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seafan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-23-09 04:45 PM
Original message
Matt Taibbi: 'It is a fight to the finish now between Really Bad and Even Worse.'
This new article from Matt Taibbi about the health care battle, "Sick and Wrong", is required reading for every progressive out there, for it will serve as the foundation for all of our communications with elected officials and media in the health care fight. Matt Taibbi has poured his heart and soul into presenting this information to the public. In this article he has armed us with the facts and information we need to confront our Congress members.

Until now, confusion as to what is really going on with health care in Congress has reigned supreme. Here, Taibbi spells out for us what is going on. I cannot emphasize the importance of this piece enough. It's eight pages. Read it. Digest it. Arm ourselves with it. We've got to triple-time our pace to knock some heads in Congress, because time is running out.


THIS IS WAR.





Not being able to find the new September 3 issue of Rolling Stone I scrounged the net and found some links to scanned pages of Matt Taibbi's new piece, "Sick and Wrong: And why it may take a revolt to fix it".


Again, this article is too critically important to our health care battle to be hidden behind a firewall for who knows how much longer.


The links to the eight-page piece are listed below. Remove the space in each link between the "h" and the "t" to activate the links.


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Here is Taibbi's summation from the latter part of the piece (as transcribed):




To recap, heres what ended up happening with health care. First, they gave away single-payer before a single gavel had fallen, apparently as a bargaining chip to the very insurers mostly responsible for creating the crisis in the first place. Then they watered down the public option so as to make it almost meaningless, while simultaneously beefing up the individual mandate, which would force millions of people now uninsured to buy a product that is no longer certain to be either cheaper or more likely to prevent them from going bankrupt. The bill wont make drugs cheaper, and it might make paperwork for doctors even more unwieldy and complex than it is now. In fact, the various reform measures suck so badly that phRMA, the notorious mouthpiece for the pharmaceutical industry which last year spent more than $ 20 million lobbying against health care reform, is now gratefully spending more than seven times that much on a marketing campaign to help the president get what he wants.

So whats left? Well, the bills do keep alive the so-called employer mandate, requiring companies to provide insurance to their employees. A good idea--- except that the Blue Dogs managed to exempt employers with annual payrolls below $ 500,000, meaning that 87 percent of all businesses will be allowed to opt out of the best and toughest reform measure left. Thanks to Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama, we can now be assured that the 19 or 20 employers in America with payrolls above $ 500,000 who do not already provide insurance will be required to offer good solid health coverage. Hurray!

Or will they? At the end of July, word leaked out that the Senate Finance Committee, in addition to likely spiking the public option, has also decided to ditch the employer mandate. It was hard to be certain, because even Democrats on the committee dont know whats going on in the Group of Six selected by Baucus to craft the bill. Things got so bad that some Democrats on the committee--- including John Kerry, Chuck Schumer and Robert Menendez--- were reduced to holding what amounts to shadow hearings on health care several times a week, while Baucus and his crew conducted their meetings in relative secrecy. The chairman did not even bother to keep his fellow Democrats informed of the bills developments, let alone what he has promised Republicans in return for their support of the bill. The Group of Six has hijacked the process, says an aide to one of the left-out senators.

This leaves Democrats on the committee in the strange position of seriously considering pulling their support for a bill that will emerge from a panel on which they hold a clear majority. Other Democrats are also weighing an end run around their own leadership, hoping to sneak meaningful reforms back into the process. In the House, Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York refused to support the bill passed by the commerce committee unless he was allowed to attach an amendment that will enable Congress to vote on replacing the entire reform bill with a single-payer plan (Bernie Sanders is working on a similar measure in the Senate.) On the labor committee, Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio took a more nuanced tack, offering an amendment that would free up states to switch to a single-payer system of their own.
Its highly unlikely, though, that the partys leaders will agree to include such measures when the five competing reform bills are eventually combined. On the House side, Pelosi has unfettered discretion to combine the bills as she pleases, observes one Democratic aide. Which leaves us where we are today, as Congress enjoys its vacation, and the various sides have taken to the airwaves in an advertising blitz to make sure the population is saturated with idiotic misconceptions before the bill is actually voted on in the fall.

