Position Briefs

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

One more post on health care, then I'm done.

Unlike most Conservatives these days, there is no one on earth that I let do my thinking for me. Granted there are some people that I AGREE WITH about 99% of the time: Professor Bob Carroll, Keith Olbermann, Rachael Maddow, Lewis Black, Eric Alterman, Jameson Foser, Eric Bohlert and Karl Frisch all come to mind. But even in those cases, if I listen or read long enough, I’m bound to come across something that causes me to raise an eyebrow or shake my head. Since I have no desire to be a cult leader myself, I certainly hope that while my “followers” enjoy reading most of what I have to say, they don’t end up agreeing with everything I post. Aside from that just being really creepy, it’s no fun for me if I never get to debate anything with anyone, and I don’t get any wisdom out it myself. We can only be made better by engaging in civilized discourse with the educated few who can really challenge our point of view.  In short: I really appreciate and cheerish the disagreements that inevitably come along.

That being said, I’d like to put up what I plan to be the last post in my ongoing back-and-forth with ClassicLiberal (and Left Hook) regarding the health care bill. [Classy, if you want the last word, I’ll gladly let you have it. ;) ] And I’m going to borrow from one of those people above to do so – namely, Rachael Maddow. She gave what I felt was a phenomenal run-down on her show Tuesday night that I think hammers home that which drives my judgment on this issue and on the bill that was just signed into law. The following is from the transcript of her 3/22 show:

The minute President Obama signs health reform into law tomorrow:

• Small businesses will begin to get relief from what has been an unpredictable and yet ever-increasing financial burden of providing coverage to their employees. Small businesses can start applying for tax credits to buy health insurance for their employees.

• Are you a senior citizen? Well, the minute President Obama signs that bill tomorrow, you will start getting help paying for your prescription drugs. That dreaded donut hole that forces way too many seniors to pay way too high out-of-pocket costs for their prescriptions — that dreaded donut hole will finally begin to close. For seniors who already hit the donut hole in their drug coverage in 2010, $250 rebate checks will be on the way to you.

As of June 21st, 90 days after the bill is signed, those high-risk pools will be up and running.

• Americans who have been deemed uninsurable because of preexisting conditions, they will finally start getting a path toward health coverage. High-risk pools will be set up for them to purchase the insurance they could never get before.

The next date to mark down on your calendar -- 90 days after that— is September 23rd.

• As of September 23rd, it will no longer be legal in this country for insurance companies to deny kids coverage because of a preexisting condition.

• As of September 23rd, insurance companies will be prohibited from dropping you when you get sick. No more rescissions.

• As of September 23rd, insurance companies can no longer impose life-time limits on your benefits.

• And if you have children, they can stay on your insurance until the age of 26.

All of that will happen in just six months. But wait, there‘s more. As of the next calendar year, as of this forthcoming January 1st:

• Insurance companies will be required to spend 80 percent to 85 percent of what they take in from you on premiums on actual medical care. If they don‘t, they will owe you the difference in the form of a rebate.

• That same day, Medicare patients will start receiving free preventive care services, no co-payments, free preventive care.

Then, after all that, in 2014,

• It will no longer be legal for insurance companies in this country to deny anyone coverage based on preexisting conditions. Those who don‘t have coverage can buy some in the health insurance exchanges that will be fully operational.

• With lifetime limits on benefits already a thing of the past, in 2014, insurance companies will not be able to impose annual limits on your benefits, either.


And that’s far from everything – it IS a 2700 page bill after all – but given the points above, there is no doubt in my mind that this IS real, meaningful reform. To say that doing away with the most egregious abuses of the system is not reform is to clearly put ideology ahead of pragmatism, to let the perfect get in the way of the good. As liberals, I’m sure we’d all like a different system. Most of us would like single payer. I still believe it will happen eventually, but it was never on the table this time around, and is just not feasible or practical in the near future for many reasons, some of which, granted, have to do with the money and corruption that drives our current political system. That’s sad, but that's the world we live in and THIS BILL, in any of its forms, was never going to change that. All the same, the REFORMS listed above are HUGE. They will save lives. They will make this system work BETTER, and if they are in fact just a starting point, can go a long way towards making the system WORK.

Saying that it won’t, just because you want a different system, to me sounds no different than the conservatives’ refusal to acknowledge the good that’s happened, and the economic progress that been made under Obama, simply because they want to do things their way, and can’t bring themselves to acknowledge that our way works too. (Works BETTER, in fact!) To say this bill is bad because it makes a system you don’t like WORK BETTER, is routing against the system every bit as much as the Right has been rooting against America since 20 January, 2009. In my opinion the liberal opposition to this bill amounts to no more than: If you make the for profit system work, we’ll never get a ‘single payer’ system. But from my own POV: If the for-profit system can be made to work, WHO CARES? The biggest problems with the for profit system – namely that those profits came from DENYING care, rather than providing it – have been swept away. (OK, fine, will be swept away by 2014.) In the mean time, there will inevitably be other issues that come up. We’ll simply deal with them.

