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I consider this a Radical Gumbo, with many varied ingredients making more than the sum of its parts. We are no-holds barred, passionate and not overly PC here. Yes, Liberals can have Fangs. Jump in and be part of the cutting edge!
After exiting a meeting with the Senate Democratic caucus, President Obama approached the microphone and proceeded to tell a bald-faced lie about health care reform:
You talk to every health care economist out there, they will tell you that what ever ideas exist in terms of bending the cost curve and starting to reduce cost for families, businesses, and government, those elements are in this bill.
This statement is 100% false-and Obama knows that. This bill does not contain anywhere near most ideas for controlling health care costs. This bill does not even contain most of the cost-reducing ideas that were part of Obama's health care plan during last year's presidential campaign.
Mr. President, If you are going to cut secret deals that will force Americans to spend billions more on their prescription drugs, at least have the decency to not publicly lie about how your "health care reform" bill will do everything it can to reduce costs for American families. You know it is a lie, the PhRMA lobbyists you cut the secret deal with know it is a lie, health care reform experts knows it is a lie, and the American people should know it is a lie.
The sole defense of this massive corporate giveaway, formally known as the Senate health care reform bill, is that it would still do some "good," helping millions of the uninsured. Unfortunately, the bill would dramatically worsen the quality of current insurance coverage for tens of millions Americans, thanks to the new excise tax on insurance plans. It is unlikely that any of the remaining "good" in this bill will outweigh the massive amount of harm.
Most of the "help" this bill will do is dubious at best. Help is being defined as giving insufficient subsides to Americans now forced by the government to buy extremely expensive, poorly regulated, junk insurance. Without banning annual limits and an extremely high out-of-pocket cap (which thanks to a massive loophole is not really capped at all), the insurance regulations are basically meaningless. Having this new, mandated "coverage" will not stop you from being bankrupted by accumulated medical debt should you get seriously ill. Insurance that does not protect you from financial ruin if you get sick makes a mockery of the entire concept health insurance.
The harm this bill will do thanks to the excise tax on employer-provided insurance benefits is enormous. The health care bill is designed with the goal of making millions of middle class Americans' health insurance coverage much worse. That is not a bug, it is a feature.
Just how bad will the bill be if Lieberman gets his way?
Mandates every American buy expensive insurance from private companies without the choice of a public option
Severely taxes middle class health care plans, rather than wealthy individuals
Insurance premiums will increase in cost $1000 a year
Increased health care costs
Insurance companies will be exempt from anti-trust laws, inhibiting competition
A sweet, sweet deal for PhRMA with no ability to negotiate for Medicare drug prices
Monopolies granted on new biologic drugs so they will never become generics
NO public option
NO medicare expansion
For good measure, Reid slipped in an annual limit on benefits that insurance companies have to pay out, contrary to President Obama's promise in September. And to top it all off, the IRS fines you if you won't shell out money to insurance companies!
I don't know about you, but if I wanted John McCain's health care plan, I would've voted for John McCain. He would have let Lieberman write the health care bill, too.
The current Senate bill only creates a sham imitation of these systems. This bill completely fails to uphold the government's end of this social contract, but would still force Americans to buy expensive, poorly regulated, junk insurance. Insurance policies would only be required to have an actuarial value of 60 percent, a shockingly low number. The insurance companies will not be banned from placing annual caps on benefits and there is a massive loophole to get around an already too high "limit" on out-of-pocket cost. The end result is that having this "insurance" will not prevent Americans from bankruptcy if the get sick, nullifying the entire logic behind universal health insurance. For moral, political, policy, and economic reasons, progressives must oppose any government mandate to buy insurance as long as the government refuses to pass laws ensuring that every American actually has access to decent, affordable health insurance.
The Senate bill does not ensure that Americans get value from the health insurance they would be forced to buy. Insurance companies are not mandated to be non-profits. It lacks a strong minimum medical loss ratio that would force insurance companies to spend the majority of the money they take in through premiums on actual health care. There are no serious price controls of any form put on the insurance companies. The bill lacks a strong third-party review of claims denials. The bill also lacks a central reimbursement negotiator to make sure that insurance companies are not overpaying providers and passing on the cost to their customers.
The health insurance Americans are forced to purchase will not be affordable. Middle class families (making 300%-400% of FPL) will only get subsidies sufficient to make the premiums for the second cheapest insurance at the low quality silver level (70% actuarial) cost 10% of their income. That is only premiums and does not count co-pays, deductibles, non-covered procedures and medications, etc. These plans will have an annual out-of-pocket limit $12,000. If a family actually had a medical emergency, their health care spending could eat up over a third of their income, or go over the annual cap on benefit payments. This is not quality insurance, and will not truly protect people from financial ruin if they get sick. The bill will also allow insurance companies to charge older Americans up to three times as much as younger Americans.
The only small consolation is that without the public option, strong risk adjustment mechanisms, sufficient tax credits, or tougher regulations, the exchanges will end up an awful place to buy insurance. I doubt anyone will use the exchanges unless they have no other choice. The failure of the rest of reform might end having the "benefit" of containing the poison from whatever anti-abortion langauge Nelson ends up getting added.
When urging its passage today, President Obama said two things that are manifestly untrue. He says that the bill fulfills all of the promises he made in his September speech before a joint session of Congress, but it doesn't.
What the President said in September:
They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime.
But while nobody was looking, Harry Reid slipped in an "arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year":
The President Obama also said that "what ever ideas exist in terms of bending the cost curve and starting to reduce cost for families, businesses, and government, those elements are in this bill." Not true either.
As we speak, Frank Lautenberg and Kay Hagan are destroying Byron Dorgan's drug reimportation amendment by making a bunch of bullshit claims about drug safety. The danger of transferring drugs from a CVS warehouse in Canada to a CVS store in the United States? Zip. But they're pretending that everything is coming from Chinese counterfeiters to keep something that could save the government $19 billion and the public over $100 billion from passing so the White House deal with PhRMA can be upheld. The Dorgan amendment could have been a way of honestly bending the cost curve, something the President campaigned on.
Instead, the "bend" comes from taxing middle class insurance benefits, which makes them worse.
I would call this move of adding a public option pure theater, but it was, in fact, far more malicious. By adding the public option and dragging out debate until late December, Harry Reid made sure there would not be time to use reconciliation.
I understand why much of the progressive base is angry at Joe Lieberman for what he is doing to the Senate health care reform bill, but you should really be angry at the people who gave Lieberman his power. If Reid had gone with reconciliation, Joe Lieberman would not be writing the bill as we speak. This is what happens when the progressive base believes one of Reid's worthless promises that he can handle things.
Obama might convince the Senate Democratic caucus that giving up all their principles to appease Joe Lieberman is a smart move. I don't think he will ever convince the American people to vote en masse for a party that looks like it is made up of only unprincipled spineless wimps.