Monthly Archives: November 2009

It’s Ciao Time

That’s the Bottom Line Folks!

Here’s the New York Times:

“It is astonishing, but the question of whether a small slice of Americans should be able to choose between a government-run health insurance plan and private health insurance plans is threatening passage of much-needed health care reform.”

Love the “slice.” We’re pizza!

“Senate Democrats barely mustered enough votes to start debating their reform bill, and some senators who voted to allow debate have said flatly that they will not support the final bill if it retains its public option clauses. If they mean what they say, their defection could make it extremely hard to overcome a Republican-led filibuster.”

You mean a Joe Lieberman-led flibuster. He was Democrat, but now is an “independent” who “cacuses with the Democrats” and has retainted all his valuable committe chairmanships and the continued fealty of a party he ceaselessly attacks —

clearly indicating that what this country needs is a second political party.

“We got to this juncture because, in an already overheated political debate, no issue has drawn more demagoguery and less rational analysis than the public option.”

Really? Not the Birth Certificate? Not the burning question of whether Barry’s a fascist, or socialist, or communist, or a Combo Platter of all three?

“And while both political parties exaggerate what a public plan could do, Republican critics are particularly divorced from reality.
They say the public option would start a government takeover of all health care; interpose government bureaucrats between patients and their doctors; sound the death knell for private insurance; and lead many companies to dump insurance benefits. They also say it could cost taxpayers a lot.
Democrats, meanwhile, claim that competition from a public plan would help drive down insurance premiums and the overall cost of medical care.”

Of course what we really need is Single Payer. But the NYT won’t dare mention that.

“We wish the proposed public plan could be powerful enough to demand low rates from health care providers, charge much lower premiums than private plans and attract large numbers of enrollees. But neither the House nor Senate versions would have that kind of power.”

Of course they don’t. That’s because both houses of congress and the presidency are FUCKING OWNED by the insurance mafia — which has been only too happy to supply house and senate whores with a script to read during the “debates.”

“Here is what a public option — as structured in the House and Senate bills — would do and would not do:
HOW IT WOULD WORK Both bills would create new insurance exchanges, with an array of plans to choose from, for a limited number of Americans — those who lack group coverage and must buy policies directly from insurers and those who work for small employers, about 30 million people within a few years. With millions of potential new clients, all major insurers are expected to participate. And Congress willing, a new public plan would also be available.”

The key phrase: “for a limited number of Americans.”

“The government would run the public plan, but both the Senate and House versions would require it to compete on a “level playing field.” It would have to follow the same rules as the private plans, meet the same benefit standards, maintain the same reserves, and support itself entirely with premium income, with no federal help beyond start-up money that would have to be repaid.
The secretary of health and human services, as the head of the plan, would have to negotiate rates with health care providers just as the private plans do.
WHAT IT COULDN’T DO Because of intense opposition from conservatives, both bills shunned a more robust public plan that would have had the power to virtually force doctors to serve its beneficiaries — at Medicare rates that are typically less than private plans pay them.”

Love the “shunned” and “robust,” don’t you? It all sounds like a Rudolph Friml operetta. So much nicer that dealing with the fact that it’s a matter of life and death.

“As a result, the current weaker versions could find it difficult to compete with well-entrenched private insurers. The Congressional Budget Office believes public plan premiums would actually end up higher than the average private plan premium. This is partly because the public plan would probably attract the sickest patients, whose bills are highest, and who might fear that private plans would find some way to jettison them.
All told, the C.B.O. estimates that the House bill’s public plan would attract only six million enrollees. The Senate version, which would allow states to opt out, might attract only three million to four million.”

Which means what we’ve got is the Republican Health Plan after all.

“This is not going to destroy the private insurance market or start a government takeover of the health care system, or put bureaucrats in control, any more than private plans do. Nevertheless, in a recent Senate debate, Republicans insisted that more than 100 million Americans might enroll in a public plan, the vast majority of them dumped by employers from coverage that they were satisfied with.
That overblown claim is based on a study showing that a much more robust plan could offer far lower premiums than private plans, and if available to virtually everyone, it could attract huge numbers of enrollees. “

But we can’t have “everyone,” can we? Why that would be like the builders of the Titanic supplying the necessary number of lifeboats and saving everyone.