The much-ballyhood right-wing scare campaign, with its teabagger holdovers ridiculously disrupting town hall meetings with their belligerent protests and their stoneheaded memes (the sign raised at a town hall by Rep. Rick Larson of Washington --- KEEP THE GUVMINT OUT OF MY MEDICARE--- is destined to become a classic of conservative propaganda), has proved to be almost totally irrelevant to the entire enterprise. Aside from lowering even further the general level of civility (teabaggers urged Sen. Chris Dodd to off himself with painkillers; Rep. Brad Miller had his life threatened), the Limbaugh minions have accomplished nothing at all, except to look like morons for protesting as creeping socialism a reform effort designed specifically to change as little as possible and to preserve at all costs our malfunctioning system of private health care.

All thats left of health care reform is a collection of piece-of-shit, weakling proposals that are preposterously expensive and contain almost nothing meaningful--- and that set of proposals, meanwhile is being negotiated down even further by the endlessly negating Group of Six. It is a fight to the finish now between Really Bad and Even Worse. And its virtually guaranteed to sour the public on reform efforts for years to come.
Theyll pass some weak, mediocre plan that breaks the bank and even in the best analysis leaves 37 million people uninsured, says Mokhiber, one of the single-payer activists arrested by Baucus. Its going to give universal health care a bad name.

Its a joke, the whole thing, a parody of Solomonic governance. By the time all the various bills are combined, health care will be a baby not split in half but in fourths and eighths and fractions of eighths. Its what happens when a government accustomed to dealing on the level of perception tries to take on a profound emergency that exists in reality. No matter how hard Congress may try, though, it simply is not possible to paper over a crisis this vast.
Then again, some of the blame has to go to all of us. Its more than a little conspicuous that the same electorate that poured its heart out last year for the Hallmark-card story line of the Obama campaign has not been seen much in this health care debate. The handful of legislators--- the Weiners, Kuciniches, Wydens and Sanderses--- who are fighting for something real should be doing so with armies at their back. Instead, all the noise is being made on the other side. Not so stupid after all--- they, at least, understand that politics is a fight that does not end with the wearing of a T-shirt in November.





Honest to God, this is war.




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Hawkeye-X Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-23-09 04:47 PM
Response to Original message
1. Eff the broken links.
Here they are.









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DemReadingDU Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-23-09 05:48 PM
Response to Reply #1
6. Thanks, much bigger letters to read! n/t
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Nikki Stone1 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-24-09 12:45 AM
Response to Reply #1
14. Hawkeye, thank you for posting this. I just read the article thanks to you
I had been wanting to see it since Taibbi was on Rachel Maddow.
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John Q. Citizen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-23-09 04:55 PM
Response to Original message
2. Book marking for later. Thanks!
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Mojambo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-23-09 04:57 PM
Response to Original message
3. Very much looking forward to reading this piece. n/t
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Greyhound Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-23-09 05:01 PM
Response to Original message
4. Here's 5 (for now).
:kick: & R


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xxqqqzme Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-23-09 05:19 PM
Response to Original message
5. w/ video of Taibbi talking about his article
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QC Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-23-09 05:50 PM
Response to Original message
7. Over in GD: P they say that Taibbi is just a meany who doesn't like our dreeeeeeamy president.
Edited on Sun Aug-23-09 05:50 PM by QC
He probably kicks puppies, too.

I better not read this, lest I end up in the grip of heresy!
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invictus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-23-09 05:53 PM
Response to Original message
8. K&R
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seafan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-23-09 06:22 PM
Response to Original message
9. Taibbi cuts to the chase on all who bear responsibility for this health care sham.
This article will make one angrier and angrier, the deeper into it one reads.

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Laelth Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-23-09 06:26 PM
Response to Original message
10. Excellent essay, but I have a question.
If it's war, who is the enemy? From reading the article it's clear that the Democratic Party is its own worst enemy. How do we fight this war ... against ourselves?

:dem:

-Laelth
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Selatius Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-24-09 01:38 AM
Response to Reply #10
17. Basically, pass a constitutional amendment mandating publicly funded elections.
Edited on Mon Aug-24-09 01:41 AM by Selatius
Hell, it wouldn't even have to be a constitutional amendment. All you need to do is pass a bill that makes it far easier to mount an election campaign on public funding than on private funding, and in time, most of the politicians would be running on the public funding system. Add in a provision to provide additional funding if outspent by the opponent, and you're making the "public option" in elections even more attractive to politicians who habitually love to cover their own ass and take the easy way out.

