Tag Archives: health insurance reform

Health Insurance: Reformed

26 Mar

The Republican party chose a deliberate strategy to vote no on any health insurance reform from day one. The strategy was a plank of an overall “Obama must fail” platform; it became more important to score cheap political points than to participate in representative democracy. Had they engaged and behaved like a legislative opposition (with real power, in the Senate) ought to behave, a lot of what they wanted changed could have been changed. Maybe not all the way, but part of legislative leadership is the art of negotiation and compromise.

They did, however, have conservative Democrats participating, which resulted in about 200 Republican-backed changes to the law.

But compromise and negotiation isn’t what the Republicans wanted. They wanted Obama defeated. They wanted Pelosi defeated. They wanted – and fully expected – a massive, epic defeat not unlike Clinton’s in the early 90s. A defeat that led within months to Newt Gingrich’s failed “Contract with America”.

But it didn’t work out that way. Even despite Scott Brown’s election to the Senate, what everyone missed is that the Senate had already voted. The already-passed Senate and House bills just needed to be reconciled.

That was accomplished, finally, last night.

So, while the Republicans continue their attacks on this bill as being unconstitutional totalitarianism, know that it’s neither. When they say that this is a complete government takeover of the health care industry, you can laugh in their faces. Because it’s not. When they call it socialized medicine, ask them that they have a clue what that term means. Because it’s not. When they say that this will bankrupt the country, or that the cost is untenable, just say, “let’s wait and see.” Because it won’t.

When they say it will destroy America, turn and walk away. Because life’s too short to pay attention to that kind of dumb talk.

Those who suggest repealing this historic law are the ones who should be vulnerable. The opponents of this law should be worried about November.

  • You want to re-instate discrimination against pre-existing conditions?
  • You want to re-instate rescission?
  • You want to re-instate lifetime policy limits?
  • You want to keep ~40 million Americans uninsured, almost all of them in middle class?
  • You want to drop 21 – 26 year olds who are underemployed or still in school and on their parents’ insurance?

Well, then you run with that.

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Win.

22 Mar
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The health care reform that passed the House last night won’t so much “destroy the country” as many Republicans claimed.  Yes, people were “frightened”.  Mostly because congressional Republicans were busy frightening them – about how this spelled the end of America as we know it.

My representative, Chris Lee, was on the wrong side of history last night.  A first-termer, he voted against a fundamental reformation of America’s woefully broken, $2TN annual health insurance system – changes that will have immediate positive effects.  The millionaire son of millionaires tried to deny to his poorer and middle-class constituents real help.  His lying Code Red emails and ridiculously inconvenient “telephone town hall meetings” reveal a doctrinaire, knee-jerk, Limbaughist conservatism that I thought he eschewed.

Congressman Chris Lee ill served his constituents last night.

Last night, I stayed up as late as I could to watch the votes and Republican maneuvering unfold.  Yes, Nancy Pelosi’s speech was rather fumfering and she has an odd laugh from time to time, but she substantively told the truth.

Before her, on the other side of the aisle, John Boehner gave an impassioned speech, pleading with the house to lead not based on principle, but on polls.  He crowed that there would be not one single Republican vote for the bill, omitting the fact that “Obama must fail” was and is their sole platform plank.   This despite the fact that the current bill, “rammed through” over the course of more than a year, contains at least 200 Republican amendments to it.  This despite the fact that the current bill reflects what the Republicans recommended as an alternative to Hillary Clinton’s plan in the early 90s.

John Boehner also warned Democrats that they might lose their majority come November.  That underscores the fact that the concern his side of the aisle is driven solely by politics, not policy.  Yes, Democrats may be in some jeopardy.  But so might the Republicans.  In fact, in the long run, they will be the ones who will have to answer for their obstinant insistence on killing this bill, no matter how many concessions they extracted.

Public service is not about worrying about your electoral prospects, but instead voting your conscience and your principles.  Boehner’s speech was a huge, perhaps unintentional, reveal of just how superficial Republican congresspeople have become.