“In that no-longer-relevant scenario, private plans would indeed lose a lot of their subscribers. But workers would still not lose their employer-sponsored benefits. Their employer’s subsidy would follow them to the exchanges, where they would have a much wider choice of plans than they now do. Even in a nightmare scenario that lives only in Republicans’ fevered rhetoric, workers would be better off than they now are.
Although the public plan is supposed to be self-sustaining, critics worry that if it starts to fail, future Congresses will bail it out with taxpayer money. We hope they are wrong. If the public plan gets into financial trouble, it should simply raise its premiums or close.
SO IS IT STILL WORTH DOING? Even with the constraints, a public plan could be a useful part of health care reform. Most important, it would compete in markets dominated by one or two private insurers that can charge more and not worry about losing customers.”

Heaven forbid that the insurance thugs “worry” !

“The presence of a public plan could serve as a brake on unwarranted premium increases by the private companies. The C.B.O. said a public plan with negotiated rates would place “downward pressure on the premiums of private plans.” A public plan would also provide a safe harbor for people who do not trust the insurance industry and would prefer a government plan even if its premiums were higher. And it would be a place to test innovative ideas for controlling costs and improving quality.”

The most “innovative and cost-controlling idea” would of course be SINGLE FUCKING PAYER!!!!

“The C.B.O., a notably cautious evaluator, could be wrong in its assessments. The plan might turn out to be better at negotiating lower rates. And with no need to turn a profit, it might be able to charge less than private plans and attract millions more people than expected. That could force private plans to lower their own rates.”

Love the “notably cautious.”

“We are not holding our breath.”

No shit.

“The public plan could face enormous practical problems entering markets where private insurers already have well-established networks of providers or where hospital groups already have the upper hand in negotiating with insurers.
Even a weak public plan would be better than no public plan. It would expand the choices available to millions of Americans and could help slow the relentless increases in the cost of health insurance. Congress certainly owes Americans a more rational and informed debate.”

And when it gives it one Brain Boitano will do a Triple Lutz in the Ninth Circle.

Of course things could be worse. We could be in Canadian Hell!

Meanwhile over in Slate, Jacob Weisberg is doing Barry’s report card — and it looks like a A+

“About one thing, left and right seem to agree these days: Obama hasn’t done anything yet. Maureen Dowd and Dick Cheney have found common ground in scoffing at the president’s “dithering.” Newsweek recently ran a sympathetic cover story titled, “Yes He Can (But He Sure Hasn’t Yet).” The sarcasm brigade thinks it’s finally found an Achilles’ heel in his lack of accomplishments. “When you look at my record, it’s very clear what I’ve done so far and that is nothing. Nada. Almost one year and nothing to show for it,” Obama stand-in Fred Armisen recently riffed on Saturday Night Live. “It’s chow time,” Jon Stewart asserts, for a president who hasn’t followed through on his promises.”

–which like all politicians he hasn’t.

“This conventional wisdom about Obama’s first year isn’t just premature—it’s sure to be flipped on its head by the anniversary of his inauguration on Jan. 20. If, as seems increasingly likely, Obama wins passage of a health care reform a bill by that date, he will deliver his first State of the Union address having accomplished more than any other postwar American president at a comparable point in his presidency. This isn’t an ideological point or one that depends on agreement with his policies. It’s a neutral assessment of his emerging record—how many big, transformational things Obama is likely to have made happen in his first 12 months in office. “

Of course it’s an ideological point. It’s Fourth Estate Bean Counting – always preferable to Truth Telling. For the bill that will pass won’t be worht shit to anyone save the insurance thugs — for whom it will be a huge giveaway.

“The case for Obama’s successful freshman year rests above all on the health care legislation now awaiting action in the Senate. Democrats have been trying to pass national health insurance for 60 years. Past presidents who tried to make it happen and failed include Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton. Through the summer, Obama caught flak for letting Congress lead the process, as opposed to setting out his own proposal. Now his political strategy is being vindicated. The bill he signs may be flawed in any number of ways—weak on cost control, too tied to the employer-based system, and inadequate in terms of consumer choice.”

“Inadequate” is putting it mildly.

And can the “choice” crap. NONE OF US OUTSIDE OF THE TOP 2 PERCENT HAS ANY CHOICE!!!!!!!