If politicians ran on the public funding mechanism, they would not have to listen to very wealthy interests because they're afraid of losing a lot of funding come the next election. Of course, if one were to try to pass a public elections reform bill, all the corporate lobbyists would see this coming from 10,000 miles away and would no doubt try to bribe politicians into thinking it is also a bad idea, like how single-payer is a "bad" idea.
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pattmarty Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-24-09 07:21 AM
Response to Reply #17
22. I don't want to piss on your parade, but fat chance that will happen.
It's days like this I get EXTRA depressed with the situation here in the US. So many things ALLOWED to go wrong to get to this spot in our history. We need election reform (as you so eloquently stated), massive education reform (to at least get us into the "top ten" again), Health Insurance revamp, and I'm just getting started. Fucking depressing.
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JDPriestly Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-24-09 11:42 AM
Response to Reply #17
29. Selatius, my thought precisely. Who wants to write the text?
How do we get people to canvass for signatures?
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Fumesucker Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-23-09 07:51 PM
Response to Original message
11. K&R n/t
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Junkdrawer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-23-09 09:43 PM
Response to Original message
12. K&R
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necso Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-23-09 11:09 PM
Response to Original message
13. He sounds a little cynical. /nt
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progressoid Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-24-09 04:56 PM
Response to Reply #13
31. Or realistic.
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Selatius Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-24-09 12:58 AM
Response to Original message
15. If Taibbi is right, maybe it's time people think about another revolution.
Because it'll be obvious the system is broken if this health care reform turns out to be just cancer on Americans.
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last_texas_dem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-24-09 01:04 AM
Response to Original message
16. K&R. Great article
Thanks to you and Hawkeye-x for taking the effort to put it up here. I read it a few days ago in the magazine, and thought it laid out what we're dealing with here pretty well. I used to think Taibbi was overly harsh, but it's hard to not be outraged at the junk our elected officials are trying to pull on us regarding health care.

(FWIW, the Rolling Stone issue this article comes from is one of the better ones they've put out lately; besides this article, it also features some interesting articles about "why the Beatles broke up" and a phone "phreaker" mastermind who went to prison.)
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RandomThoughts Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-24-09 02:07 AM
Response to Original message
18. There is an interesting point about loop holes.
Edited on Mon Aug-24-09 02:08 AM by RandomThoughts
Part of laws are what they are said to be, but most is how they are enforced. We have many laws that are ignored for profit or cover for the few. Many others are only used by discretion not for justice. If loop holes are created then used to wreck the process, it would be the same failings that were used to avoid following laws in last Administration.

We just wont know until the final bill is put together. And if passed, how it is enforced. The article is correct a messed up bill would fit GOP and Bush governance strategy, do it so badly that people think government is useless. Many of GOP strategies are to make government work bad, or fail. While not talking about the failures of the private sector.


And the fix by the secret unorthodox methods of how Finance committee has been said that their one bill is more important then the other four bills by most of the media, and how it is not the full committee seems to be one group seemingly trying to take over the process, and many in media making it seem that way by saying it means more then it does.

I agree people should not be forced to have to stay with broken insurance, I was thinking that was just so public option could ramp up, since hundreds of millions jumping to public option in first few months could create a ramp up issue.

If what the article said about people having to take a crap policy is true, that would be wrong. Any mandate that forces a person to pay for lobbying against people is just plain wrong.

It would make sense that a mandate should only apply to people that could choose what type of program they wanted to be in.

If the public option is fake, it would not be a public option.


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leftstreet Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-24-09 02:37 AM
Response to Original message
19. K&R
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midnight Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-24-09 06:41 AM
Response to Original message
20. Congress working real hard at keeping the insurance co. healthy.
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pattmarty Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-24-09 07:13 AM
Response to Original message
21. I have been saying for a couple of months now, that I would rather..........
...........have NO REFORM than something that may in fact end up worse and WE ALL KNOW will cost even more than the shit "system" we now have. When the Dems blow this, they will indeed deserve to lose seats in the mid-term and the presidential in 2012. Going from a "change we can believe in" to possible shit that is worse than we already have, if you can believe that. It is entirely possible the "Dems" will give us a "reform" that would have been a Republican wet dream. Looks like we (the people) are gonna get fucked AGAIN.
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CoffeeCat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-24-09 09:07 AM
Response to Reply #21
25. In my view...
...we only have the appearance of a two-party system.

