory

  8. Meta
    Posted September 30, 2009 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    A good article on the health care lobby’s financial grip on these Senators can be found here:

    http://intershame.com/on/Max_Baucus__D_Mont___Kent_Conrad__D_ND___Blanche_Lincoln__D_Ark___Bill_Nelson__D_Fla__and_Tom_Carper__D_Del_/

    …Americans support the notion of a government administered health insurance plan by a margin of 65% to 26%. According to the same poll, people who identify themselves as Democrats favor the public option by a margin of 81% to 12%. That’s nearly 7 to 1 in favor of, yet the representatives of the Democrat party in the Senate Finance Committee only voted for the public option at a ratio of 8 to 5. Perhaps the most interesting number revealed by this poll is that Republican voters favor the public option 47% to 42%.

    So why can’t the people’s representatives in Washington get behind the public option? Specifically, why can’t these five Democrats get behind it when 81% of people in their party want the option. The answer I’d like to hear is that less than 50% of the voters they represent back home oppose the public option so they’re voting on behalf of their constituents, however, the numbers we see in the NYT/CBS poll make that extremely unlikely. So if that’s not the reason, what is? One likely answer is money. Look at the amount of money the health industry has pumped into these five Democrat’s coffers…

    Max Baucus got $7,734,102, Blanche Lincoln received $4,190,592, Ken Conrad took in $3,287,891, Bill Nelson was given $2,414,895 and Tom Carper accepted $1,592,380 from health industry interests.

  9. Candi
    Posted September 30, 2009 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    I just sent the folowing email to all five of these Senators and I urge that you do the same. Perhaps if they are flooded with these type of emails, calls and letters, they will understand the importance of solidarity of the Dem majority in this issue:

    Now is the time to vote yes on a public option. The Dems have the majority right now and the power to actually do what the public want them to do. Instead, a small group , of which you are a part, have decided to vote this public option down. Please vote with a conscience for what the people want, instead of with campaign contributions and reelections in mind. People are being gouged, by ever increasing insurance premiums that escalate upwards of 20% per year.

    My husband and I are small business owners and these costs are killing us! This pain for the public, while all along, the huge insurance giants deny claims and reward their people who do..and give their CEO’s huge bonuses annually, making them rich, on the backs of the American people. Please make your final vote a YES on the public healthcare option! We want choice!

  10. Brackinald Achery
    Posted September 30, 2009 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    This reminds me of the whole Contract with America thing. Similarly oligarchal balderdash.

  11. Scott K
    Posted September 30, 2009 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    I guess we cancelled each other out because I just wrote them to congratulate them on making the decision to vote it down.

  12. Peter Larson
    Posted September 30, 2009 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    “My husband and I are small business owners and these costs are killing us! This pain for the public, while all along, the huge insurance giants deny claims and reward their people who do..and give their CEO’s huge bonuses annually, making them rich, on the backs of the American people. Please make your final vote a YES on the public healthcare option! We want choice!”

    This is the silliest part of this whole discussion. People seem to be under the impression that a public option would be free, which is NOT the case. Medicare is not free! In countries where health care is universal, payment for coverage can be levied on individuals in one of two ways. The most common way is for employees and businesses to share the cost, similar to the employer based system we have now, or for individualspay themselves, either as part of existing taxes or as a separate paying scheme. Either way, it is NOT free and does not spare small businesses or individuals from having to pay.

    I am not against a public option, but I sincerely believe that people have the most wrong idea as to how public health insurance plans actually work. Obivously, the real benefits are that the taxpayers pick up the tab in the worst case scenario, but this would not be the case for working individuals nor businesses. In Japan, I paid approximately $400 a month for a bad policy, with my company kicking in the same. That was with a %50 copay. Granted, health care is much cheaper over there.

    On a side note. Often, I hear my musician friends talking about the days when they will receive “free” healthcare. While I am empathetic toward their worries and concerns, I fail to see how it will truly be “free” and, if it were, I fail to see why the taxpayer should have to foot the health bill to otherwise capable, educated and employable people who happen to choose a lifestyle that pays little to no wages. No disrespect intended at all, but the extremely presumptive nature of this “public option” is fraught with too many difficulties.

    I believe that the real solution is to reign in costs in addition to providing funding for community clinics so that low income persons can receive quality primary care on demand, rather than risky government sponsored programs that are likely to suffer when our economy goes south, or when the next Republican takeover happens.

  13. Robert
    Posted September 30, 2009 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    The Democrats need a Karl Rove figure who keeps them all in line by threatening to expose skeletons of individuals who don’t get with the program. Oh wait, that’s not what really happened.

  14. Smoke and mirrors!
    Posted September 30, 2009 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    It’s smoke and mirrors,
    A lame bill will get out of the finance committee.
    So, it will get to floor.
    The Senate would never get a public option out of committee.

    The house bill will come out with a public option.
    The 2 will confer and it will make it to the floor with a public option and only need 51 votes to pass.

    It’s all part of the plan.
    This finance committe right now is just “SMOKE AND MIRRORS!”

