Friday, July 31, 2009

Health Care Realities


At a recent town hall meeting, a man stood up and told Representative Bob Inglis to “keep your government hands off my Medicare.” The congressman, a Republican from South Carolina, tried to explain that Medicare is already a government program — but the voter, Mr. Inglis said, “wasn’t having any of it.”

It’s a funny story — but it illustrates the extent to which health reform must climb a wall of misinformation. It’s not just that many Americans don’t understand what President Obama is proposing; many people don’t understand the way American health care works right now. They don’t understand, in particular, that getting the government involved in health care wouldn’t be a radical step: the government is already deeply involved, even in private insurance.

And that government involvement is the only reason our system works at all.

The key thing you need to know about health care is that it depends crucially on insurance. You don’t know when or whether you’ll need treatment — but if you do, treatment can be extremely expensive, well beyond what most people can pay out of pocket. Triple coronary bypasses, not routine doctor’s visits, are where the real money is, so insurance is essential.

Yet private markets for health insurance, left to their own devices, work very badly: insurers deny as many claims as possible, and they also try to avoid covering people who are likely to need care. Horror stories are legion: the insurance company that refused to pay for urgently needed cancer surgery because of questions about the patient’s acne treatment; the healthy young woman denied coverage because she briefly saw a psychologist after breaking up with her boyfriend.

And in their efforts to avoid “medical losses,” the industry term for paying medical bills, insurers spend much of the money taken in through premiums not on medical treatment, but on “underwriting” — screening out people likely to make insurance claims. In the individual insurance market, where people buy insurance directly rather than getting it through their employers, so much money goes into underwriting and other expenses that only around 70 cents of each premium dollar actually goes to care.

Still, most Americans do have health insurance, and are reasonably satisfied with it. How is that possible, when insurance markets work so badly? The answer is government intervention.
Most obviously, the government directly provides insurance via Medicare and other programs. Before Medicare was established, more than 40 percent of elderly Americans lacked any kind of health insurance. Today, Medicare — which is, by the way, one of those “single payer” systems conservatives love to demonize — covers everyone 65 and older. And surveys show that Medicare recipients are much more satisfied with their coverage than Americans with private insurance.

Still, most Americans under 65 do have some form of private insurance. The vast majority, however, don’t buy it directly: they get it through their employers. There’s a big tax advantage to doing it that way, since employer contributions to health care aren’t considered taxable income. But to get that tax advantage employers have to follow a number of rules; roughly speaking, they can’t discriminate based on pre-existing medical conditions or restrict benefits to highly paid employees.

And it’s thanks to these rules that employment-based insurance more or less works, at least in the sense that horror stories are a lot less common than they are in the individual insurance market.

So here’s the bottom line: if you currently have decent health insurance, thank the government. It’s true that if you’re young and healthy, with nothing in your medical history that could possibly have raised red flags with corporate accountants, you might have been able to get insurance without government intervention. But time and chance happen to us all, and the only reason you have a reasonable prospect of still having insurance coverage when you need it is the large role the government already plays.

Which brings us to the current debate over reform.

Right-wing opponents of reform would have you believe that President Obama is a wild-eyed socialist, attacking the free market. But unregulated markets don’t work for health care — never have, never will. To the extent we have a working health care system at all right now it’s only because the government covers the elderly, while a combination of regulation and tax subsidies makes it possible for many, but not all, nonelderly Americans to get decent private coverage.
Now Mr. Obama basically proposes using additional regulation and subsidies to make decent insurance available to all of us. That’s not radical; it’s as American as, well, Medicare.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

John Stewart Hits the Nail on the Head

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Republicans Lying to Old People About Euthanasia, Robots

By Bob Cesca

There appears to be a simple two-pronged strategy for killing health care reform.
One of those prongs involves, of course, delaying reform until it's too late. If it's not passed by the end of the year, there won't be the political balls to do so because of the fast approaching 2010 midterms when members of Congress will be much more focused on raising money (health care industry money) and pandering to voters.

