The myth that the Democratic plans for health reform will produce anything by the target date of 2014 is only exceeded in absurdity by the myth that the world will end on December 21, 2012.
“New media” pundit Eric Alterman is down on his knees, genuflecting before the graven idol of Democratic Party interests. He wrote a full fledged justification supporting the current idol with feet of clay, the Democratic health care reform effort ongoing in the United States Senate. The article looks like talking points hot off the press from the White House Office of Disinformation since he’s giving the president credit for all the good things which have materialized as if by magic in the latest Senate’s efforts.
To begin with, he failed to note these very real issues in the health care debate: the immediate need by tens of millions for adequate health care and financial relief from exorbitant prices; the preservation of insurance companies at the center of public health care, companies with no interest in or obligation for the public welfare; and, the gross hypocrisy of the president demanding that health reform not add one penny to the deficit while he spends hundreds of billions for the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq – pure deficit operations with no discernible benefit to citizens.
Alterman starts out with this catchy header:
“The health-care bill had a list of enemies thicker than Tiger Woods’ little black book. Despite it all, the majority of Americans who favor reform just might get their wish.” A Jaw Dropping Political Deal, Eric Alterman, Dec. 9
What wish would that wish be Eric?
“Somehow the 10 Democrats evenly divided between pro-and anti-public option going in—came out without a public option but still managed to make people who insisted on the need for one happy. (If Paul Krugman is happy, I’m happy.)” Alterman
What are Eric and Paul so happy about?
“According to the terms of the Senate compromise hammered out by Harry Reid and his friends Tuesday night, nobody’s going to get a “public option” but people over 55 are going to get a chance to buy into Medicare. … Or something. Really, if you’re not a professional policy wonk, it’s enough to send you to a private, no-insurance-taken headache clinic just to think about it.
“What’s important about it is less the details than the fact that it is happening at all.” Alterman
Let’s allow the details to intrude.
Reports on the great compromise (read sell out) by the Democrats indicate that the whittled-down-to-nothing public option was traded for the ability of those 55 to 65 years old to buy into Medicare. Glory days, right?
The New York Times, Dec 10 reported that “some people” 55 to 65 would be able to buy into Medicare but that the premiums would be $7,600 per person or $15,200 per couple. You can buy some private plans like that today. In fact many 55 to 65 who buy solo plans from private insurance companies pay about that much right now.
But wait, the apologists might say, you’re leaving out the subsidies planned for this age group. That’s fine but they don’t start until 2014. But if you don’t have the money now, what use is a Medicare buy in? You can just tough it out until 2014 or go looking for that mythical social safety net. And who knows if you’ll get a subsidy to make the plan affordable in 2014.
Basically, the Democrats traded a meaningless public option for a meaningless Medicare buy in.
Then there’s that other great opportunity Alterman mentioned, those nonprofit federal health plans created by insurance companies.
“And other people will be able to buy health insurance from nonprofit entities formed by for-profit companies tightly regulated by the Office of Personnel Management.” Alterman
Eric should have had less faith in Paul and paid more attention to the TPM write up. He might have been less enthusiastic.
“As has been widely reported, one of the trade-offs will be to extend a version of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan to consumers in the exchanges. Insurance companies will have the option of creating nationally-based non-profit insurance plans that would (be) offered on the exchanges in every state. However, according to the aide, if insurance companies don’t step up to the plate to offer such plans, that will trigger a national public option.” TPM, Dec 8
Fasten your sea belts! We have entered full disinformation mode. The Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan (FEHB) can’t be extended if it has just nonprofit health providers. The current FEHB program has quite a few for-profit health insurance companies.
More importantly, FEHB is a plan funded by the employer (self-funded). That means that companies like Anthem (Blue Cross/Blue Shield), CIGNA, and others simply administer the benefits, most of which are paid for by the employer, the federal government (with a much smaller percentage covered through employee contributions).
How on earth can they say that they’re extending a plan paid for by the federal government when they have new member premiums funding the majority of member care? In this regard, the Senate compromise is the exact opposite of the FEHB. These people are just making it up as they go along.
The program Alterman mentions gives insurance companies the right of first refusal to create the nonprofits themselves. How likely is that? It’s about as likely as Dick Cheney turning himself into the FBI for war crimes.
If the for-profits fail to create the nonprofits, the Democrats new version of a “trigger” would lead to a national public option. None of this would benefit anybody until 2014 when the insurance “exchanges” are rolled out, if that ever happens.
But Eric doesn’t care. He’s a man of action who is in a faith based bond with his main man Paul Krugman: “(If Paul Krugman is happy, I’m happy.)” Let’s see what the main man has to say:
“The Health Care Compromise
“Here’s what’s being reported. No public option, but a trigger which is unlikely to be pulled. But some good stuff in exchange: nonprofit plans available through the exchanges, plus Medicare buy-ins for the 55-65 set (me! me! me!).
“If this is the final plan, it’s better than most of us were expecting — and definitely good enough to go with.” Paul Krugman, Conscience of a Liberal, Dec 9
So Alterman is happy because his friend Krugman is happy. Krugman is happy because he read a report in TPM (quote above) that shows that the Senate compromise produces a high cost Medicare buy in that is manifestly unaffordable by those in need and absent any subsidies until 2014 (presuming the subsidies are “deficit neutral”).
If this quip by Paul Krugman is all that Eric Alterman needs to support the Senate compromise on health reform, it should come as no surprise that he could utter the following:
“Remember, nothing is easier than stopping something in our political system and doing something is always riskier than doing nothing.” Alterman
Is this some new law of social science? Was it better to abolish Glass-Steagall Act than doing nothing? Was it better to enact the legislation enabling the Wall Street casino from 2000 on than doing nothing? Was it better to invade Iraq than doing nothing? This is the most vapid logic imaginable.
In all fairness, I must confess that I agree entirely with Alterman’s statement below.
“Barack Obama took a helluva risk when he decided to make health-care reform the centerpiece of his administration’s first two years.” Alterman
The president, his liberal flacks, and the Democrats in Congress have no idea the risk they’ve taken.
When you’re sick, you know it.
When you find out that you have a chronic illness or life threatening disease, you know it.
When you can’t get the health care you need, you know it.
When you, family members, and friends suffer because you can’t get health care, you know it.
And when you look for those who caused your suffering and sickness and that of your family and friends, you will most assuredly know who they are.
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