    United States will have at least a public option when it is signed by President Obama.
    You don’t want coverage, you check NO.
    You want it you check YES.
    You don’t want to pay for it, Check NO.
    You want to pay for it check YES.

    SMOKE AND MIRRORS! BABY!!
    IT’S COMING!!

  15. tommy
    Posted September 30, 2009 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Saw part of the Ed show where some dickhead senator brought out the props. He had two bottles of pills. The ones from Canada cost $1.25 each, the ones from the U.S., 3 times as much per pill. He went on to explain why he was going to try to get a bill introduced that allowed people to get their drugs via Canada thru mail order. I wish ‘Big Ed’ would have demanded that the senator grow some ‘big balls’ and immediately demand price controls on all prescriptions, period. Poor drug companies might have to cut back on boner pill advertisements, meds for phantom pain that nobody knows what the cause is ads, pills for happy feet … ask your doctor – who is probably on retainer – if these pills are right for you …

  16. Scott K
    Posted September 30, 2009 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    A bill to allow people to get their drugs from Canada? I started doing that two years ago when I didn’t have insurance and still do now with insurance because it’s still cheaper (some generics are allowed in Canada that are still only brand name here)….fyi, the meds don’t come from Canada, they are just ordered through a Canadian pharmacy and come directly from India.

  17. tommy
    Posted September 30, 2009 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Glad you are able to do so – you shouldn’t have to go to those measures. The only explanation is profit and greed. The drug makers charge what they do here because they can. If BCBS – nationwide, tomorrow – said that it was only going to pay $20 for any Rx, if doctors ordered time proven drugs rather than the one the hot new drug the Pharma rep was pitching, and if advertising medication like it is a freely chosen consumer product by would end, the saving to the total healtch care bill would be astronomical.

  18. West Cross
    Posted September 30, 2009 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Good points Tommy. So much of this debate is how to pay for health care. It seems just as important to be asking why health care costs so much.

  19. Scott K
    Posted September 30, 2009 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Actually it wasn’t any extra effort and was a planned decision to order through Canada. I was doing what any consumer should do when shopping for goods and sercvices. I was doing contract work and refused their healthcare coverage in return for higher pay. I then shopped for my own plan and did not purchase Rx coverage since I could get a better deal ordering online from Canada. NO GOVERNMENT HELP NEEDED. The ideal plan to provide coverage for all is to provide financial assistance to shop for our own coverage among the MANY insurance plans that offer competition.

    I have studied healthcare and worked in healthcare for over twenty years. In my youth I thought Universal healthcare was the way to go…until I heard personal accounts from friends and relatives in Canada and Norway about the lack of quality care and higher taxes and experiencing the business of healthcare myself. In theory, it is great. In practice the cost of implementing is not realistic and the affect it would have on quality of care is not good for the patient. I wish President Obama success in all areas except this one….and this is the sole reason I voted Republican for only the third time in my life in any type of election. The people polled may want a public option, but they really don’t understand what the impact of that will be including their personal financial and health risk costs. Yes, we need changes and reform but not on such a large scale and not with this approach. Some reasons costs are high we have to live with….we want the best care we have to be prepared for the cost of it. But, the two areas I see causing the most negative impact to cost of healthcare are drug companies who are allowed to hold onto patents keeping generics from being produced and litigation that physicians need to keep in their mind when caring for a patient.

    Interestingly enough, part of the stimulus President Obama signed includes an incentive of $44,000 per physician for implementing and Electronic Medical Record. Yes, that EMR provides a doctor with better documentation to improve accuracy of care and a more efficient means to access the vital information in an emergency. BUT IT WILL SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASE COSTS OF HEALTHCARE THAT REFORM IS TRYING TO CONTROL. Better documentation will allow the physician to more accurately code for the services they provide and will increase the amount billed to insurance companies. The most common business issue with physicians is under coding due to fear of litigation or audit or just lack of proper training. This solves it all…we just paid doctors an incentive to learn how to charge more for their services. Selfishly, I love it. It’s my business. But it only adds to the problem trying to be solved.

    (Sorry, for the long rant….I’ve been holding this in for a very long time)

  20. Jules
    Posted October 1, 2009 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    Mark, just so you know, you’ve got your Nelsons’ mixed up. Yes, both of them are dicks but Ben Nelson is not on the Senate Finance Comm.. That’s Bill Nelson.

  21. watching laughing
    Posted October 1, 2009 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    Actually Bill Nelson Senator from Florida isn’t that bad.
    Ben Nelson from Kansas, is a NIGHTMARE; but is another D in the column.

    Watching Laughing.

  22. Posted October 1, 2009 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Scott K – you piggyback on the Canadian health system to get cheap Rx and then complain about what a bad system it is? There wouldn’t be cheap Canadian drugs if Canada had the same rules as the U.S. That’s part of the point of a public option — to negotiate lower prices with pharmaceutical companies. What a hypocrite.

  23. Scott K
    Posted October 1, 2009 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    You call it hypocrit, I call it smart personal finance. Yes, it needs changes and until that happens I’ll do what I have to to get the best deal and keep within my household budget.