Another reason for delaying health care reform is it gives the Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats plenty of extra time to inject their special cocktail of mind-bending crazy into the discourse and make it stick, furthering both the current delay while also eroding any voter impetus to pick up the issue again after the midterms. That'd be prong number two.

Not a single dose of the aforementioned "mind-bending crazy" actually holds up when run through even the most cursory fact-checking scrutiny, and, in every statement, the obstructionists trafficking in these lies further underscore their already obvious contradictions and ideological hypocrisy.

Regarding the latter, I can't recall, for example, this degree of nipple-twisting from Republicans and Blue Dogs about spending and fiscal responsibility when the Bush administration was pitching a blank check invasion and occupation of Iraq on the heels of invading Afghanistan -- all during a recession -- while also passing a $1 trillion tax cut for the wealthiest one percent the year before.

Yet affordable, accessible health care for everyone is a bridge too far, right? (My blood pressure kicks up into the red zone whenever I hear Republicans today suggesting that they were against the Bush administration's spending habits when, in fact, they supported each program individually. After all, opposing the commander-in-chief in wartime emboldened the enemy, no? Not any more apparently since we're still at war and the heretofore "patriotic" far-right won't even admit the president is an American citizen. Consistent of them.)

Back to the mind-bending crazy. I detailed some of these attacks last week, and my friend Michael J. Elston (Washington, DC radio's "Buzz Burbank") hit some of the arguments in his new Huffington Post blog as well. But who knew they would top themselves this week with an attack so simultaneously absurd and shameless that it easily fits comfortably in the Birther/Truther wackaloon syllabus.

This is of course the notion that the president's health care reform plan includes a mandate to kill old people.

First, here's Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-Cuckoo's Nest) on the House floor:

"It'll make sure we bring down the cost of healthcare for all Americans, and that ensures affordable access for all Americans, and is pro-life because it will not put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government."

And the de facto leader of the Republican Party, Rush Limbaugh:

According to Politico:

Sean Hannity believes it. So does House Minority Leader John Boehner. Talk show host Fred Thompson calls it "the dirty little secret" of the health care reform debate.
Yes, if you believe what these cranks are selling, the Obama administration is engaged in an elaborate plot to rid the nation of its burdensome population of old people. All this fluff about a public option, all the debate about reducing costs and making health insurance more affordable is merely subterfuge in the White House's scheme to impose a final solution to the nation's obvious elderly problem.

Seriously, this is a legitimate argument being used in mainstream Republican circles right now. This is an idea being circulated by the same party that Max Baucus, Harry Reid, Joe Lieberman, Evan Bayh and Mary Landrieu want to negotiate with and capitulate to, all in the name of their fetishistic obsession with bipartisanship porn.

How many more examples of GOP insanity must we enumerate before the aforementioned Democrats stop taking seriously the nincompoopery on the right? Is there no level of ridiculousness too intolerable before enough is enough? At what point does Harry Reid finally overcome his low-T, call bullshit on these jokers and figuratively pummel their soft skulls using a sledgehammer with the number 60 burnished into the handle? Soon, I hope.

The reality:

House bill that would provide Medicare coverage for an end-of-life consultation once every five years. If a person falls ill with a life-threatening disease, more frequent sessions would be allowed.

Put another way, the bill would actually provide an additional and very optional benefit for senior citizens to consult with their doctors about end-of-life decisions -- decisions we'll all have to make. It's a consultation which is usually an out of pocket expense for the elderly, but now it'll be covered under Medicare. Again, it's an optional benefit for Medicare recipients to meet with their doctor. I repeat: optional benefit. Optional, as in "choice." Benefit, as in something "good" or "helpful." O-p-t-i-o-n-a-l. B-e-n-e-f-i-t.


"This measure would not only help people make the best decisions for themselves but also better ensure that their wishes are followed," AARP Executive Vice President John Rother said in a statement. "To suggest otherwise is a gross, and even cruel, distortion -- especially for any family that has been forced to make the difficult decisions on care for loved ones approaching the end of their lives."