“But given the vastness of the enterprise and the political obstacles, passing an imperfect behemoth and improving it later is probably the only way to succeed where his predecessors failed.”

An “imperfect behemoth”? What is this — Mothra ? Cue the twins.

“We are so submerged in the details of this debate—whether the bill will include a “public option,” limit coverage for abortion, or tax Botox—that it’s easy to lose sight of the magnitude of the impending change. For the federal government to take responsibility for health coverage will be a transformation of the American social contract and the single biggest change in government’s role since the New Deal. If Obama governs for four or eight years and accomplishes nothing else, he may be judged the most consequential domestic president since LBJ. He will also undermine the view that Ronald Reagan permanently reversed a 50-year tide of American liberalism.”

And the Bluebird of Happiness will fly out of Patient Less Than Zero‘s Testosterone-engorged neck.

Meanwhile in the country he left behind. . .

Back to Barry’s report card —

“Obama’s claim to a fertile first year doesn’t rest on health care alone. There’s mounting evidence that the $787 billion economic stimulus he signed in February—combined with the bank bailout package—prevented an economic depression. Should the stimulus have been larger? Should it have been more weighted to short-term spending, as opposed to long-term tax cuts? Would a second round be a good idea? Pundits and policymakers will argue these questions for years to come. But few mainstream economists seriously dispute that Obama’s decisive action prevented a much deeper downturn and restored economic growth in the third quarter. The New York Times recently quoted Mark Zandi, who was one of candidate John McCain’s economic advisers, on this point: “The stimulus is doing what it was supposed to do—it is contributing to ending the recession,” he said. “In my view, without the stimulus, G.D.P would still be negative and unemployment would be firmly over 11 percent.”

But outside of that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?

“When it comes to foreign policy, Obama’s accomplishment has been less tangible but hardly less significant: He has put America on a new footing with the rest of the world. In a series of foreign trips and speeches, which critics deride as trips and speeches, he replaced George W. Bush’s unilateral, moralistic militarism with an approach that is multilateral, pragmatic, and conciliatory. Obama has already significantly reoriented policy toward Iran, China, Russia, Iraq, Israel, and the Islamic world. Next week, after a much-disparaged period of review, he will announce a new strategy in Afghanistan.”

No he won’t.

To whit. . .

“The United States won’t join its NATO allies and many other countries in formally banning landmines, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said during his midday briefing Tuesday.
“This administration undertook a policy review and we decided our landmine policy remains in effect,” Kelly said in response to a question. “We made our policy review and we determined that we would not be able to meet our national defense needs nor our security commitments to our friends and allies if we sign this convention.”
Opponents of the U.S. landmine policy said they were surprised.
“It is a disturbing development,” said Steve Goose of Human Rights Watch. “The administration never said a policy review was under way.”
Goose said the decision to leave the policy in place is at odds with the administration’s professed commitments to international agreements and humanitarian issues.
“The international treaty against landmines has made a a huge difference and it is a very strong deterrent,” Goose said. “It has to have been a very fast and cursory review.”
The United States will attend an international conference on landmines next week in Cartagena, Colombia, sending an inter-agency delegation from the State and Defense departments as observers.
Kelly said the United States continues to work with governments as well as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to help remove landmines.
“The U.S. is proud to be the world’s single largest supporter of humanitarian mine action,” Kelly said. “Since 1993 the U.S. has provided more than $1.5 billion worldwide dedicated to building new partnerships with more than 50 post-conflict countries and supporting efforts by dozens of NGOs to promote stability and set the stage for recovery and development through mine clearance and conventional-weapons destruction programs.”
The United States is the only member of NATO that will not sign the landmine treaty, Goose said. Russia and China also have not joined the 156 nations that have endorsed the ban, he said.”

Cue The Who!

“No, the results do not yet merit his Nobel Peace Prize. But not since Reagan has a new president so swiftly and determinedly remodeled America’s global role.
Obama has wisely deferred some smaller, politically hazardous battles over issues such as closing Guantanamo, ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and fighting the expansion of Israel’s West Bank settlements. Instead, he has saved his fire for his most urgent priorities—preventing a depression, remaking America’s global image, and winning universal health insurance. Chow time indeed, if you ask me.”

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Not “Chow” — Ciao.

Sing us out Rufus