I think 98 percent of our politicians are all slaves to the corporations. It's a nice gig they've got going up on Capitol
Hill. The corporations pay off the politicians and the politicians give the corporations everything they want.

Social issues--such as abortion, religion, healthcare--serve to whip up the bases of each party--but notice that no change
ever happens. Just the threat of change. It keeps both sides focused on the fight--and not the cancer that has permeated
the very foundation.

Just as Taibbi says--the public option is not healthcare reform. In fact, it will serve as a glaring example of why healthcare
reform is a bad idea.

This is not meaningful reform. And it's going to fail and be a horrendous clusterfuck.

I believe the Dems and Reps have decided that the Dems will spearhead this failure---thus allowing the Republicans to
gain some more power again. They all volley power back and forth--giving the appearance of a living, breathing democracy.

It's not. It's one party, under the corporations--with liberty and justice for none.

You'd have to be a deranged Pollyanna to not see this. The Dems have a majority in the House, Senate and we have the White House. They
could have single payer or other meaningful healthcare reform if they wanted it. They have the votes. It's not rocket science
people. They Dems don't want healthcare.

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pattmarty Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-24-09 09:10 AM
Response to Reply #25
26. Unfortunately (for all Americans), I agree totally with everything you stated.
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Blue_Tires Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-24-09 07:23 AM
Response to Original message
23. kick for later...
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CoffeeCat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-24-09 08:54 AM
Response to Original message
24. This healthcare bill is designed to destroy healthcare...l
Edited on Mon Aug-24-09 08:54 AM by CoffeeCat
First off, all of these politicians fighting about "the public option" is a joke. They all know that it's meaningless. Just
as this article demonstrates--they've watered down the public option into non-reform healthcare reform.

The politicians all ready have what they want--single payer off the table.

At this point, the fights are all fake fighting--and they damn well know it. I think some of the fighting on the Dem
side is a tactic to keep the Progressives in line--as we are fooled into believing that our Dems fought for healthcare
reform, as they fight for the public option.

Single payer leaves many uninsured--which is critical--because costs still won't be contained. We've still got the
insurance companies in power and making medical decisions--and the public option mandates some insurance. That won't
work.

This entire thing is set up to FAIL IN A PUBLIC BLAZE OF GLORY.

This is happening for one reason and one reason only---so they can all point to this failed experiment and say, "SEE!
WE TOLD YOU GOVERNMENT-RUN HEALTHCARE WAS NOT THE SOLUTION!!!"

We are so, so screwed.
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LibDemAlways Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-24-09 09:13 AM
Response to Original message
27. Absolutely required reading. Taibbi pulls
Edited on Mon Aug-24-09 09:22 AM by LibDemAlways
no punches and he places the blame for this fiasco squarely where it belongs - on Obama for not providing leadership and turning this thing over to Congress, on Baucus and his corrupt Gang of 6 for working to enrich the health insurance industry at the expense of the ordinary person who is still going to end up sick and broke, on every member of Congress bought and paid for by the insurance industry/big Pharma, on the complete joke called the Dem Leadership, and, of course, on the worthless, useless boil on the ass of humanity called the Republican Party and US media.

When some half-ass POS bill that forces people to accept what Taibbi calls their "dog shit" employer insurance is signed, expect a media bloodletting and a voter backlash.

The few who are trying to do the right thing for the American people are no match for the well-financed army of the status quo.
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seafan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-24-09 10:40 AM
Response to Original message
28. Taibbi: 'This is a referendum on whether or not we actually have a functioning government.'
Edited on Mon Aug-24-09 10:49 AM by seafan
As transcribed:



The system doesnt work for anyone. It cheats patients and leaves them to die, denies insurance to 47 million Americans, forces hospitals to spend billions haggling over claims, and systematically bleeds and harasses doctors with the specter of catastrophic litigation.