Meanwhile, we don’t have to wait another 16 years to take up health insurance reform.

When the Republicans moved to recommit the bill to add the Stupak amendment into the bill’s language (which the Senate would have rejected), one rep from New Jersey all but accused this bill as being a license for everyone – even men – to have abortions on demand on a daily basis.  The Democrats countered with a few minutes from Congressman Bart Stupak himself, who explained that not only did the compromise for President Obama’s executive order re-stating existing federal law do what pro-life forces wanted, but he re-stated the very real fact that the Democrats were helping not only fetuses, but all Americans from conception to death.

During Stupak’s speech, a Republican congressman yelled, “baby-killer!” at him.

Everyone’s dummied up as to who said it, but we’ll probably know today, and it’s clearly someone with a southern accent.  Surprise, surprise.  Earlier yesterday, Stupak was their hero.  Now that Stupak secured the pro-life assurance he needed, and voted for the bill, he was their mortal enemy.  Because it’s not about being pro-life for the poll-watching, phony congressional Republicans.  It’s about Obama losing.  It’s about November.

But despite the predictable, hateful, ignorant conservative outburst, today is an historic day.  President Obama’s remarks last night:

For the first time in our nation’s history, Congress has passed comprehensive health care reform. America waited a hundred years and fought for decades to reach this moment. Tonight, thanks to you, we are finally here.

Consider the staggering scope of what you have just accomplished:

Because of you, every American will finally be guaranteed high quality, affordable health care coverage.

Every American will be covered under the toughest patient protections in history. Arbitrary premium hikes, insurance cancellations, and discrimination against pre-existing conditions will now be gone forever.

And we’ll finally start reducing the cost of care — creating millions of jobs, preventing families and businesses from plunging into bankruptcy, and removing over a trillion dollars of debt from the backs of our children.

But the victory that matters most tonight goes beyond the laws and far past the numbers.

It is the peace of mind enjoyed by every American, no longer one injury or illness away from catastrophe.

It is the workers and entrepreneurs who are now freed to pursue their slice of the American dream without fear of losing coverage or facing a crippling bill.

And it is the immeasurable joy of families in every part of this great nation, living happier, healthier lives together because they can finally receive the vital care they need.

This is what change looks like.

My gratitude tonight is profound. I am thankful for those in past generations whose heroic efforts brought this great goal within reach for our times. I am thankful for the members of Congress whose months of effort and brave votes made it possible to take this final step. But most of all, I am thankful for you.

This day is not the end of this journey. Much hard work remains, and we have a solemn responsibility to do it right. But we can face that work together with the confidence of those who have moved mountains.

Our journey began three years ago, driven by a shared belief that fundamental change is indeed still possible. We have worked hard together every day since to deliver on that belief.

We have shared moments of tremendous hope, and we’ve faced setbacks and doubt. We have all been forced to ask if our politics had simply become too polarized and too short-sighted to meet the pressing challenges of our time. This struggle became a test of whether the American people could still rally together when the cause was right — and actually create the change we believe in.

Tonight, thanks to your mighty efforts, the answer is indisputable: Yes we can.

Thank you,

President Barack Obama

If one family is no longer bankrupted by health care bills; if one person is no longer left destitute because his insurer rescinded his policy; if tip jars to help pay for someone’s leukemia treatments are no longer needed in corner stores, then we will have won a great and historic victory.

Health Care May Sort of Be Reformed A Bit!

13 Oct

Olympia Snowe, Republican Senator from Maine, broke ranks with the entire Republican Party to sign off on the Baucus health care bill in the Senate Finance Committee.

This is a big deal, except for the fact that it’s not that big a deal.

Over the next several weeks, the House and Senate will haggle and bicker and argue over what sort of incremental change may or may not result from a bill which they may or may not pass which may or may not lead to people having more consumer protection in their health insurance and also may or may not make health insurance more affordable, efficient, and accessible.

Then again, they could just expand Medicare to everyone, abolish Medicaid, and be all done. But that’d be way too easy.

