Hear the words of the prophet: There will be no meaningful health care reform for Americans this year… or next. It is also unlikely that there will be health care reform legislation, however weak, any time soon. So our elected representatives have wasted the better part of a year messing with our minds. And misguided “progressives” are wasting their time and money fighting to get a hobgoblin of a bill through the Senate.
I can’t see the 2,000-page monstrosity that squeaked through the House on Saturday getting anywhere in the Senate. Joe Lieberman has vowed to filibuster any bill that includes a “public option.” That onetime Democrat has switched sides once again – probably because his wife’s cushy PR job depends on the goodwill of health care profiteers (photo of Joe and Hadassah Lieberman on the podium at the Republican National Convention, below).
According to Moveon.org, progressives pledged $3,578,117 last week “to fund primary challenges against any Democratic senator who blocks an up-or-down vote on health care reform with a public option.” So, they will challenge Lieberman again, will they? Didn’t progressives do that once before? And didn’t he lose in the Democratic primary but run as an independent – and win? I’m not sure what that says about the voters in Connecticut, but it tells me one thing: I wouldn’t want to live there.
But that disgusting little twerp might be doing his country a favor. What’s the point of passing a bad bill just to “make history”? Better no bill at all, say I.
I am not in favor of any legislation that Dennis Kucinich votes against, and he was among the “nays” in the House on Saturday night. That gutsy little guy is one of the few politicians with a reliable moral compass. He knows right from wrong when he sees it. And the bill was just plain wrong – though (as you might expect) for none of the reasons cited by Republicans or Blue Dog Democrats.
The House bill requires that Americans purchase insurance by 2013, or pay a 2.5 percent penalty based on their annual income, subject to a “hardship exemption.” It also mandates that large businesses provide employees with coverage.
The legislation would prohibit such abuses as health insurance companies denying coverage to people who have a pre-existing condition. Additionally, the bill would eliminate the federal antitrust exemption that shields health care providers from investigations into price-fixing and other unlawful business practices.
So far, so good, even though I’m queasy about the government forcing citizens to buy private insurance without adding some way of regulating premiums. To me, that looks like a blank check for the insurance industry, which has made obscenely generous campaign contributions to members of the House and Senate – Democrats as well as Republicans.
And some other provisions are even more unacceptable. One, of course is the amendment preventing any woman who gets government help with her premiums from buying private insurance that would cover abortions. That’s so intrusive it has to be unconstitutional.
And there’s more. Kucinich (photo above) is better informed on this bill than I am, so I’ll let him sum up its flaws:
We have been led to believe that we must make our health care choices only within the current structure of a predatory, for-profit insurance system which makes money not providing health care. We cannot fault the insurance companies for being what they are. But we can fault legislation in which the government incentivizes the perpetuation, indeed the strengthening, of the for-profit health insurance industry, the very source of the problem. When health insurance companies deny care or raise premiums, co-pays and deductibles they are simply trying to make a profit. That is our system.
But instead of working toward the elimination of for-profit insurance, H.R. 3962 would put the government in the role of accelerating the privatization of health care. In H.R. 3962, the government is requiring at least 21 million Americans to buy private health insurance from the very industry that causes costs to be so high, which will result in at least $70 billion in new annual revenue, much of which is coming from taxpayers. This inevitably will lead to even more costs, more subsidies, and higher profits for insurance companies – a bailout under a blue cross.
The bill before the Senate isn’t going to be any better. In fact, it’s sure to be a lot worse. If a “public option” survives, you can bet it will be watered down so much as to be ineffective – probably something that includes a “trigger” or requires states to “opt in.” If you’ve been following the “debate,” you know what I’m talking about. If not, don’t lose any sleep trying to figure it out. Trust me when I say it’s a waste of time.
So, the politicians will keep right on talking, and uninsured Americans will keep right on dying – at the rate of nearly 50,000 a year. Oppressive practices will continue, premiums will keep rising. Health care executives will rake in bigger and bigger salaries and bonuses, health care company shareholders will continue to collect fat dividends and cash in on the growth of their stocks.
For that is the American way.
Fortunately, this abominable situation contains the seeds of its own demise. Eventually, conditions will become so excessive, so intolerable, that politicians will be forced to enact real reform. Let’s pray it happens sooner rather than later.