Why do the old-people-haters at the AARP want to kill old people?

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, House minority leader John Boehner and most other congressional Republicans are taking this wingnut conspiratorial position outlined by Rush Limbaugh. Because naturally they're a very serious political party -- so much so that the Blue Dog Democrats want to work with them rather than laughing them off the floor. Oh the relationships $1.3 million-a-day in healthcare industry lobbying can buy.

You know what this is? The Republicans are trying to trick senior citizens into buying Old Glory Robot Insurance.

The GOP is lying to senior citizens by convincing them that the Obama administration is going to strangle them with their robotic Obama claws -- and when President Obama grabs you with his metal claws, you can't break free. Because he's made of metal. And President Obama is strong.

I can't emphasize enough that this is an actual argument from the mainstream of the Republican Party.

And they're getting away with it because, despite their utter lack of seriousness, they continue to be granted untold latitude and legitimacy through this inexplicable Democratic bipartisanship deference (not to mention a wide berth from the establishment press), while peddling an obvious lie. And then, next week, there will be another one. And another one. Until healthcare reform is dead in the water.

UPDATE: ThinkProgress assembled a compilation video documenting this deception:

Another serious question here is: Are the Republicans knowingly lying to senior citizens, or are they just morons who believe anything they hear on the Rush Limbaugh show? (Answer: Both.)

Music to Lighten up a Little...IF you have already made your calls today

Late Night Music to Take a Deep Breath to..
The Who - 1968 at the Rock and Roll Circus

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Cost of Healthcare Reform... um, Bribes

By Tegrain via Mock Paper Scissors
So what does it cost the lobbyists to buy Senators? Who knew that you could buy a Senator for as little as $160,000? Olympia, we’ve already established your morals, we’re just quibbling over the price.
These are the contributions that the so-called Gang of Six have received over the years from the insurance companies and big pharma. And these are the Senators who are striving to find a compromise for healthcare reform.

Just as a side note, the percentage of the population that these 6 Senators allegedly represent, total, amounts to 2.74% of the US.
Call Senator Snowe today: (202) 224-5344
Tell her that we want a public option, not some bullshit co-op or "trigger" that will do something (probably nothing) in the future. Public Option now. The medical industrial complex are not her constituents, we are. She works for us, not them. Give her a call and remind her who she works for. It's easy. Just dial the effin' phone!

House Retains Public Option In Compromise, But Delays Vote Until September

By Brian Beutler via TPM

Ok, here's some late breaking detail on the nature of the compromise between House Blue Dogs and Democratic leaders.

I'll fill in more blanks as I get more information, but here's my immediate read on the situation: Substantively, leadership seems to have given up very little, but, Blue Dogs succeeded at slow walking the bill, which won't get a vote until after the August recess.

After a week or so of canceled hearings, the Energy and Commerce Committee will continue to mark up House health care legislation this afternoon, and pass a bill by the end of the week. On substance, the exemption from penalties for small businesses that do not provide health care to workers has been raised to include small businesses with payrolls of $500,000 per year or less. Originally the bill called for the exemption to apply only to businesses with payrolls half that size.

The public option hasn't gone away, and remains intact. Now, though, instead of being directly tied to Medicare, the rates will be negotiated by the Health and Human Services secretary--a provision which at a glance seems similar to the public option the Senate HELP Committee endorsed. States will be able to erect health care co-operatives if they choose, but that would be in addition to the public option.

The Blue Dogs managed to pull $100 billion in savings from the bill by lowering by one percent the rate at which people living between 300 and 400 percent of the poverty level will be subsidized to buy health care in insurance exchanges--they had originally tried to eliminate that bracket entirely.

Blue Dogs will likely herald this as a major victory, but compared to their original wishlist, this seems pretty minor.