Obama’s remarks after the jump. Continue reading

How We Pay

24 Aug

Alphonso O’Neill-White, the CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York pulls in $8,300 per day in salary and other benefits.

Now, I’m not one to begrudge someone a nice big fat salary, and hope one day to join him in earning a ridiculous boatload of cash money.

But within the context of the current debate over health insurance reform, there’s something that smells funny about this. Why is it, to some, imperative that we maintain the status quo? Who has convinced regular people that it is their obligation to ensure that Buffalonian health insurance executives make a salary that is about 5300% higher than the median income in the Buffalo Metro?

I realize that Alphonso O’Neill-White has to eat, but don’t tell me that his compensation doesn’t reveal a fundamental structural problem with the way that health care is paid for in this country.

Cutting the Bullsh*t

22 Aug

In the following clips, Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart commits aggravated journalism in the first degree.  He doesn’t let anti-health-reform spokeswoman Betsy McCaughey get away with lies, prevarications, and nonsense, nor does he simply ask another pro-reform talking head to offer screamy rebuttals.

Instead, Jon Stewart did his homework, read the bill, became familiar with ancillary statutes and regulations, and obliterated McCaughey point-by-point.   And cracked jokes to boot.

If cable news actually did this sort of thing and, you know, demanded its reporters and anchors educate themselves on what the hell they were talking about, and actually called the truth the truth, lies lies, and didn’t just leave objective truth to something you should “decide”, then there’d be some value in it.  As it stands now, the overwhelming majority of American television journalism is to intellectual discourse what Cheetos® brand corn noodles are to nutritious food.

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Louise Slaughter on the Public Option

20 Aug

Representative Louise Slaughter (NY-28) discusses her support for a strong public option for health insurance reform:

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Health Insurance Reform

17 Aug

On Saturday afternoon, the New York attendees of Netroots Nation held a meeting where Representative Eric Massa (NY-29) spoke eloquently and passionate about the battle for health insurance reform, his position on it, and the ways in which he handles very angry attendees at his town hall meetings. He held one in Olean yesterday, and we hope to send a camera to one he’s holding outside Rochester on the 26th.

Rochester Turning has video from a Massa town hall in Honeoye Falls on 8/6. 36 clips. The man was there from 7pm until 10pm.

On Saturday morning, Presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett was interviewed, and she was asked a pointed question about health insurance co-ops, which are seen as the “bipartisan” “compromise” on the public option. Jarrett’s answer was telling – she started talking about competition being good. As Buffalo Geek notes, she was there to ease the netroots into the idea that the bill was going to be watered down even further.

The “public option” WAS the compromise position for the Democratic base

If the goals set forth for health insurance reform during the presidential campaign aren’t met, then Obama will have failed miserably, and he will have done so with a huge congressional majority, and a resounding electoral victory of his own on the issue.

Massa’s preference would be to just let currently non-eligible people buy in to Medicare. It makes an incredible amount of sense, and is extremely easy to implement. Massa pointed out on Saturday that as it stands right now, HR 3200 doesn’t contain a public option anyway, and he’s voting against it.

Letting bipartisanship trump reform and universality is a failure, and the opposition are literally giddy and ecstatic about the idea that health insurers will be free again to reject coverage for something you already saw a doctor for before, and the idea that entrepreneurs will be forced to buy in to an expensive, unregulated, inadequate insurance plan with little consumer protection, and they can’t wait for your family to be hit with a health catastrophe that causes you to reach your health insurance lifetime policy limit within a matter of months and require you to sell your home and possessions, max out credit cards, quit your job to get treatment and recover, and ultimately go into bankruptcy.

That’s the status quo, that’s what they want, and that’s what they want to protect. The powerful over the sick.

Chris Lee (NY-26) wants to go on Hardline and advocate for health care savings accounts? So, what, so that a salesperson earning $30,000 per year whose employer doesn’t offer health coverage can sock away $100/pay period of pre-tax money to cover health care needs? That’s a great way to pay for the occasional doctor’s visit, but isn’t really going to help if something really bad happens.

