Robert Reich on the death of the public option

As usual, I agree with former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. Here’s a clip from his most recent article:

The public option is dead, killed by a handful of senators from small states who are mostly bought off by Big Insurance and Big Pharma or intimidated by these industries’ deep pockets and power to run political ads against them. Some might say it’s no great loss at this point because the Senate bill Harry Reid came up with contained a public option available only to 4 million people, which would have been far too small to exert any competitive pressure on private insurers anyway.

To provide political cover to senators who want to tell their constituents that the intent behind a robust public option lives on, the emerging Senate bill makes Medicare available to younger folk (age 55), and lets people who aren’t covered by their employers buy in to a system that’s similar to the plan that federal employees now have, where the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management selects from among private insurers.

But we still end up with a system that’s based on private insurers that have no incentive whatsoever to control their costs or the costs of pharmaceutical companies and medical providers. If you think the federal employee benefit plan is an answer to this, think again. Its premiums increased nearly 9 percent this year. And if you think an expanded Medicare is the answer, you’re smoking medical marijuana. The Senate bill allows an independent commission to hold back Medicare costs only if Medicare spending is rising faster than total health spending. So if health spending is soaring because private insurers have no incentive to control it, we’re all out of luck. Medicare explodes as well…

To read the rest, just follow that link at the top.

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12 Comments

  1. Agree
    Posted December 14, 2009 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    I agree, but what’s to be done? I feel so helpless in all of this. I’ve signed petitions and written to my elected officials, to no avail. I’m just demoralized at the moment. I wish we had a leader who could lead.

  2. Kilo
    Posted December 14, 2009 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Weren’t we talking here about having an event in DC on the anniversary of MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech? I don’t know if the timing would work though. The legislation could be passed by then.

  3. applejack
    Posted December 14, 2009 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Robert Reich for President!

  4. dp in ypsi
    Posted December 15, 2009 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    This sounds similar to the deal he set up for his brethren at Goldman Sachs. Wasn’t it Reich, Grahm, and Clinton who allowed the deregulation of the financial services industry and the non-regulation of novel financial products?

    The real goodies will not be decided until conference committee… stay tuned for new horrific twists and turns! If we are super lucky, we’ll have the privilege of being forced to purchase insurance at a higher cost from private insurers ;-)

  5. LT
    Posted December 15, 2009 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    When you say “he,” DP, do you mean Reich? I ask because I don’t believe Reich has any ties to Goldman Sachs. I also don’t believe that as Labor Secretary he had anything to do with banking deregulation. I could be wrong about that, though.

  6. Jim
    Posted December 15, 2009 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Medicare buy-in would have been a decent trade for a watered-down public option, but as today’s news shows, we’re not going to get either, thanks to the undemocratic idea that every bill needs 60 votes to get through the Senate.

    I would have liked for Obama to show more leadership in fighting for a strong bill, but what would have been the outcome? Even if Nelson, Lincoln, and the other conservative Democrats could have been pressured into supporting the bill, Lieberman still would have announced his opposition at the worst possible time, but with the added effect of making Obama look weak and unable to lead his own party.

    I think that for now we have to settle for a bill that expands coverage but fails to control costs. The spiraling cost of health care will force Congress to take up this issue again in a few years.

    I think that progressives should make elimination of the 60 vote rule a priority.

    Nate Silver has had an excellent series of posts on health care yesterday and today. http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/

  7. Glen S.
    Posted December 15, 2009 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    If President Obama and the Senate Democratic leadership were truly committed to meaningful healthcare reform, we would already have it. Instead, by allowing Joe Lieberman and a handful of so-called “blue dog” Democrats to control the agenda, they have turned what was an historic opportunity into a legislative (and potentially electoral) disaster.

    Although the “plan” continues changing by the hour, I understand that the legislation currently being considered — while lacking many of the important safeguards that would guarantee quality coverage and hold down costs — would nevertheless require people without coverage to purchase private health insurance, potentially under threat of a government-mandated tax or fine.

    I believe this “worst of both worlds” legislation — if passed — will equal legislative suicide for Democrats in 2010 and ’12 — not only because the “mandate” provision will accelerate the right-wing propaganda aimed against “socialism” and “big government” (particularly in moderate and “swing” districts); but also because many progressives (like me) will withhold their money and support from Democratic incumbents they feel have sold them out to the Health Insurance-Pharmaceutical-Complex.

  8. Jim
    Posted December 15, 2009 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    This is rich:

    “Mr. Lieberman had supported the Medicare buy-in proposal in the past — both as the Democrats’ vice presidential nominee in 2000 and in more recent discussions about the health care system. In an interview this year, he reiterated his support for the concept.

    “But in the interview, Mr. Lieberman said that he grew apprehensive when a formal proposal began to take shape. He said he worried that the program would lead to financial trouble and contribute to the instability of the existing Medicare program.

    “And he said he was particularly troubled by the overly enthusiastic reaction to the proposal by some liberals, including Representative Anthony Weiner, Democrat of New York, who champions a fully government-run health care system. ”

    http://prescriptions.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/15/lieberman-the-fallout/?hp

    So Lieberman suppported Medicare expansion until it became a real proposal that liberals liked. Nice.

  9. Stephen Mertz
    Posted December 15, 2009 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    So, it all came down to one little man with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove. Pathetic. America deserves better.

  10. Glen S.
    Posted December 15, 2009 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Don’t get me wrong … Lieberman is definitely high on the “blame” list. However, it was Obama and Reid that allowed Lieberman to remain in the Democratic caucus and keep his plum committee assignments — even after he actively opposed many key Democratic legislative initiatives, ran as a fake independent against Connecticut’s Democratic nominee in Senate race, and even campaigned against Obama and for John McCain!

    In my opinion, Lieberman’s petty intransigence is just one symptom of much deeper problems in the Democratic Party.

  11. Jim
    Posted December 15, 2009 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    I think that the refusal to punish Lieberman and the insistence that every bill requires 60 votes are both symptoms of the Senate Democrats’ unwillingness to make difficult choices and to stand up for the party’s stated principles. The Senate Democrats’ current interpretation of the 60 vote rule allows them to blame the Republicans for their failure to confront corporate interests. The Senate Dems are in a bind this year and next because they actually have 58 + 2 votes, so they have no one to blame but Joe Lieberman and themselves.

    How likely is it any that any truly progressive legislation that upsets corporate interests will get 60 votes in the US Senate (with its 2 Senators per state regardless of population)?

    I also agree with Glen that I think that it’s wrong for the government to mandate coverage without providing a public plan option. I wonder how much this will hurt the Democrats in 2010. I suspect that people won’t mind being required to buy health insurance as long as it’s affordable.

  12. dp in ypsi
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    @LT… my bad. I confused Rubin with Reich.

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