I am not so liberal as to believe that a company making a profit, and even more of a profit, and even coming from government spending, is in and of itself a bad thing. Not when that profit is derived from providing an essential service and doing so in a way that delivers what everyone needs. I’ve heard it called “corporate welfare.” But it’s NOT; at least no more than almost ALL Government spending is. Anytime the government contracts out a service, they are doing what they’re doing here: Paying a private, for-profit corporation to provide a service for the American Public. Sometimes this is done well, sometimes this is done poorly (Blackwater, Haliburton, etc…) And we, as liberals, all know that if left to their own devices, these for-profit companies will do whatever they can to maximize their revenue and minimize there costs. To this end, insurance companies started shirking their duties in a BIG WAY by refusing to give medical coverage to those who need medical coverage! (Which was their raison d'ĂȘtre.) So that’s absurd! In fact, it’s indefensible. It’s EXACTLY what was wrong with our system. And, as liberals, we know that it is up to the government to create industry regulations to force these companies to behave, and compete, in a responsible fashion and in a functional environment for their customers and for society. We’ve seen how well this worked (relative to what existed before) in the Airlines, the automotive industry, regulated power and water utilities and many other industries. And the extent that companies pollute, exploit, and otherwise “externalize costs” is directly proportional to the ability of Libertarians (Conservatives) to prevent the Government from serving in this regulatory role. The regulations passed in this bill have been a long time in coming, and address the worst aspects of that previously irresponsible behavior in the pursuit of profit.

It saves lives, provides increased and protected coverage, and makes things better. It is not ‘bad’ just because it makes the less preferred system work, and you cannot claim it is not ‘real reform’ simply because the only reform you accept as real would be a complete scrapping of the system in order to bring about one that better fits your ideology. I DO believe that liberal ideology is better than conservative ideology, but I DO NOT believe in its inherent goodness or perfection. I will not judge this bill, or the system that results from it, only against liberal ideology. I will judge against what we had, what we have now, and what we still have to do. This bill goes a long way towards getting from where we are to where we need to be. That someone in the private sector will make some money off it, or because it will keep a private system in place instead of going towards a public system, in and of themselves do not make it “bad.”

I am simply not THAT liberal (or that kind of Liberal.) This can work. And if it doesn’t? Well… polls show that the American Public will support MORE reforms. So we’ll just keep going until it does, or until we have single payer. In any case, I am glad this has passed. I am glad President Obama signed it. And I hope Harry Reid grows a set, forces the reconciliation vote as soon as possible, and ass-whips any Democrat who proposes any amendments, or slows down the passage of this package in any way. The books must be closed on this.

There is so much more work to be done.

6 comments:

  1. Agree. There are many good things in this bill that will improve the healthcare in this country for millions of citizens. There are also many things in the bill which need improvement. I personally favor going to a Medicare for all. The system and infrastructure is already in place. But I'll take what I can get at this point and hope for improvement over time with this bill.

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  2. OK, I wrote a reply over at my own blog:
    http://lefthooktheblog.blogspot.com/2010/03/another-post-on-health-care-from-me.html

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  3. Tincanman - Agreed as well. There's still plenty of work yet to do.

    Classic - I'm on my way there, but I'm still keen to let you have the last word. ;)

    Thanks for your comments.

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  4. I too really like Lewis Black. How come I never heard of him before about 7 years ago?

    Yeah, I know that your post wasn't 'about' Lewis Black, but I couldn't find anything substantial to disagree with, so....

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  5. I love how Repubs keep saying a majority of people are against this bill.I was against this bill because it didnt go far enough.Are people like me reflected in those polls?No all they say is everyone is against this bill.I am glad it passed because a failure would have been devasting to Dems.A couple of random thoughts.Imagine if Barack Obama had gotten less of the popular vote than John Mccain and the Supreme Court had installed him in office.How batshit crazy would the right be right now?Speking of illigitamate Presidents,did you notice how quick "landslide Bush" abandonded the dirt ranch in Crawford.I havent seen this mentioned in MSM.I think it might have been Karl Rove that said you need a ranch,you'll look like a "regular guy" What aload of bullshit! caio

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  6. Dolly,

    Yeah, Black rox, doesn't he? He and Carlin are/were the best.

    Jonny,

    Actully Olbermann broke down the poll that Boehner was quoting on his 5/22 show. There were 39% who were in favor of the bill and 59% against. But that 59% broke down as 43% saying it was too liberal and 13% saying it doesn't go far enough. Which means that 52% either favor it or think it doesn't do enough! Republican FAIL.

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