  24. Jules
    Posted October 1, 2009 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Watching, overall, I agree with you about Bill Nelson, but that yes vote on the FISA bill sticks in my craw. As does Obamas’.

  25. kjc
    Posted October 1, 2009 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    i’ll add my vote to the hypocrite column. that shit actually cracked me up.

  26. Peter Larson
    Posted October 1, 2009 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    The Canadian health system is excellent. While there may be long waits and queues for expensive tertiary care, primary care in Canada makes health inequities all but non-existent between rich and poor. This is much more than can be said about the American “system”. While the American, consumer based free market approach works rather well for expensive cancer and cardio treatments, it does a terrible job at keeping people from developing those conditions to begin with.

    Primary care goes a much longer way to insuring a healthy population than expensive specialized treatments performed toward the end of a long drawn out chronic condition. While the rich should always have an option of getting any sort of treatment they like, provided they pay out of pocket, the reality is, most of us cannot afford expensive, specialized surgeries, nor is there any reason to believe that we have any special “right” to recieve these treatments at taxpayers expense.

    I think it is very sad that we are having these discussions about rights to having multiple MRI scans and expensive cancer surgeries, but do not address the rights that people should have to see a primary care physician every year to instruct them on possible approaching conditions. Of course, the trouble is, that even if doctors advise, many people will ignore and keep on smoking and eating buffalo wings anyway.

    I hate to say it, but my feeling is that if you can’t take a proactive stance on your health and well being, you have no right to health care at taxpayer’s expense. If you want to pay for it, you are welcome to eat all the crap you want.

  27. kjc
    Posted October 1, 2009 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    “I hate to say it, but my feeling is that if you can’t take a proactive stance on your health and well being, you have no right to health care at taxpayer’s expense. If you want to pay for it, you are welcome to eat all the crap you want.”

    interesting. and what about our poisoned air and water? i just heard this morning that central Michigan is home to soil with the highest level of dioxins ever found. Thank you Dow Chemical. It’s not just our personal choices that are killing us. It’s the choices of everyone around us. We have to stop thinking of ourselves as nothing more than “taxpayers” for god’s sake. We’re not just consumers. We’re citizens.

  28. watching sighing
    Posted October 1, 2009 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Actually, watching laughing, Ben Nelson is the senator from Nebraska, not Kansas.

    Watching Sighing

  29. watching laughing
    Posted October 1, 2009 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    You are correct.
    I spaced on that one.

    Watching Laughing.

  30. Posted October 1, 2009 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    What about the poisoned water? Ideally, the poisoners should have to pay. Obviously that’s not going to happen. However, most chronic conditions (Diabetes, CVD, numerous types of cancers) are not the results of pollutants and you are wrong to assume that. Some are, but most are not. The biggest cause of a chronic condition is living long enough to get one. The second biggest is living a lifestyle that gives you one earlier than you’d want one (smoking, bad food).

    I certainly don’t think that any policy should be made out of my statement. That was just opinion. If my statement were to come true, half the country would be dying and suffering as their stupidity take up a good amount of my insurance dollars. However, I do think that too much emphasis is being place on paying for procedures that are expensive and don’t necessarily improve or lengthen life and less emphasis is being place on personal responsibility for health and primary care.

    I was in class the other day and someone who works at a Detroit health center complained that unhealthy people (smokers, overweight, hypertensive, etc.) have to pay extra. The whole room was shocked and appalled until I pointed out that in the end, it’s not that they are paying extra, it’s that you are getting a discount for being healthy. Wait, that was unrelated.

    And no, you are wrong. As long as we pay for services, we are all consumers. I pay taxes and expect to directly benefit from services. That can include building schools to make sure my neighbors aren’t morons, or giving drug counseling and food stamps to homeless people, or go to building roads so the economy can flourish.

  31. Posted October 1, 2009 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Oh shit. I just outed myself.

  32. Curt Waugh
    Posted October 1, 2009 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Peter Larson, you said, “People seem to be under the impression that a public option would be free, which is NOT the case.”

    The freeness of health care isn’t really the crux of a reform effort anyway. It’s just more obfuscation.

    The heart of the matter is that insurance is about pooling risk. No more. No less. Taken to its logical conclusion, the only sensible solution is to pool EVERYBODY. What you have now is tiny profit centers fighting madly (by spending many dollars on marketing and executive compensation) for the lowest risk pool, thus the double-whammy of pre-existing conditions and denial of service. Those concepts don’t come from nowhere, you know.

    This fight has focused on all the wrong things. The system should be about getting everybody INTO the system. Pool the cost. Pool the risk. Insure everybody.

  33. kjc
    Posted October 1, 2009 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    who’s wrong? i said we’re not JUST consumers. as for the theory of mostness regarding pollution, i can’t say anything to that, but i didn’t make any sweeping generalizations or assumptions about chronic conditions. i’m sure “you are wrong” is fun to say but still.

  34. Peter Larson
    Posted October 1, 2009 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    It is fun to say people are wrong from time to time.

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