We are on record as favoring single-payer health care and taking certain things like vaccines out of the market system, but beyond that we don’t do much health care politics here. But we have opinions, like everyone does, opinions formed by working for more than four decades within the health care and public health professions. Other than that, we are like most of you. Consumers of health care with our own particular view of the world. And since everyone else seems to be talking about it, so will we. At least we will today.
Everyone knows that what Republicans hate and fear about health care reform is not any particular element, but just that it exists and will be a major boon to Democrats if anything halfway decent gets passed. From the progressive point of view, the current bill is a stinker. But it’s close to being minimally acceptable (although in our view isn’t yet acceptable because mandating unaffordable private health insurance is a way to cast in stone one of the things that is most wrong with US health care, its total submission to the goals and objectives of the private health insurance industry). The Massachusetts reform plan is also pretty bad, but like the old Henny Youngman joke (Q. “How’s your wife?” A. “Compared to what?”), the public far prefers it to nothing:
Public support for Massachusetts? closely watched health insurance overhaul has slipped over the past year, a new poll indicates, but residents still support the path-breaking 2006 law by a 2-to-1 ratio.
Amid a severe recession that has led to cuts in state programs and unrelenting job losses, 59 percent of those surveyed said they favored the state?s multimillion-dollar insurance initiative, down from 69 percent a year ago. The poll, by the Harvard School of Public Health and The Boston Globe, found that opposition to the law stands at 28 percent, up slightly from 22 percent in a June 2008 survey. (Kay Lazar, Boston Globe)
With health care costs running wild, the economy in the crapper, and insurance companies increasing premiums by double digits, the Massachusetts plan, which covers 97% of the state’s population, is struggling to be sure — but with all that, still popular. 79% want it to continue as opposed to 11% favoring repeal. Imagine how popular a really decent plan (which Massachusetts does not yet have) would be. That’s what’s at stake for Republicans and what the Democratic Party’s progressive wing is fighting for. If we instead wind of with the steaming pile of shit that the leadership and the White House “negotiated” with Republican “moderates” who want to see either nothing or something terrible, and Democratic “centrists” (what are they the center of, what used to be called conservative Democrats?) who want to abrogate a woman’s right to choose or enrich the insurance industry, those who don’t want the Democrats be identified as the party that brought meaningful health care reform, even it it’s good for the country, will have won.
If this bill goes down — as is a distinct possibility if it stays in its current form — it will not be the fault of main stream Democrats who are finally balking and showing some backbone. If it goes down the ones who will do it are the entire Republican Party in the House and Senate, and right wing Democrats like Ben Nelson and corrupt insurance lobbyist Independent, Joe Lieberman. Barring total defeat of any reform, Republicans will settle for having people forced into the arms of the benevolent insurance industry who will then violate them further with increased premiums and a legal requirement that people buy their shoddy wares. No choice. Not even a weak tea public plan, with reduced administrative expense to provide minimal competition. Not even the weak Medicare buy-in for the uninsured. Just a gun-to-the-head individual mandate that will be fodder for Republicans next election cycle.
Because what’s the alternative? The alternative for Republicans is that even a lousy (but not outright harmful) health care reform will be good for Democrats even if it’s only a little good for the country. For Republicans, that’s the bottom line.
So let’s get on with it. Dump the individual mandate if there’s no meaningful competition to private insurers, reform insurance practices like denying coverage of pre-existing conditions and other vile practices which insurance companies say they favor but won’t do even though they have the power to do it instantly and some other minimal stuff. Then we can take a breath and get on with the rest of it, including universal coverage. We can’t get everything at once? Then do it in pieces. Democrats won’t have 60 votes after 2010? Hell, they don’t have 60 votes now.