If you are tired of the status quo, and think that it’s important that congress enact comprehensive universally accessible health insurance reform, then please call your congressperson and our Senators, and let them know. They need to know. They need to be reminded.

Brian Higgins: 716-852-3501
Chris Lee: 716-634-2324
Eric Massa: 202-225-3161
Louise Slaughter: 716-853-5813
Kirsten Gillibrand: 716-854-9725
Chuck Schumer: 716-846-4111

Journalism

13 Aug

Let me comment first that the biggest topic going on inside Higgins’ fundraiser last night as it related to the protesters was to mock and laugh at the guy with the hammer & sickle with a line crossed out.

Secondly, I want to thank Jerry Zremski for writing a news report about the health care debate and local congresspeople’s opinions about holding town halls where, when someone brought up a falsehood about health insurance reform, Zremski came right out and said so.

In fact, videos of Massa’s recent health care town hall in Mendon, near Rochester, show a doctor angrily arguing that the bill would mandate euthanasia for the elderly — even though it does no such thing.

Those videos also show the first-year lawmaker unable to placate a man who insists that the health care bill includes federal funding for abortion, or, in the man’s words, “killing babies.”

Massa rightly insists that it doesn’t — stressing that there’s already a federal law in place banning the use of federal funds for abortion.

Yet the man keeps challenging Massa, who calmly repeats his point and says: “I don’t know how else to say it to you, sir.”

Thank you Jerry Zremski, and thank you Buffalo News.

Lies, Lies, Lies, Yeah

9 Aug

Remember how Sarah Palin resigned as governor of Alaska before she ever completed her first term, and how she couldn’t really explain what she was going to do next? Apparently, her new occupation is “makeshitupper”. Eager to solidify her reputation as someone who is ignorant and indifferent (i.e., “I don’t know and I don’t care”), Palin shat this from her computer regarding the current health insurance reform proposal:

Statement on the Current Health Care Debate

As more Americans delve into the disturbing details of the nationalized health care plan that the current administration is rushing through Congress, our collective jaw is dropping, and we’re saying not just no, but hell no! 



The Democrats promise that a government health care system will reduce the cost of health care, but as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost. And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.



Let’s stop right there for a second. There exists no plan for “death panels” or any other sort of eugenic euthanasia squad. This is two things; (1) a completely and utterly false scare tactic; and (2) a euphemistic way to bring Nazi Germany into the argument. To suggest that there will be a panel of bureaucrats deciding on who lives and who dies based on someone’s societal productivity is beyond irresponsible. It’s a lie, and a poor one, at that.

Incidentally, people with Down Syndrome find it particularly difficult to get health insurance under our current system, because it’s considered to be a pre-existing condition, and therefore uninsurable. That is, unless government steps in and mandates that health insurers cover pre-existing genetically caused developmental issues. Bad old government, telling business what to do.

Health care by definition involves life and death decisions. Human rights and human dignity must be at the center of any health care discussion.



Rep. Michele Bachmann highlighted the Orwellian thinking of the president’s health care advisor, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the brother of the White House chief of staff, in a floor speech to the House of Representatives. I commend her for being a voice for the most precious members of our society, our children and our seniors.



We must step up and engage in this most crucial debate. Nationalizing our health care system is a point of no return for government interference in the lives of its citizens. If we go down this path, there will be no turning back. Ronald Reagan once wrote, “Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.” Let’s stop and think and make our voices heard before it’s too late.


- Sarah Palin

Rather than engage in any more point-by-point rebuttals of Palin’s nonsensical lies, I direct you to this rebuttal, the title of which quite appropriately invokes James Welch’s defense of Fred Fisher against Joseph McCarthy’s “reckless cruelty” back in 1954.

But if “Obamacare” can only be defeated by lying about it and making shit up about it, then its opponents have already lost a lot, and I’m not talking about legislatively.