Harry Reid, Democratic Leaders and the White House Still Faking the Funk on Universal Health Care

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

This week the Senate's Harry Reid announced the consolidation of the Senate Democratic caucus version of health care reform. How central the “public option” is or is not depends on who you ask, as do precisely how many people it would be offered to and on what terms. What is clear is that it remains a Massachusetts-style bailout plan to subsidize private insurers, rather than one providing universal care at affordable rates. Meanwhile the gap between the actual public option and the imaginary ones sold by progressive Democrats is growing. How long it can be concealed, and what will happen when it is revealed are anybody's guess.

Harry Reid, Democratic Leaders and the White House Still Faking the Funk on Universal Health Care

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

This Halloween a couple of persistent spooks haunt Congressional Democrats and the White House on the health care front.

The first is the overwhelming public sentiment in favor of a government-run, everybody in nobody out Medicare For All type health care system. The proper name for this kind of setup, single payer, is rarely mentioned or acknowledged directly, except in tandem with exculpatory phrases like “...but it's politically impossible...” or “...I'm in favor of it but we don't have the votes...” or dismissed with in favor of some “...uniquely American solution...”

The fact is, single payer is so popular that Congressional Democrats have taken to describing their so-called public option to voters in terms that make it hard to tell the difference between it and a real single payer system. This deliberate falsehood has been perpetrated by some Democrats in the progressive caucus from the beginning of the current congress, and it continues to this day.

Single payer partisans were the first to call it. Back in May Kip Sullivan of Physicians for a National Health Care Plan detailed the differences between the real public option and the one described in glowing terms by progressive legislators. He called it a “bait and switch” job. And when Howard Dean declared on Democracy Now that the public option is best thought of as Medicare, Harvard's David Himmelstein labeled him a liar. That kind of deception works fine as long as there are multiple versions of the Democratic health care bill, each well over a thousand pages long in dense legalese, studded with hundreds of cryptic references to other legislation. It holds up as long as most people don't know the effective date at which the uninsured will begin to be covered under the president's plan is 2013. It's good enough as corporate media stick to the script and mention few or none of these things, and the day of reckoning is months or years away. Lies are good and useful things, until you get caught.

Thanks to the relentless work of single payer forces, including some members of the Congress, the web of deception around the public option is unraveling. The day the Senate version of the health care bill was finalized even Rachel Maddow got around to posing many but not all of the same deal-breaking questions Kip Sullivan, PNHP and others single payer activists were asking five months ago, questions that the public option's sponsors couldn't answer then, and can't answer now.

  • How can the public option “compete” with private insurers to lower their costs when it will be limited to only a few million people?

  • How can the public option “compete” with private insurers when its pool will be disproportionately poor and sick?

  • Why must we wait until 2013 for the Democratic plan to cover the uninsured?

The behavior of some leading Democrats on single payer is positively schizophrenic, poo-pooing, downplaying and dismissing single payer while they describe their incredibly complicated some-of-you-in and most-of-you-out versions of the public option and the “robust” public option as Medicare For All in everything but name and unique American-ness. There are, of course other questions Maddow and company could ask whose answers, or non-answers would be even more damning. But these are a good start.

The second scary trick looming ahead of Democrats is of course the 2010 election cycle. When the truth comes out, and voters eventually see the gap between what they want, what Democratic leaders are claiming for their versions of the public option, and what they seem likely to get, it's easy to envision a lot of very unhappy Democratic voters, and not so easy to predict what they might do.  Many of them won't vote Republican in any case, but might stay home in numbers big enough to tip the balance in some congressinal districts.

The foundation of the president's plan, and the plans of Democratic leaders isn't single payer, it isn't Medicare For All, and it's not even any kind of public option, robust or otherwise. The foundation of of their health care reform remains bailing out the private insurance companies, guaranteeing them a lucrative market by forcing Americans to buy their policies, some of them with taxpayer subsidies and funds squeezed from existing Medicare, Medicaid and other care for those at high risk and low incomes.

Democrats can lie about or suppress discussion on these things for a little while to come. But the truth will come out, much of it well before the 2010 elections. The standard alibi of blue dog Democrats has always been that they can't support any “robust public option,” let alone single payer because their districts are sooooo conservative. But this doesn't hold water. Many blue dog districts are among the highest in proportions of the uninsured, and rife with bankruptcies, caused in large part by unpayable medical bills. These blue dogs have been shielded from progressive challengers in primary elections by none other than Rahm Emanuel for two or three terms now, and they expect that protection again for standing with private insurers against the voters of their districts.

