Thursday, June 18, 2009

(gutless cowardly) Senate Dems (who have a majority) pare back health bill
Senate Dems pare back health bill
By DAVID ESPO and ERICA WERNER, Associated Press Writers David Espo And Erica Werner, Associated Press Writers 39 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Key Senate Democrats, bidding for bipartisan support on health care, pared back subsidies designed to make insurance more affordable on Thursday and floated a compromise that rules out direct government competition against private insurers.
So if you have a majority - why do you need bipartisan support from Republicans when you know the health care industry will oppose anything that lessens their profits? All you are doing is making sure that health care won't be available for more people, and that it will be more expensive. In fact - you are looking at a boondoggle that makes Medicare Part D look like chicken feed!

Despite the cost-cutting, the proposal backed by Sen. Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, requires most individuals to purchase coverage and forbids insurance companies from denying it on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions.

If you don't have a job - what do you purchase your insurance with?

The brief outline did not specify how the government's costs would be covered, although Baucus and many Republicans favor a tax on certain employer-provided health benefits. The Montana Democrat has said he intends to hold the cost of the legislation to about $1 trillion, well below the $1.6 trillion estimate the Congressional Budget Office made of an earlier set of options.

So in other words, if the insurance companies are already over-charging for health care insurance paid for by employers because there are no government controls, the government will now tax your health insurance?

Across the Capitol, Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee privately circulated a list of possible tax increases to pay for expanded health care.

Geeze - what happened to the estimates that showed that a single-payer plan would provide health care for all Americans with what our current system costs exclude 51 million Americans. So why is it seen as an increase in taxes? It's a shift from paying larger fees to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. They get the same amount of money they get now - they just have to cover all Americans. Their business model won't allow them to squeeze more profit out of the Americans and American businesses who can afford to pay for health care.

They ranged from raising the Medicare tax, slapping a 10-cents-per-can increase on sweetened drinks, raising the alcohol tax, imposing a new payroll tax on employers equal to 3 percent of their health care expenditures and taxing employer-provided health insurance benefits above certain levels.

All nice regressive taxes designed not to cut into the profits of the businesses that got us into this problem in the first place.

Also under consideration was a value added tax, a sort of national sales tax, of up to 1.5 percent or more, with housing, education, financial services and medical care potentially exempt.

Again - regressive taxes that will end up hurting the unemployed, the underemployed, and the working/middle classes.

House Democrats were expected to unveil an outline of their own to expand health coverage on Friday, although several officials said they did not plan to include mention of the tax increases under consideration.

Taken together, the developments reflected an eagerness by congressional Democrats in both houses to meet a self-imposed deadline of having health care legislation to the floor of both houses of Congress by summer. President Barack Obama has made the issue one of his top priorities.

Maybe he's pushing too soon for this. Maybe he should be seriously considering building the Democratic party with his legions of followers in his separate organization before he blows his chance at making some meaningful change - and screws up our chances for building bigger majorities where we won't need to count on Blue Dog Dems for support - let them hang out in the steam room with the Republicans.

Neither the Senate Finance Committee outline nor the list of tax options under review by House Democrats was made public. The Associated Press obtained copies of both.

"There's no doubt in my mind we're going to get a bipartisan bill," Baucus told reporters as he emerged from a meeting with a small group of Republicans he referred to as a "coalition of the willing."

If Single Payer isn't on the table - all you will have is a bipartisan transfer of even more wealth to the health care industry.

The senior Republican on the Finance Committee was not nearly as bullish.

"I'm still at the table. I wouldn't be at the table if I didn't think there was some hope for it," said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. "But tomorrow it could be an entirely different story."

According to a 10-page outline that described the proposal, federal subsidies would be available to help families up to 300 percent of poverty, or $66,000, purchase insurance. An earlier proposal set the level at 400 percent of poverty, or $88,000.

What good will subsidies do for people with little to no money at the end of the month - who are already going bankrupt!

At the same time, the new outline could require higher out of pocket costs from individuals because companies would be permitted to offer policies that cover less of an insured's anticipated medical costs than was earlier proposed.

Once again - a sh*tty idea for people who already can't afford to buy meds because their insurance already costs too must now!