As before, it's hard to know what will happen to the politics of this over the August recess. But there will almost certainly be a bill ready for a vote when the House comes back into session in September. That bill will have been endorsed in preliminary votes by a significant number of Blue Dogs. And in the House, where there's no filibuster, that makes its prospects for ultimate passage look very solid.

Blue Dog Anklebiting and Dems Inaction on Health Care Reform Is Costing Us A Lot of Money

By Susie Madrak via Crooks and Liars

Why Markets Can’t Cure Healthcare, by Paul Krugman

Judging both from comments on this blog and from some of my mail, a significant number of Americans believe that the answer to our health care problems — indeed, the only answer — is to rely on the free market. Quite a few seem to believe that this view reflects the lessons of economic theory.

Not so. One of the most influential economic papers of the postwar era was Kenneth Arrow’s Uncertainty and the welfare economics of health care, which demonstrated — decisively, I and many others believe — that health care can’t be marketed like bread or TVs. Let me offer my own version of Arrow’s argument.

There are two strongly distinctive aspects of health care. One is that you don’t know when or whether you’ll need care — but if you do, the care can be extremely expensive. The big bucks are in triple coronary bypass surgery, not routine visits to the doctor’s office; and very, very few people can afford to pay major medical costs out of pocket.

This tells you right away that health care can’t be sold like bread. It must be largely paid for by some kind of insurance. And this in turn means that someone other than the patient ends up making decisions about what to buy. Consumer choice is nonsense when it comes to health care. And you can’t just trust insurance companies either — they’re not in business for their health, or yours.

This problem is made worse by the fact that actually paying for your health care is a loss from an insurers’ point of view — they actually refer to it as “medical costs.” This means both that insurers try to deny as many claims as possible, and that they try to avoid covering people who are actually likely to need care. Both of these strategies use a lot of resources, which is why private insurance has much higher administrative costs than single-payer systems. And since there’s a widespread sense that our fellow citizens should get the care we need — not everyone agrees, but most do — this means that private insurance basically spends a lot of money on socially destructive activities.

The second thing about health care is that it’s complicated, and you can’t rely on experience or comparison shopping. (“I hear they’ve got a real deal on stents over at St. Mary’s!”) That’s why doctors are supposed to follow an ethical code, why we expect more from them than from bakers or grocery store owners.

You could rely on a health maintenance organization to make the hard choices and do the cost management, and to some extent we do. But HMOs have been highly limited in their ability to achieve cost-effectiveness because people don’t trust them — they’re profit-making institutions, and your treatment is their cost.

Between those two factors, health care just doesn’t work as a standard market story.
All of this doesn’t necessarily mean that socialized medicine, or even single-payer, is the only way to go. There are a number of successful health-care systems, at least as measured by pretty good care much cheaper than here, and they are quite different from each other. There are, however, no examples of successful health care based on the principles of the free market, for one simple reason: in health care, the free market just doesn’t work. And people who say that the market is the answer are flying in the face of both theory and overwhelming evidence.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Baucus leaves America behind: Senate Finance Committee is dropping the "public option" from their bill

Stacks 'o Cash speak louder than 76% of the American Public.

This is a great article by John Amato via Crooks and Liars

It looks like the mighty Emperor Max Baucus and his royal lords are finally releasing details of their health care plan and to nobody's surprise they decided to screw America.

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

These officials said participants were on track to exclude a requirement many congressional Democrats seek for large businesses to offer coverage to their workers. Nor would there be a provision for a government insurance option, despite President Barack Obama's support for such a plan. The three Democrats and three Republicans from the Senate Finance Committee were considering a tax of as much as 35 percent on very high-cost insurance policies, part of an attempt to rein in rapid escalation of costs.

Also likely to be included in any deal was creation of a commission charged with slowing the growth of Medicare through recommendations that would take effect automatically unless overturned by Congress. "We're going to get agreement here," Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the Finance Committee chairman, said Monday. "The group of six really wants to get to 'yes.'"