Just as we have a medical system that is not really designed to care for the sick, we have a government that is not equipped to fix actual crises. What our government is good at is something else entirely: effecting the appearance of action while leaving the actual reform behind in a diabolical labyrinth of ingenious legislative maneuvers.
Over the course of this summer, those two failed systems have collided in a spectacular crossroads moment in American history. We have an urgent national emergency on the one hand, and on the other, a comfortable majority of ostensibly simpatico Democrats, who were elected by an angry population, in large part, specifically to reform health care. When they all sat down in Washington to tackle the problem, it amounted to a referendum on whether or not we actually have a functioning government.



Its a situation that one would have thought to be sobering enough to snap Congress into real action for once. Instead they did the exact opposite, doubling down on the same-old, same-old and laboring day and night in the halls of the Capitol to deliver us a tour de force of old thinking and legislative trickery, as if thats what we really wanted. Almost every one of the main players from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Blue Dog turncoat Max Baucusfound some unforeseeable, unique-to-them way to fuck this thing up. Even Ted Kennedy, for whom successful health care reform was to be the great vindicating achievement of his career, and Barack Obama, whose entire presidency will likely be judged by this bill, managed to come up small when the lights came on.



The game in health care reform has mostly come down to whether or not the final bill that is hammered out from the work of these five committees will contain a public option--- i.e. , an option for citizens to buy in to a government-run health care plan. Because the plan wouldnt have any profit motiveand wouldnt have to waste money on executive bonuses and corporate marketingit would automatically cost less than private insurance. Once such a public plan is on the market, it would also drive down prices offered by for-profit insurers--- a move essential to offset the added cost of covering millions of uninsured Americans. Without a public option, any effort at health care reform will be as meaningful as a manicure for a gunshot victim. The public option is the main thing on the table, says Michael Behan, an aide to Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Its really coming down to that.



The House versions all contain a public option, as does the HELP committees version in the Senate. So whether or not there will be a public option in the end will likely come down to Baucus, one of the biggest whores for insurance-company money in the history of the United States. The early indications are that there is no public option in the Baucus version; the chairman hinted he favors the creation of nonprofit insurance cooperatives, a lame-ass alternative that even a total hack like Sen. Chuck Schumer has called a fig leaf. Even worse, Baucus has set things up so that the final Senate bill will be drawn up by six senators from his committee: a gang of three Republicans (Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Mike Enzi of Wyoming) and three Democrats (Baucus, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico) known by the weirdly Maoist sobriquet Group of Six. The setup senselessly submarines the committees Democratic majority, effectively preventing members who advocate a public option, like Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Robert Menendez of New Jersey, from seriously influencing the bill. Getting movement on a public optionor any other meaningful reformwill now require the support of one of the three Republicans in the group: Grassley, (who has received $ 2, 034,000 from the health sector), Snowe ($ 756,000) or Enzi ($ 627,000).
This is what the prospects for real health care reform come down to whether one of three Republicans from tiny states with no major urban populations decides, out of the goodness of his or her cash-fattened heart, to forsake forever any contributions from the health-insurance industry (and, probably, aid for their re-election efforts from the Republican National Committee.)




But just to hedge its bets even further and ensure that no real reforms pass, Congress has made sure to cover itself, sabotaging the bill long before it even got to Baucus committee. To do this, they used a five-step system of subtle feints and legislative tricks to gut the measure until there was nothing left.



And the five steps are:


STEP ONE: AIM LOW


STEP TWO: GUT THE PUBLIC OPTION


STEP THREE: PACK IT WITH LOOPHOLES


STEP FOUR: PROVIDE NO LEADERSHIP


STEP FIVE: BLOW THE MATH



Heading into the health care debate, there was only ever one genuinely dangerous idea out there, and that was a single payer system. Used by every single developed country outside the United States (with the partial exceptions of Holland and Switzerland, which offer limited and highly regulated private- insurance options), single payer allows doctors and hospitals to bill and be reimbursed by a single government entity. In America, the system would eliminate private insurance, while allowing doctors to continue operating privately.
In the real world, nothing except a single payer system makes any sense. There are currently more than 1,300 private insurers in this country, forcing doctors to fill out different forms and follow different reimbursement procedures for each and every one. This drowns medical facilities in idiotic paperwork and jacks up process: Nearly a third of all health care costs in America are associated with wasteful administration. Fully $ 350 billion a year could be saved on paperwork alone if the U. S. went to a single-payer system--- more than enough to pay for the whole goddamned thing, if anyone had the balls to stand up and say so.