2010 is beginning to look a lot more like Clinton's first mid-term election, in which Democrats lost dozens of seats and the political initiative passed to Republicans for the next 14 years.

If Democrats refuse to pass a health care bill that is very close to Medicare For All, they are storing up trouble for the near future. They only thing, increasingly, that congressional Democrats have to recommend them is that they aren't Republicans. Whether that will be enough to re-elect them in 2010 is anybody's guess.

Private insurance companies have a business model to protect. They are making a killing. 120 killings a day, in fact, and 45,000 a year. Single payer activists, whose aim is to take private insurance companies out of the health care equation, aim to raise the price of doing business for private insurers to unacceptable levels with tactics that have begun to include nonviolent civil disobedience in and around the offices of insurers, who are the only real death panels.

Congress and the White House are continually bombarded with letters, phone calls, faxes and emails demanding the consideration of Medicare For All, HR 676, simple and effective single payer legislation introduced by Congressmen Conyers and Kucinich, and sponsored by 90 of their colleagues in this congress. The initiative in the struggle for universal health care remains where it always has been, in the streets and in the public and private meetings of single payer advocates. The harder they press, the more divided congressional Democrats become, between those who adamantly oppose single payer AND the imaginary public option, and the faction that keeps telling us their “robust public option” is so much like single payer that we'll hardly know the difference.

If you want to become involved in the fight for universal, everybody in, nobody out health care, go to www.mobilizeforhealthcare.org and sign up to be included in the flow of information and connected with like minded activists in your city or town. It's time to demand what most people voted for last year. Health care for everybody. Now.





Health Care

  " What is clear is that it remains a Massachusetts-style bailout plan to subsidize private insurers, rather than one providing universal care at affordable rates. Meanwhile the gap between the actual public option and the imaginary ones sold by progressive Democrats is growing."
  Two sentences and the whole Health Care farce is perfectly described.  Here and PNHP.org are two of the very few places that the reality of what Dem/Obama "Health Insurance Reform" is all about.  The rest of the "media"/blogs etc. just talk sh*t as a result of dishonesty, laziness, stupidity, etc.  It's very discouraging.

funk and fake for sure

Bruce Dixon is on the money when it comes to the Democratic leadership and Obama. Mr. Dixon wonders what people will do when they catch on to the scam that is mandatory health insurance. Well, they need to catch on to the scam that the Democrat's pull whether it's EFCA stonewalling and waffling or feeding the pentagon all the nation's money. That's what Democrats do-scam. Abandon false hopes for the party and Obama. They have no intention of delivering that which the voters' demand or what best serves the health and well-being of the citizenry. That's the best thing to do...stop living on vain hopes about the Democratic Party.



The problem with that is...

that, no, its not even Massachusetts style care--that covers about 96%. Its worse.

Well put. I heard Howard Dean's interview on DemNow - he dissed

single payer.  He was never great on health care as Gov., was he?  I heard a mis-statement of sorts, on DemocracyNow today, by the person from a great group:pnhp.  He said that Medicare doesn't have premiums, at least for Part A, I think he said.  (I have medicare and not sure which is A and which is B; one is drs and the other is hospital care.)  To be more precise,
     Social Security deducts about $100.a month from my social security check for medicare before I get the money.  To me that's a premium.
   I want single payer, medicare for all.  I would then like to see some realistic balance between the amount deducted for medicare and the rest of the check/amount people get for social security.   The medicare cost that is taken out of my social security is about 1/8th of the amount.
   And then I have to pay about $2200. a year (premiums go up so often), for private Medigap to cover the 20% not covered by Medicare.
    Let's have real single payer - Medicare for All.

A book that sheds light on health care

Wonderful article. An excellent book that goes into detail of how woeful the US health care system is as compared to other advanced countries around the world that employ a universal health care system is T.R. Reid's must-read book The Healing of America: A Global Quest For  Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care. This is a book, if I may say, that should be read by every thinking and progressive American in this country.

Health care system

We have a health care system in this country that is the best in the world. We have the best doctors and the best hospitals. Do not destroy it with a "public option." Change some policies (like pre-existing conditions) and provide a provision for the 3% of our population that cannot get or cannot afford health insurance. If you don't think the government will take over health care through the public option, you do not understand basic business or you are just hoping it doesn't happen. casino en ligne