The merry band of six court jesters are doing what they've been paid to do. Kill health care reform. The gang of fools are putting themselves between you and your doctor. That's if you have any. Check out how much money he's taken from Health Industrial Complex.

Howie Klein writes:
No one serving in the Senate today has taken as much money from the Medical-Industrial Complex as Baucus ($2,865,881) other than notorious corporate whore Arlen Specter ($4,066,433) and two former presidential candidates, John Kerry ($8,163,141) and John McCain ($8,672,260).

Baucus even tops Medical Industry shill Mitch McConnell ($2,755,468). And when it comes to the Financial Sector-- the banksters, Big Insurance and Big Real Estate-- Baucus was also on the payroll in a major way. His $4,675,393 in donations put him in the Top 10, with corporate whores like Mitch McConnell, Alexander Lamar, Arlen Specter, Joe Lieberman, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Chuck Schumer... basically the folks who oversaw the economic legislation that dragged the economy right over the cliff.

Max and his gang are only worried about one thing. Making sure the health insurance industry makes out like thieves. The chart on the left shows where his loyalties are.

Digby makes an excellent point about a new CBO report:
Strangely, the headline to this article doesn't characterize this development as a devastating blow to Republicans and opponents of health care reform the way every other report from the CBO has been characterized as a devastating blow to Democrats, even though it punctures one of the industry's central arguments against the public plan:
A new government health insurance plan sought by President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats could coexist with private insurers without driving them out of business, an analysis by nonpartisan budget experts suggests.

The estimate by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office — seen as good news by Democrats — comes as leaders pushed Monday to make progress on health care overhaul before lawmakers go home for their August recess.

I personally don't like insurance companies and I'd be happy if we had a system where they weren't necessary. But if they could be made to do their business in a fair and equitable manner, sell their products honestly and fulfill their obligations, then we could probably live with them. Rapacious greedheads making obscene profits on the backs of sick Americans, however, is an immoral and expensive arrangement that can't be tolerated any longer.

If strict regulation and competition from a public option would force insurance companies to participate in universal health care as decent corporate citizens then I won't complain. I also won't care if a public plan does end up driving out those which insist that spending billions in compensation to their CEOs is necessary but fulfilling the terms of their policies isn't. It's really up to them.

Why isn't the media all over this CBO report? Didn't you hear the trumpets roar before the pundits held up the report and asked Judd Gregg why he's against the public option now?? We're trying to change health care in America and people are usually afraid of change. Even if the change will help them. It's natural. Baucus and the Senate Finance Committee are only interested in protecting their donors.

Jane Hamsher says:
The Finance Committee was supposed to deal with -- wait for it -- finance. Instead, President Baucus and President Snowe decided that they'd just write the whole damn bill themselves and have included a competing co-op plan that would replace the public plan offered by the HELP committee.

Because three Republican Senators are worth more than 76% of the country to members of the most exclusive club in the world.

They certainly have a mighty high opinion of themselves.
Yes, three republicans rule the world of health care. I understand why Orrin Hatch quit the group. He wasn't needed to make sure these sorry fools helped destroy the bill.

Monday, July 27, 2009

I Guess We Know Who Really Runs This Country

Corporations. The Public Option is off the table. As per the Senate Finance Committee statement this afternoon. The Healthcare Industrial Complex has won. They own our government. I will struggle through another winter of no asthma medicine or Doctor visits for my lung problems. I am a single father with two teenagers. Almost 5 years ago, I started my own business so I could stay close to my kids and at least make a good go at paying my bills. One bill I could not afford was the $1,100.00/ month insurance payment for healthcare. I tried to get some help and they laughed me out of the office. I made too much money. But I do not make that much money. I have kids to take care of. The single parent's dilemma. So congress has caved to private interests and tons of cash for re-election. Holy mother of God. If there were ever a torches and pitchforks moment this is it.