Everyone knows this, including the president. Last spring, when he met with Rep. Lynn Woolsey, the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Obama openly said so. He said if he were starting from scratch, he would have a single-payer system, says Woolsey. But he thought it wasnt possible, because it would disrupt the health care industry.
Huh? This isnt a small point: The president and the Democrats decided not to press for the only plan that makes sense for everyone, in order to preserve an industry that is not only cruel and stupid and dysfunctional, but through its rank inefficiency has necessitated the very reforms now being debated. Even though the Democrats enjoy a political monopoly and could have started from a very strong bargaining position, they chose instead to concede at least half the battle before it even began.



Many of the health care advisers in Obamas inner circle, meanwhile, are industry hackspeople like Nancy-Ann DeParle, the presidents health care czar, who has served on the boards of for-profit companies like Medco Health Solutions and Triad hospitals. DeParle is so unthreatening to the status quo that Karen Ignagni, the insurance industrys leading lobbyist-gorgon, praised her extensive experience and long track record.
Behind closed doors, Obama also moved to cut a deal with the drug industry. Its a dirty deal, says Russell Mokhiber, one of the protesters whom Baucus had arrested. The administration told them Single-payer is off the table. In exchange, we want you on board. In August the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America announced that the industry would contribute an estimated $ 150 million to campaign for Obamacare.




The situation was made worse as the flagging economy ate away at Obamas political capital. Polls showed the percentage of highly engaged Democrats plummeting, while the percentage of highly enraged Republicans--- inspired by idiotic scare stories from Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin about socialized medicine and euthanasiarose rapidly.



For a while, the public option looked like it had a real chance at passing. In the House, both the ways and means committee and the labor committee passed draft bills that contained a genuine public option. But then conservative opponents of the plan, the so-called Blue Dog Democrats, mounted their counterattack. A powerful bloc composed primarily of drawling southerners in ill-fitting suits, the Blue Dogs--- a gang of puffed-up political mulattos hired by the DNC to pass as almost-Republicans in red state battlegrounds--- present themselves as a quasi-religious order, worshipping at the sacred altar of fiscal responsibility and deficit reduction. On July 9, in a harmless-sounding letter to Pelosi, 40 Blue Dogs expressed concern that doctors in the public option must be fairly reimbursed at negotiated rates, and their participation must be voluntary. Paying doctors using Medicares below-market rates, they added, would seriously weaken the financial stability of our local hospitals.
The letter was an amazing end run around the political problem posed by the public option --- i.e., its unassailable status as a more efficient and cheaper health care alternative. The Blue Dogs were demanding that the very thing that makes the public option work --- curbing costs to taxpayers by reimbursing doctors at Medicare rates plus five percent ---- be scrapped. Instead, the Blue Dogs wanted compensation rates for doctors to be jacked up, on the governments tab. The very Democrats who make a point of boasting about their unwavering commitment to fiscal conservatism, were lobbying, in essence, for a big fat piece of government pork for doctors. Cost should be the number one concern to the Blue Dogs, grouses Rep. Woolsey. Thats why theyre Blue Dogs.
In the end, the Blue Dogs won. When the House commerce committee passed its bill, the public option no longer paid Medicare-plus-five-percent. Instead, it required the government to negotiate rates with providers, ensuring that costs would be dramatically higher. According to one Democratic aide, the concession would bump the price of the public option by $ 1,800 a year for the average family of four.
In one fell swoop, the public plan went from being significantly cheaper than private insurance to costing, well, about the same as what we have now, as one Senate aide puts it. This was the worst of both worlds, the kind of take-the-fork-in-the-road nonsolution that has been the peculiar specialty of Democrats ever since Bill Clinton invented a new way to smoke weed. The party could now sell voters on the idea that it was offering a public option without technically lying, while at the same time reassuring health care providers that the public option it was passing would not imperil the industrys market share.
Even more revolting, when Pelosi was asked on July 31st if she worried that progressives in the House would yank their support of the bill because of the sellout to conservatives, she literally laughed out loud. Are the progressives going to take down universal, quality, affordable health care for all Americans? she said, chuckling heartily to reporters. I dont think so.
The laugh said everything about what the mainstream Democratic Party is all about. It finds the notion that it has to pay anything more than lip service to its professed values funny. Its a joke, complains one Democratic aide. This is all a game to these people--- and theyre good at it.