US is inferior to other countries

Henry Griffith
Your claim that "We have a health care system in this country that is the best system in the world" is totally falacious. As the article points out, 45,000 Americans do not have health insurance. As T.r. Reid points out in his book, the US is ranked 37th by the WHO in terms of quality health care. That dubious distinction hardly merits the United States as having the "best system in the world." The US ranks near the bottom regarding infant mortality and in the middle regarding the longevity of its citizens.
As long as the US has a system in which for-profit [as opposed to non-profit in those countries that have universal health care] insurance companies rip off the citizens of this country, then Americans will continue to have inferior health care. Despite your scorn at a government run system, not one country that does employ a socialistic type of health care system can make the claim that the United States does and  that is that any of its citizens will die because they do not receive quality health care and nor can any country state that, like the US, any of its citizens has ever declared bankruptcy because it could not pay its medical bills. But as Reid writes in his book, not all the countries that he visited which have universal health care have a socialized type of system [such as the UK]. But what they all have in common is that not  one of those countries have  for-profit insurance companies running roughshod over their citizens as they make sure that NON-PROFIT companies are the ones who are allowed to compete in the marketplace. And here is the kicker: Everyone, not just the priviliged few in those countries, is given access to quality health care.

Well said, thanks

for the correct "facts", I too was thinking of the WHO "facts."
Thanks for dispensing with the shrillness perpetrating as intellectual, objective facts.
One more thing, a friendly amendment if you will.  To the opponents of universal or "government"run healthcare, please stop the bullshit about "waiting periods."  Are you f****king kidding me?  Get the flu, H1N1, swine, I don't care, and then visit your local ER or urgent care center and see if you won't wait there as well. 
Tell when when was the last time CIGNA, or Blue Cross gave carte blanche to elective surgery, hell, my insurer is giving me shit for a colonostomy, what should be a routine procedure at my age. Preventative medicine, right?
In 50+ years of living on this planet, I have yet to not wait.  What a pathetic argument, "the waiting periods."  I'm tired of this and other feeble arguments based on myth and American Exceptionalism.  Wake up, there's a lot of shit in this world we ain't the "best" at.

Health care systems of other nations shut out by Obama

Enlightened Cynic
I think that your points involving waiting times in the United States are well taken. My wife had to wait up to five months before she finally was able to see a neurologist in Seattle. Americans love to criticize other countries because their citizens have to wait but in those countries, such as Canada, those waiting periods, as T.R. Reid notes in his book, are for elective procedures. Canadian citizens, unlike those in the US, are never in danger of dying prematurely because they were unable to receive adequate and basic  health care.
But I think a very important point to make, which Reid again does in his book, is that while one will wait to see a doctor for, say,, a hip replacement in Canada, that is not the case in other countries such as France or Japan. Reid's point is that a case can be made for selecting the best that other countries have to offer and while attempting to eliminate or downplay their flaws. As he says, it does not mean that one should only look at one country, such as Canada or Taiwan. Each country that has universal health care, with their different systems,  would have much to offer to the United States. Unfortunately that does not appear that that may happen anytime soon as Obama chose to completely ignore the health care systems of other countries when he gathered his so-called experts together earlier in the year to determine which path the US would take. Apparently just another example of hubris and American Exceptionalism at its finest [or worst].

So much for critical thinking, huh?

It just dawned on me that I listened to Reid on NPR a few weeks or months ago (I lose track of time).  I was floored.  I remember adding the NPR link and urging EVERYONE to not only listen but share it.  What a wake up call.   Another wake up call was when Pana Semita indicated that even Panama has universal health care.  This is why the US ranks where it does.  Reid also has a piece at PBS on Auyurvedic medicine that's worth exploration and application.
Here's another thing, from Reid, that is an astonishing example of greed, avarice, stupidity, and hubris:  France uses a universal, transferable medical card, why is Obama proposing BILLIONS!! to streamline the US medical records process when they could pay you and I, say half million a piece for 3 years straight to tweak the French system and apply it here?  THAT corporate boondoogle get's glossed over as well in the phony debate.
Conversely, part of the reason it's so much more expensive to streamline medical records here is the gross, disjointed nature of the system.
In closing, while I will gladly be taxed for universal health care, (yeah, that's right, tax me for good schools, police, clean water, community colleges, and health care), ... I do believe personal reponsibility is one way to challenge this system, to defund it if you will, in that vein diet, exercise and ayurvedic medicine need to be more fully explored.

Compromise From a Better Position

Single payer should be our second choice.
  What we really need is a public health service, with free clinics in every neighborhood and top rate regional hospitals.
  We need more doctors trained and available to all Americans.  
  We need an end to corporate agribusiness subsidies that push unhealthy food on us and our children.
   We need an end to fossil fuel centered living spaces that make walking dangerous and unpleasant.   And the car centered transportation system that kills over 40,000 people a year directly, as well as crippling thousands others and killing more through heart disease, air pollution and global warming. 
   And if we can't get that right away, then set up a single payer system until we can.