Nothing Centrist About Them

by Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editor of The Nation via HuffPost

At this moment -- when 72 percent of the nation supports a public plan option and 14,000 people lose their healthcare every day -- the House Blue Dogs and conservative Democratic Senators are doing just about everything they can to cripple real health care reform.

So why does the media keep ceding them the label of "centrist" or "moderate" as if they are the guardians of mainstream values? In a recent profile on reform slayer Max Baucus -- Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and creator of his majority Republican "Coalition of the Willing" -- Washington Post reporter Dan Eggen refers to Baucus as "a longtime centrist in the Democratic caucus." Even Harold Meyerson -- who along with E.J. Dionne and Ruth Marcus keeps the Washington Post op-ed page from being neocon central and is one of the best in the business at understanding the ideologies at play in Washington -- in a recent op-ed repeatedly decries the "centrist Democrats" such as the Blue Dogs who fight against taxing the richest 1 percent of Americans and promote a "can't-do" view of government.

All Things Considered host Guy Raz recently introduced a story on "forty centrist House Democrats from the so-called Blue Dog Coalition [who] are threatening to block the proposal in its current form...." He also spoke of "Congressman Mike Ross [who] heads up the Health Care Taskforce for the centrist Blue Dog Democrats." Want to see how "centrist" Mike Ross is? Check this out.

Even a good regional paper like Louisville's Courier-Journal -- in rightly blasting the Blue Dogs as "deplorable" for being "unable to muster the spine to pay for health care reform with even so innocuous a measure as higher taxes on the richest 1 percent of Americans" -- calls them "centrist".

The danger is that promoting the view that these conservative Democrats are somehow at the center of our politics plays into the hands of those who would like to marginalize progressives as far outside of the mainstream. (And I have no doubt K Street is advising Republicans to constantly refer to their Democratic allies as "moderate" and "centrist".) It also misrepresents what most Americans want from the government in these times.

As Drew Westen, professor of psychology at Emory University, founder of Westen Strategies, and author of the invaluable The Political Brain, told me: "The average American, according to all available data, has largely moved slightly left of where it was in the Reagan years, and with changing demographics, it will be far left of Reagan and Bush in twenty years. So to call Democrats who are substantially right of the center of the electorate (let alone of their party), like Heath Shuler, 'moderates,' is both to misrepresent the center of political gravity in the general electorate and in the Democratic Party."

How we tell the story of this battle for health care reform matters and will impact whether the battle is won or lost. So-called "centrists" are far from the center of this debate. They are, in fact, out of touch and out of the mainstream -- like the rest of their conservative brethren.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Glenn Beck and the Right Wing Noise Machine are an Enemy of America

I have absolutely had it with Glenn Beck. This is the last straw. I will work very hard to get him removed from the air. What is it going to take for the American people to realize that Fox News, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and all the other wingnut assholes are a worse threat to America and the values we hold than any enemy we face? Here are the latest outrages:

Glenn Beck wants another 9-11:

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Rush Limbaugh wants a Military Coup Against Obama

We've seen a steady drumbeat of fearmongering from the right since Obama's election. But now we're treading into truly dangerous, insurrectionary territory. UPDATE: Today Limbaugh added to the litany in a much more explicit fashion - Limbaugh: "And if we had any good luck, Honduras would send some people here and help us get our government back."


Okay... deep breath...

Time for President Obama to Throw Down Against the Corrupt and Spineless

By Bob Cesca via HuffPost

If President Obama is truly serious about changing the way Washington operates, he'd begin to aggressively hector the entourage of lawmakers that I've not-so-affectionately nicknamed the "Coalition of the Corrupt and Spineless" (COCS) -- the Democratic Senators who have very obviously been bought off by the healthcare lobby, along with other almost-as-awful Democrats whose cowardice is only matched by their weakness of will.

Throw down, Mr. President.

