Posted by: mutantpoodle | March 9, 2010

The final push

It’s always fun to see Barack Obama back in campaign mode. It’s great to see him chop through the bullshit:

…the insurance companies continue to ration health care based on who’s sick and who’s healthy; on who can pay and who can’t pay.  That’s the status quo in America, and it is a status quo that is unsustainable for this country.  We can’t have a system that works better for the insurance companies than it does for the American people.  We need to give families and businesses more control over their own health insurance. And that’s why we need to pass health care reform — not next year, not five years from now, not 10 years from now, but now.

Now, since we took this issue on a year ago, there have been plenty of folks in Washington who’ve said that the politics is just too hard.  They’ve warned us we may not win.  They’ve argued now is not the time for reform.  It’s going to hurt your poll numbers.  How is it going to affect Democrats in November?  Don’t do it now.

My question to them is:  When is the right time? If not now, when?  If not us, who?

Think about it.  We’ve been talking about health care for nearly a century.  I’m reading a biography of Teddy Roosevelt right now.  He was talking about it.  Teddy Roosevelt.  We have failed to meet this challenge during periods of prosperity and also during periods of decline.  Some people say, well, don’t do it right now because the economy is weak.  When the economy was strong, we didn’t do it.  We’ve talked about it during Democratic administrations and Republican administrations.  I got all my Republican colleagues out there saying, well, no, no, no, we want to focus on things like cost.  You had 10 years.  What happened? What were you doing?

<snip>

We have debated health care in Washington for more than a year.  Every proposal has been put on the table.  Every argument has been made.  I know a lot of people view this as a partisan issue, but both parties have found areas where we agree.  What we’ve ended up with is a proposal that’s somewhere in the middle — one that incorporates the best from Democrats and Republicans, best ideas….

Essentially, my proposal would change three things about the current health care system.  Listen up.  First, it would end the worst practices of insurance companies.  Within the first year of signing health care reform, thousands of uninsured Americans with preexisting conditions would suddenly be able to purchase health insurance for the very first time in their lives, or the first time in a long time….

Number two, second thing that would change about the current system is this:  For the first time in their lives — or oftentimes, in a very long time — uninsured individuals and small business owners will have the same kind of choice of private health insurance that members of Congress get for themselves.  If it’s good enough for Congress, it should be good enough for the people paying Congress its salary  — that’s you….

Let me explain how this would work, because it’s an idea that a lot of Republicans have embraced in the past.  What my proposal says is that if you aren’t part of a big group, if you don’t work for a big company, you can be part of a pool which gives you bargaining power over insurance companies.  It’s very straightforward.  Suddenly, just like the federal employees — there are millions of them so they can drive a harder bargain with insurance companies — you, as an individual or a small business owner, could be part of this pool, which would give you more negotiating power with the insurance companies for lower rates and a better deal. Right? ….

Finally, my proposal would bring down the cost of health care for millions -– families, businesses, and the federal government. As I said, you keep on hearing from critics and some of the Republicans on these Sunday shows say, well, we want to do more about cost.  We have now incorporated almost every single serious idea from across the political spectrum about how to contain the rising cost of health care –- ideas that go after waste and abuse in our system, including in programs like Medicare.  But we do this while protecting Medicare benefits, and we extend the financial stability of the program by nearly a decade.

The dynamics of this are both maddening and fascinating: Dennis Kucinich, demonstrating conclusively that his desire to actually make health care better for Americans is trumped by an ego inversely proportional to his height, has vowed to vote against the Senate bill – plus fixes – no matter what; meanwhile, the horse head clearly was in Bart Stupack’s bed yesterday morning, as now he’s “optimistic” that he’ll be able to find a way to support the bill.

If I were a betting man, I’d say the Senate bill passes the house with maybe a two vote cushion, and I think it will pass because the GOP has overplayed their hand.  I don’t think I’m the only ones who sense that GOP posturing about running against health care reform -and for repealing it! – in the fall rings hollow. There’s too much of stuff in the bill that is popular: ban on exclusions for pre-existing conditions, the end of the lifetime cap, and the ability of individuals to access group leverage when purchasing insurance, to name three. (I, for one, am looking forward to that last one.)

Imagine Obama, flush with this victory, hopscotching the country to ask members of the GOP which elements of this plan – which was their own caucus’s proposal, essentially, 17 years ago – they wish to repeal. I don’t even like popcorn, but I’ll get some out to watch that show.

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