Many Democrats want the government to be able to offer insurance in competition with the private industry, a provision they say would hold down costs. But most Republicans are opposed.

Screw them - they aren't in the majority anymore. I think our Dems have no "testicular fortitude" to tell the Republicans and the health care lobby that their business model doesn't work anymore - and it's time for a new patient-centered business model. That if we don't fix health care NOW, their won't be anyone who can afford their products and services in years to come. It's time to think long-term survival, not just this year's massive bonus.

The outline presented at meeting with Republicans left the matter open, but suggested creation of nonprofit co-ops to offer insurance, rather than the government. The co-ops could accept federal loans for startup operations, but would have to repay the money.

Similarly, the outline leaves open the question of requiring larger employers to provide insurance.

As an alternative, it suggests requiring companies to pay a portion of the cost of insurance for lower income workers not offered coverage at work.

While Baucus supports a tax on health benefits, Obama opposed it in last year's presidential campaign and attacked his rival, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., for proposing it.

Administration officials have refrained from criticizing it in recent weeks, but organized labor is opposed, fearing it would mean higher taxes for some of its members.

Congressional aides say Democrats are eager to exempt union contracts from the proposed tax, but Republicans want to include them. In its most recent form, the proposal would impose a tax on plans in which the combined employer and employee premiums are above about $17,000.

That would raise an estimated $270 billion over a decade, less if union-negotiated plans were exempt.

(This version CORRECTS that list of possible tax increases includes soda tax of 10 cents per can and employer tax of 3 percent of health care costs.))

Once again - why is no one delivering the figures that would show how Universal Single-Payer would cover all Americans for the same amount or less than what we are spending to deliver spotty health care that misses 50 million Americans? Is it because Congress cares so much for the jobs and bank accounts of people affiliated with the health care industry ALONE vs the jobs and bank accounts of 50 million or more Americans?

As elections near and the issue of health care tops opinion polls as the most pressing domestic issue, various proposals for universal health care are circulating. The bipartisan NCHC looked at four options: employer mandates, extending existing federal programs like Medicaid to all those uninsured, creating a new federal program for the uninsured, and single-payer national health insurance. All the options saved billions of dollars compared to the current system, but single payer was by far the winner, saving more than $100 billion a year.

With all the support and all the good reasons to adopt universal health care, why don't we have it yet? Why do politicians refuse to talk about the solution people want?

It could be the fact that the health care industry, the top spender on Capitol Hill, spent $183.3 million on lobbying just in the second half of 2005, according to And in the 2003–2004 election cycle, they spent $123.7 million on election campaigns, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Politicians dread the propaganda barrage and political fallout that surrounded the failed Clinton health care plan. But in the years since, health care costs have outpaced growth in wages and inflation by huge margins, Americans have joined the ranks of the uninsured at the rate of 2 million each year, and businesses are taking a major competitiveness hit as they struggle to pay rising premiums.

Single-payer plans eliminate the $300 billion to $400 billion that insurance companies spend annually in administrative overhead and waste. Second, single-payer plans are best positioned to take on the enormous challenge of reducing or eliminating the financial incentives that have led to so much overtreatment and undertreatment.

The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not guarantee access to health care as a right of citizenship. 28 industrialized nations have single payer universal health care systems, while 1 (Germany) has a multipayer universal health care system like President Clinton proposed for the United States.

Universal Single-Payer or some form of health care for all is on the platform or resolutions of damn near every precinct, county, district or state Democratic Party. So why in the hell are they telling us it's not politically feasible?

A 2007 AP-Yahoo poll asked respondents whether they agreed with this statement: "The United States should adopt a universal health insurance program in which everyone is covered under a program like Medicare that is run by the government and financed by taxpayers."

A whopping 65 percent said yes to that question. By political standards, this is a landslide. It is time for Congress to pay attention to the voters, not the well-funded lobbyists.

I want to see what gutless Dems in Congress come back to NC this year and ask us for their support in defeating the Republicans. We turned NC blue and helped Obama win. We have majorities in both houses of Congress - including damn near a veto-proof majority in the Senate! What more do these people need before they can give US what WE want!

Chris Telesca

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