Given that five different committees are weighing five different and often competing paths to reform, its not surprising that all sorts of bizarre crap winds up buried in their bills, stuff no one could possibly have expected to be in there. The most glaring example, passed by Ted Kennedys HELP committee, would allow the makers of complex drugs known as biologics to keep their formulas from being copied by rivals for 12 years--- twice as long as the protection for ordinary pharmaceuticals. The notion that an effort ostensibly aimed at curbing health care costs would grant the pharmaceutical industry lucrative new protections against generic drugs is even weirder when you consider that earlier proposals, including one supported by Obama, would have protected brand-name drugs for only seven years.
Another favor to the industry buried in the bills involves the use of choice. From the outset, Democrats have been careful to make sure that a revamped system would not in any way force citizens to give up their existing health care plans. As Obama told the American Medical Association in June, If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, youll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.
That sounds great, particularly with the new set of standards for employer-provided insurance outlined in the House version of reform. Under the bill--- known as HR 3200--- employers must provide essential benefits to workers or face a stiff penalty. Essential benefits includes elements often missing in the fly-by-night plans offered by big employers: drug benefits, outpatient care, hospitalization, mental health, the works. If your employer does not offer acceptable coverage, you then have the right to go into one of the state-run insurance exchanges, where you can select from a number of insurance plans, including the public option.
Theres a flip side, though: If your employer offers you acceptable care and you reject it, you are barred from buying insurance in the insurance exchange. In other words, you must take the insurance offered to you at work. And that might have made sense if, as decreed in the House version, employers actually had to offer good care. But in the Senate version passed by the HELP committee, there is no real requirement for employers to provide any kind of minimal level of care. On the contrary, employers who currently offer sub-par coverage will have their shitty plans protected by a grandfather clause.
Which means.
If you have coverage you like, you can keep it, says Sen. Sanders. But if you have coverage you dont like, you gotta keep it.



This grandfather clause has potentially wide-ranging consequences. One of the biggest health care problems we have in this country is the technique used by large employers--- Walmart is the most notorious example--- of offering dogshit, bare-bones health insurance that forces employees to take on steep co-pays and other massive charges. Low-wage workers currently offered these plans often reject them and join Medicaid, effectively shifting the health care burden for Walmart employees on to the taxpayer. If the HELP committees grandfather clause survives to the final bill, those workers who did the sensible thing in rejecting Walmarts crap employer plan and taking the comparatively awesome insurance offered via Medicaid will now be rebuffed by the state and forced to take the Walmart dogshit offering.




In a legislative sense, the bad ideas are already in the barn, and the solutions are fenced off in the fields, hoping to get in.



One of the reasons for this chaos was the bizarre decision by the administration to provide absolutely no real oversight of the reform effort. From the start, Obama acted like a man still running for president, not someone already sitting in the White House, armed with 60 seats in the Senate. He spoke in generalities, offering as guiding principles the kind of Im-for-puppies-and-sunshine platitudes we got used to on the campaign trail--- investment in prevention and wellness, affordable health care for all, guaranteed choice of doctor. At no time has he come out and said what he wants Congress to do, in concrete terms. Even in June, when congressional leaders desperate for guidance met with chief of staff (and former legislative change-squelcher) Rahm Emanuel, they got no signal at all about what the White House wanted. On the question of a public option, Emanuel was agonizingly noncommittal, reportedly telling Senate Democrats that the president was still open to alternatives.
On the same day Emanuel was passing the buck to senators, Obama was telling reporters that its still too early to have a strong opinion on a public option. This was startling news indeed: Eight months after being elected president of the United States is too early to have an opinion on an issue that Obama himself made a central plank of his campaign? The president conceded only that a public option makes sense.
This White House makes a serial vacillator like Bill Clinton look like Patton crossing the Rhine. Veterans from the Clinton White House, in fact, jumped on Obama. The president may have overlearned the lesson of the Clinton health care plan fiasco, which was: Dont deliver a package to the Hill, let the Hill take ownership, said Robert Reich, who served a labor secretary under Clinton. There were now so many competing ideas about how to pay for the plan and what kind of mandates to include that even after the five bills are completed, Congress will not be much closer to reform than it was at the beginning. The president has got to go in there and give it coherence, Reich concluded.
But Reichs comment assumes that Obama wants to give the bill coherence. In many ways, the lily-livered method Obama chose to push health care into being is a crystal-clear example of how the Democratic Party likes to act--- showering a real problem with a blizzard of ineffectual decisions and verbose nonsense, then stepping aside at the last minute to reveal the true plan that all along was being forged off-camera in the furnace of moneyed interests and insider inertia. While the White House publicly eschewed any concrete guiding principles, the People Who Mattered, it appeared, had already long ago settled on theirs. Those principles seem to have been: no single-payer system, no meaningful public option, no meaningful employer mandates and a very meaningful mandate for individual consumers. In other words, the only major reform with teeth would be the one forcing everyone to buy some form of private insurance, no matter how crappy, or suffer a tax penalty. If the public option is the sine qua non for progressives, then the individual mandate is the counterpart must-have requirement for the insurance industry.