Maybe even do one of those big Hollywood movie style presidential speeches, like the one at the end of The Contender in which President Jeff Bridges calls out that slippery douche Congressman Gary Oldman in front of a joint session:

"I am not free of blame. Right from the start, I should have come down here, pointed a finger your way -- pointed a finger your way and asked you, "Have you no decency, sir?" Yesterday, I met -- Mr. Runyon, you may walk out on me, you may walk out on this body, but you cannot walk out on the will of the American people."

There can be no denying that the COCS are flagrantly and unapologetically legislating against -- what's the word? -- overwhelming super-majority popular support for the public health insurance option.

And why is that? I can't recall another example in recent memory when the collusion of lobbyists, corporate PACs and members of the United States Senate has been this obvious. We can only conclude that the COCS are entirely ignoring the will of the American people because they're hiking the Appalachian Trail with the healthcare industrial complex.

What other excuse might they have? To date, not a single senator in the COCS has explained this disparity, chiefly because it's such an awkward and transparent illustration of the very worst side of Washington -- the side that President Obama pledged to help mitigate.

It's seriously the right time for the president to make the hard sell on the public option -- to knock some heads and to push it through. Hard. This means perhaps calling out healthcare lobby errand boys like Joe Lieberman and Max Baucus, or at least using some of his considerable popularity to privately smack them around a little. Threaten to pull back the curtain on their healthcare mob ties.

Meanwhile, the 120 member TriCaucus (the House Black Caucus, the House Hispanic Caucus and the House Progressive Caucus) have pledged to vote against any healthcare reform bill that doesn't include a robust public option. Without these 120 votes, there are only 131 Democratic votes left. They need 218 votes to pass the House and, if their voting record this year is any indication, you can count on zero Republican votes for anything authored by Democrats.

In other words, the president's healthcare reform agenda depends entirely upon the inclusion of an acceptable government-run option for affordable health insurance.
So why not own it? Why not make it a central front in his campaign for healthcare reform?
Plus, there's a real opportunity here to achieve more that just healthcare reform. In addition to giving us a public health insurance option, the president can do some serious damage to the healthcare lobby, as well as to the members of Congress who so brazenly suck down the lobby's collective diarrheic filth.

It's an easy case to make since the distinction couldn't be clearer. Upwards of 76 percent of Americans support the public option. 69 percent the new Quinnipiac poll. And, this week, the AMA expressed its support for the public option. Furthermore, the CBO scored the Kennedy version of the healthcare reform bill and determined that with the public option included the price tag is hundreds of billions of dollars less than previously reported.
Knowing all of this, does the COCS support the will of its voters (and now the TriCaucus, the CBO and the AMA)?

Of course not. Because they're being paid to oppose the public option. Again, there aren't any other explanations. And so calling bullshit on this corporate-congressional exercise in mutual masturbation ought to be a cakewalk.

Regarding the pitch for the public option, by the way, there's a stronger argument to be made beyond simply insuring people like me and my friend Lee Stranahan who have lost our health insurance for whatever reason. It's about everyone else -- the other 250 million Americans who have health insurance and who, one day soon, will be screwed by their provider. The mafia never wants to pay, and it's only a matter of time, as costs skyrocket, before even those with Cadillac plans will be dropped, investigated, gouged, or denied. Think of the public option as Screwing Insurance.

As much as I'd love to hear President Obama use the phrase "Screwing Insurance," he's much more, you know, mature than I am. And that's definitely a good thing. So he can probably come up with something less offensive. But in addition to forcing the private insurance mafia to play on the level, the public option will provide a safety net for 250 million Americans who have insurance, but would prefer to not be left in the lurch when and if they're screwed out of the benefits they paid for. One of the best aspects of Michael Moore's SiCKO was how he focused mainly on people who owned health insurance policies but who were crapped out the ass end of the deal. The lesson was simple: if you have insurance -- even a policy that you like -- history and many horror stories indicate that it's only a matter of time before you are summarily screwed and left for dead.

This is probably why up to three-fourths of Americans want a public option -- far greater numbers than those who are uninsured.

