December 16, 2009
Thirty Million More Criminals

So why isn’t the failure of the health-care reform initiative an epochal example of the failure of leadership? Democrats know who I mean…

Or perhaps you don’t agree that having dumped the public option and the Medicare buy-in to get Lieberman and/or Snowe, Senate Democrats have neither of those two votes, so they’re looking around for some piece of the store that has not yet been given away.

They’ve forced millions of Americans to buy insurance, which is useless. I don’t need insurance against something that’s certain to happen, I need health care. Most of those Americans can’t afford insurance, so government will have to pony up the money that supplies the insurance companies with profits. Why do I have to pay taxes that get handed over to insurance companies?

And they’ve removed any hint of a competitor for those insurance companies. Medicare won’t expand, and we’ll all have no option but to purchase insurance from private corporations with histories of lawlessness, dishonesty, and disregard for public welfare. Do you believe that having insurance means you’re covered when you get sick? Ask the 1.5 million Americans who filed for bankruptcy last year, of whom over 60 percent are estimated to have been driven to the extreme by problems that included significant medical bills.

Bankruptcies due to medical bills increased by nearly 50 percent in a six-year period, from 46 percent in 2001 to 62 percent in 2007, and most of those who filed for bankruptcy were middle-class, well-educated homeowners, according to a report that will be published in the August issue of The American Journal of Medicine.

“Unless you’re a Warren Buffett or Bill Gates, you’re one illness away from financial ruin in this country,” says lead author Steffie Woolhandler, M.D., of the Harvard Medical School, in Cambridge, Mass. “If an illness is long enough and expensive enough, private insurance offers very little protection against medical bankruptcy, and that’s the major finding in our study.”


Overall, three-quarters of the people with a medically-related bankruptcy had health insurance, they say.

“That was actually the predominant problem in patients in our study — 78 percent of them had health insurance, but many of them were bankrupted anyway because there were gaps in their coverage like co-payments and deductibles and uncovered services,” says Woolhandler. “Other people had private insurance but got so sick that they lost their job and lost their insurance.”

The Democrats consider forcing everyone to buy private insurance, which is unlikely to cover you in extremes, to be a step forward. It is, for the insurance companies; but not for me, as one of the forty-some million uninsured Americans.

Then there’s the timed phase-in of the so-called benefits over a period long enough to include two or three election cycles. This is a trick Congress uses to look as if it’s doing something without making any commitments that some money-making war in some remote location can’t pre-empt.

This bill is certainly historic, in other words, but not in a positive way. It’s a holiday gift to the insurance and drug industries, following on the lavish presents bestowed earlier on the perpetrators of the recent financial farce. Remember, after all, that the Democrats handed $787 billion to Wall Street firms and their bankers and insurers, precisely the culprits in the disastrous chicanery that led to the bubble that ruined so many. Now the same folks are handing billions per year for the foreseeable future to the drug and insurance companies, without even a hint of a means of riding herd on those vicious organizations. Or as Jim Dean at Democracy for America puts it,

…the bill doesn’t actually “cover” 30 million more Americans — instead it makes them criminals if they don’t buy insurance from the same companies that got us into this mess.

It seems the Democrats have once again failed to act on their promises. In particular, the Democrat in the White House has neglected to act when he could have. Yes, the bill is being written by Congress, not the White House, because the Obama administration decided to go the opposite way of the Clinton attempt, which largely handed a bill to Congress to be passed or, as it happened, rejected. Politically, as with everything Obama does, this is a good strategy, because something will come out of it, and that’s the only goal for the administration.

But Obama is the main reason the bill sucks so much. He started by taking the only reasonable option off the table; then he exerted no leadership to force things, whether by gambling on pressure through stating publicly what he wanted, or working behind the scenes for a consistent goal. By making it clear that all he wanted was some bill, he created the situation in which there was no threat of extreme actions from the left, only from the right. Thus Snowe and Lieberman can affect the content of the bill, but Feingold and Sanders can’t. If he had ever come strongly for a public option, there’d be one in the bill. If he’d supported anything at all, it would be in the bill. But he didn’t, because the only thing he really wants is whatever gets the votes.

If they pass a bill similar to the current Senate version, I’ll be rooting for the Democrats to lose Congress again.


Posted by Chuck Dupree at December 16, 2009 03:28 PM
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I think Glenn Greenwald nailed this when he said that this was the bill Obama wanted all along. Now we have a bill that every conservative should vote against and every progressive should vote against. The only people who will vote for this abomination are people who want filthy lucre for their next campaigns - so obviously it will pass.

What few progressives there are in Congress haven't got the guts to buck the party "leadership" on this one. They will fold as usual.

Posted by: Charles Dunaway on December 16, 2009 5:32 PM

Sad to say, I think you're right: this is the bill Obama wanted. If he didn't want it, why did it happen?

Posted by: Chuck Dupree on December 16, 2009 9:13 PM

The resume writer comment above looks like spam. But Chuck, all the problems you mention, or a great many of them, are supposed to be remedied by this legislation. But I'm betting that the lower end of the income scale folks like you and me will get subsidies to cover a good bit of the costs. We'll see I guess, assuming we get a bill.

Posted by: Buck on December 17, 2009 8:06 AM

(Deleted the resume-writer spam.)

Yes, the problems were supposed to be remedied by health-care legislation. Democrats were supposed to be people, too. But it hasn't turned out that way.

Posted by: Chuck Dupree on December 17, 2009 2:34 PM

Do the math. 40 Republicans + Joe Lieberman = Control of the filibuster. No good health care reform will pass the Senate except by reconciliation. Fortunately, that only requires 50 Democrats + Joe Biden.

I expect health care reform with a public option and without restrictions on women's health care. Perhaps you think I will be disappointed. But I don't think that Barack Obama is as stupid as you seem to think.

If they passed the Senate bill, in its present form, he would lose badly. Badly. He knows that.

Posted by: mahakal on December 18, 2009 12:15 AM

As one of America's many financially-ruined citizens I have first-hand frustrating experience with applying to the government for assistance. To cite two examples: 1) so that my working, divorced daughter could go to college, she needed financial help with my granddaughter's daycare. That took 7 weeks of almost daily calling the social workers and, finally, in desperation a call to our state governor's office hotline to get results. 2) I applied for heating energy assistance for this winter, which involves getting up about 3 am in order to stand in line in the freezing cold outside the application office to get one of 25 entrance tickets at about 8 am. I was 17th in line, because some people camp-out there all night. There were about 50 people in line, which means a lot of people turned-away each day. My point is that there will be a lot of poor people spending a lot of their time going begging "hat in hand" to the bureaucrats in order to buy insurance. I was once solidly middle-class and paid taxes for 37 years before being destroyed in the Great-Recession. I was surprised at how confusing, uncaring, and inadequate our social safety net is. Pray that you don't have to find out also.

Posted by: colonelgirdle on December 18, 2009 12:28 AM

Paul Krugman, who I trust, just wrote a new op-ed in which he advised progressives to be very careful about opposing this bill. His reasons are kany. I'll stick with Krugman. But by all means go over ther nd dispute his points if you disagree with him.

Posted by: Buck, on December 18, 2009 12:56 AM
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