The so-called individual mandate is currently included in four of the five bills before Congress. The most likely version to survive into the final measure resembles the system in Massachusetts designed by Mormon glambot Mitt Romney, who imposed tax penalties on citizens who did not buy insurance. Several of Romneys former advisers are involved in the writing of Obamacare, including a key aide to Ted Kennedy who was instrumental in designing the HELP committee legislation. The federal version of the Massachusetts plan would slap the uninsured with a hefty tax penalty--- making the HELP committee clause barring people from opting out of their employer-provided plan that much more outrageous.
If things go the way it looks like they will, health care reform will simply force great numbers of new people to buy or keep insurance of a type that is already proved not to work. The IRS and the government will force people to buy a defective product, says Woolhandler. We know its defective because three-quarters of all people who file for bankruptcy because of medical reasons have insurance when they get sick--- and theyre bankrupted anyway.



Without a real public option to drive down costs, the federal support to make sure everyone gets coverage is going to get very expensive very fast, says Behan, the aide to Sen. Sanders.
Heres the other thing. By blowing off single-payer and cutting the heart out of the public option, the Obama administration robbed itself of its biggest argument--- that health care reform is going to save a lot of money. That has left the Democrats vulnerable to charges that the plan is going to blow a mile-wide hole in the budget, one well be paying debt service on through the year 3000. It also left them scrambling to find other ways to pay for the plan, making it almost inevitable that they would step in political shit with seniors everywhere by trying surreptitiously to whittle down Medicare. As a result, the Democrats have become so oversensitive to charges of fiscal irresponsibility that theyre taking their frustrations out on people who dont deserve it. Witness Nancy Pelosis bizarre freakout over the Congressional Budget Office. When the CBO questioned Obamas projected cost savings, Pelosi blasted them for always giving you the worst-case scenario --- which, of course, is exactly what the budget office is supposed to do. When you start asking your accountant to look on the bright side, you know youre not dealing from a position of strength.



And its virtually guaranteed to sour the public on reform efforts for years to come.





And to Republicans, Blue Dogs and all others on the take, it is mission accomplished.




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nightrain Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-25-09 05:15 AM
Response to Reply #28
34. if this is a referendum on whether we have a functional government, I think we're getting
our answer. It's dysfunctional and protective of abusers. I am sorely disappointed in my Dem reps and Obama for continuing this farcical protection of abusive corporations, rather than having regular peoples' best interests at heart.

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debbierlus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-24-09 01:40 PM
Response to Original message
30. Many DU'ers have been pathetic in their defense of Obama's turn coat deals w corporate criminals

It is disgusting.

Public option! We fight for a term that has no definition. Don't post anything about single payer or you will be unrecommended. These people are not activists. They are political spectators who refuse to fight for anything. I can't believe the number of democrats now behaving EXACTLY like Bush Republicans.

It is a sorry sight, & they need to be called out on it.
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nightrain Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-25-09 05:17 AM
Response to Reply #30
35. It's very sad to see the extent to which some enable the abuse to continue.
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bertman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-24-09 09:07 PM
Response to Original message
32. Recommend highly. Taibbi speaks eloquently of the reality of this dire situation.
Excellent post, Seafan.

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man4allcats Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-25-09 01:07 AM
Response to Original message
33. Thanks for posting this. It is excellent,
and thanks to you, I didn't miss it. :thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

Bait and switch: How the public option was sold

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