If there's one thing I know for sure, it's that Americans of all parties would applaud the president if he were to call out the corrupt and spineless. The only thing we'd enjoy more, considering the corporate bilking of taxpayer cash for too many years, is the president castrating the seemingly enormous financial balls of the healthcare lobby.

Enough prevaricating. The storm is perfect. Kick some ass, Mr. President.

Bob Cesca's Awesome Blog! Go!

Compare and Contrast: A Woman With Pneumonia Goes to The Local Clinic

By Susie Madrak via Crooks and Liars

From Coalition of the Obvious, via Avedon, this useful "compare and contrast" on national health care systems. It especially means something to me because a few years back, after my unemployment ran out and I was working an hourly job, I developed pneumonia and couldn't afford to pay for a chest x-ray. I'm glad I'm still alive to tell the tale:

During my time in Venezuela, I developed a cough that went on for three weeks and progressively worsened. Finally, after I had become incredibly congested and developed a fever, I decided to attend a Barrio Adentro clinic. The closest one available was a Barrio Adentro II Centro de Diagonostico Integral (CDI) and I headed in without my medical records or calling to make an appointment. Immediately, I was ushered into a small room where Carmen, a friendly Cuban doctor, began questioning me about my symptoms. She listened to my lungs and walked me over to another examination room where, again without waiting, I had x-rays taken.

Afterwards, the technician walked me to a chair and apologized profusely that I had to wait for the x-rays to be developed, promising that it would take no more than five minutes. Sure enough, five minutes later he returned with both x-rays developed. Carmen studied the x-rays and informed me that I had pneumonia, showing me the telltale shadows. She sent me away with my x-rays, three medications to treat my pneumonia, congestion, and fever, and made me promise to come back if my conditioned failed to improve or worsened within three days.

I walked out of the clinic with a diagnosis and treatment within twenty-five minutes of entering, without paying a dime. There was no wait, no paperwork, and no questions about my ability to pay, my nationality, or whether, as a foreigner, I was entitled to free comprehensive health care. There was no monetary value connected with my physical well-being; the care I received was not contingent upon my ability to pay. I was treated with dignity, respect, and compassion, my illness was cured and I was able to continue with my journey in Venezuela.

This past year, a family friend was not so lucky. At the age of 56, she was going back to school and was uninsured. She came down with what she thought was a severe case of the flu, and as her condition worsened she decided not to see a doctor because of the cost. She died at home in bed, losing her life to a system that did not respect her basic human right to survive.

Her death is not an isolated incident. Over 18,000 United States residents die every year because of their lack of prohibitively expensive health insurance. The United States has the distinct honor of being the “only wealthy industrialized nation that does not ensure that all citizens have coverage”.

Instead, we have commodified the public health and well being of those live in the US, leaving them on their own to obtain insurance. Those whose jobs do not provide insurance, can’t get enough hours to qualify for health care coverage through their workplace, are unemployed, or have “previously existing conditions” that exclude them from coverage are forced to choose between the potentially fatal decision of refusing medical care and accumulating medical bills that trap them in an inescapable cycle of debt. And sometimes, that decision is made for them. Doctors often ask that dreaded question; “do you have insurance?” before scheduling critical tests, procedures, or treatments. When the answer is no, treatments that were deemed necessary before are suddenly canceled as the ability to pay becomes more important than the patient’s health.

It is estimated that there are over fifty million United States residents currently living without health insurance, a number that will skyrocket as unemployment rates increase and people lose their work-based health care coverage in this time of international financial crisis.

Already this year, 7.5 million people have lost work-related coverage. Budget cuts for the state of Washington this year will remove over forty thousand people from Washington Basic Health, a subsidized program which already has a waiting list of seventeen thousand people.

As I returned to the US from Venezuela, I was faced with the realization that as a society, the United States places a monetary value on life. That we make life and death judgments based on an individual’s ability to pay. And that someone with the same condition I had recently recovered from had died because, according to our system, her life wasn’t insured.