A handful of readers of the YWC!LI bi-weekly update have responded to the articles shared earlier this week. I am expecting that the new format will provoke conversation among thoughtful progressives on issues that are central to our shared hope for change. Just click where indicated and share your views—and react to the ideas of others. This can become a great place to release your frustrations and/or to inform, persuade, debate, conjecture, organize… Hopefully the update will frame and sustain dialogue that is informative and productive.
To my mind, Dr. Angell’s take (just below) on the House bill is as biased to one side of the reform argument as obstructionists’ is to the other. While I concur vigorously with each of her recommendations and agree the bill as presently constructed does not go nearly far enough to address the system’s shortcomings, her conclusion is counterproductive both in the short term and the long run. After a century in pursuit of reform it is long past the time to get something done. No question we will all disagree on what the ‘something’ is, but defeating this bill is certainly not rational. There are enough important gains in the House bill that merit our support. The question, of course remains, what might a merged bill look like after the Senate gets through marking up its version. By that time, I may find myself agreeing with Dr. Angell. Hope not. –Marvin
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Is the House Health Care Bill Better Than Nothing?
One Doctor’s Perspective
Conservative rhetoric notwithstanding, the House bill is not a “government takeover.” I wish it were. Instead, it enshrines and subsidizes the “takeover” by the investor-owned insurance industry that occurred after the failure of the Clinton reform effort in 1994. To be sure, the bill has a few good provisions (expansion of Medicaid, for example), but they are marginal. It also provides for some regulation of the industry (no denial of coverage because of pre-existing conditions, for example), but since it doesn’t regulate premiums, the industry can respond to any regulation that threatens its profits by simply raising its rates. The bill also does very little to curb the perverse incentives that lead doctors to over-treat the well-insured. And quite apart from its content, the bill is so complicated and convoluted that it would take a staggering apparatus to administer it and try to enforce its regulations.
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Restriction on Woman’s Choice In Health Care Bill
Obama & Progressives Upset with Amendment
President Obama is concerned about abortion restrictions in the health care reform bill passed by the House on Saturday and has called on Congress to make revisions.
This is an explosive issue that shouldn’t be allowed to derail the overall reform effort. But Obama’s concerns are well-founded. This bill places new burdens on women seeking abortion, especially on low-income women.
There’s already a federal law in place — remember the Hyde amendment of 1976? — that bans federally funded programs like Medicaid from covering abortion, except in the case of rape or incest, or if the mother’s life is endangered.
Now the House bill goes further. It not only bans the use of federal money to buy insurance plans with abortion coverage, it bars insurers that receives federal subsidies from offering these policies to anyone — even to women who do not use federal subsidies. That’s a significant stretch beyond the Hyde restrictions.
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Not Everything is Health Care Related…
Afghan Ambassador dissents from Generals on Troop Levels
The U.S. ambassador in Kabul sent two classified cables to Washington in the last week expressing deep concerns about sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan until Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government demonstrates that it is willing to tackle the corruption and mismanagement that has fueled the Taliban’s rise, said senior U.S. officials.
Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry’s memos were sent in the days leading up to a critical meeting Wednesday between President Obama and his national security team to consider several options prepared by military planners for how to proceed in Afghanistan. The proposals, which mark the last stage of a months-long strategy review, call for between 10,000 and 40,000 more troops and a far broader American involvement of the war.
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Falling Far Short of Reform
Reduce the growth of health care costs. Bend the curve. Find the game changers. Reform the delivery system.
Health care reform has always had two main goals. The first — insuring the uninsured — carries grand overtones of social justice. The second — making the health care system more efficient — can seem abstract, technocratic and a bit nerdy.
Just listen to Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s chief of staff. He recently dismissed critics who say the current bills don’t do enough to change health care by referring to them as “the executive board of the Brookings Institution” and “people sitting in the shade at the Aspen Institute.” The goal, Mr. Emanuel told my colleague Sheryl Gay Stolberg, is to pass a bill through Congress, not to figure out what the ideal bill may look like.
Certainly, a bill that can’t pass Congress won’t help anyone. But I think it’s important to step back and understand precisely what health experts mean when they argue for reforming the delivery system.
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Rep. Cao Gets It (Alone)
The sole Republican to vote in favor of Congress’ health care bill last Saturday was Rep. Cao (pronounced Gow) from Louisiana. Among all the Republicans he understands his responsibility and lives up to it:
“I have a constitutional duty to make the right decision for my district whether or not the decision was popular . . . I had to make a decision of conscience based on the needs of people in my district. A lot of my constituents are uninsured; a lot of them are poor.” (CNN interview)
Cao has broken with his party’s obstructionists previously. He was among 29 Republicans to join Democrats this year voting to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (those whose families do not qualify for Medicaid).
Imagine Senator Lieberman representing the best interests of his constituents rather than submitting to the influence of the insurance companies headquartered in Hartford. The only way he’ll go back on his word to vote against a health care bill that contains a public option is for Sen. Reid to do some arm-twisting. It is Reid who has permitted Lieberman to maintain his chairmanships of Senate committees despite his outrageous voting record on several key issues.
Cao’s vote may also influence that of Sen. Landrieu of Louisiana. She has not committed to allowing debate of the Senate health care bill because of her concerns about Medicaid payment rates in Louisiana. Apparently, Cao has received a commitment from President Obama on health care issues important to Louisiana including the need to address disparities in federal Medicaid reimbursement rates.—Marvin
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The Democrat who will stand in reform’s way
Lieberman is not on my friends list and for good reason. Few politicians can rival his ability to say ‘look at me.’ I had thought Schumer loved the camera and he did get lots of photo ops. But Lieberman creates his photo ops. His wife is as much a part of the health insurance industry as any contributor that resists reform (here’s a great source: http://sharoncobb0.blogspot.com/2009/11/so-joe-liebermans-wife-worked-for.html). His constituency is not Connecticut, just Hartford. Here’s Bob Cesca’s take on the man he calls a liar.—Marvin
Joe Lieberman is insisting that the public option adds to the deficit, which, of course, is a total lie. Ezra Klein:
This has been Lieberman’s standard argument for the past few weeks, but he has not, to my knowledge, explained how it works. Every analysis of the public option I’ve seen has concluded that it will reduce federal, and consumer, spending. Indeed, the stronger the public option is, the more it reduces the deficit. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that a public option paying Medicare’s rates would save the government more than $100 billion in the first 10 years, and more after that.
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From Jon Cooper: My Future Plans
Six months ago, I launched my exploratory campaign for the U.S. Senate. During that time, I’ve met with progressive activists from Roslyn to Rochester and with business owners from Brooklyn to Buffalo. I’ve spoken with LGBT community leaders in Manhattan and with Puerto Rican community members in the Bronx. I’ve also heard from hundreds of working folks who’ve been hit hard by our nation’s economic crisis and are struggling every day to make ends meet.
With each passing week, more and more New Yorkers are urging me to mount a primary challenge against Senator Gillibrand. Their reasons vary, although most of my supporters want someone to represent them in the U.S. Senate who has consistently fought for our shared progressive values. In addition, considering today’s tough economic times, they’re looking for someone who has a proven record of fiscal responsibility.
It’s been my great pleasure serving for the past decade in the Suffolk County Legislature, and I was especially honored to serve as Democratic Majority Leader for the past four years. And despite the anti-incumbent sentiments expressed on Election Day by voters across New York State, I’m proud that I was re-elected by a resounding margin.
Before the end of this month, I expect to make an announcement about my future plans. In the meantime, I would welcome your advice and comments.
As always, I sincerely thank you for your friendship and support.
Best regards, Jon Cooper