Start Over On Health Care Debate
by Deacon Blues
It seems particularly apt on this Labor Day to confront what Barack Obama has allowed to happen with the health care debate. Aside from the miscalculations and poor assumptions behind letting an industry-bought Congress take the lead in drafting legislation without an engaged president to tell them up front what were the essential elements of any final plan, we now get to see what this pathetic approach has yielded.
Senator Max Baucus, who was allowed by this White House to use his perch as chair of the Senate Finance Committee to do health care reform on auto-pilot, is now ready to produce his bill in advance of the president's too-little, too-late Wednesday night speech. And even though the Baucus bill doesn't have a single GOP committee supporter fully on board, Baucus is still offering a piece of garbage: no public option but weak co-ops, and cost sharing that lets the insurance industry benefit from corporate welfare while making working families shoulder too large of a burden for their own care.
Another section of Mr. Baucus’s proposal would help pay insurance premiums, co-payments and deductibles for people with incomes less than 300 percent of the poverty level ($66,150 for a family of four). It would also provide some protection for people with incomes from 300 percent to 400 percent of the poverty level (up to $88,200 for a family of four), so they would generally not have to pay more than 13 percent of their income in premiums.
But keep in mind, that's just the premiums.
To compare health plans, experts often focus on the percentage of medical expenses paid by insurance, on average, for a given population. This figure ranges from 70 percent to 95 percent under the House bill’s options, but it would be less than 70 percent under Mr. Baucus’s proposal.
Mr. Baucus would impose limits on out-of-pocket medical costs — the co-payments, deductibles and similar charges for covered items and services. The limits would be $11,900 a year for a family and $5,950 for an individual. The comparable numbers in the House bill are $10,000 and $5,000.
Do the math here. A family of four with two wage earners making up to that $88,200 annual family income would have to shoulder 13 percent of that for premiums, and still under Mad Max's plan have to pay another $11,900 a year in co-payments and deductibles, or almost one-quarter of their family income through an individual mandate to the same industry that got us into this mess. All this for what the White House wants Democrats to call a "down payment" on health care reform, a down payment that has no choice of a public option. The insurance industry gets trillions in new extortion money from working Americans while pocketing at least a quarter of the dollars for profit and not claims.
And this is what Barack Obama wants Democrats to sign on to? This truly would be the Democrats death panel for 2010. Ted Kennedy would be spinning in his grave, because this is the farthest thing possible from his original "Medicare for all" idea of several years ago.
This is political poison for Democrats. For their own survival, and to demonstrate some independence from a White House that needs to sink on its own, House and Senate Democrats need to walk away now from Baucus, the White House, and a phony bipartisanship, and call Grassley's and Enzi's bluff and start over. If the GOP wants to really start over and have this debate about facts, Democrats should oblige. Recast this debate, as it always should have been, as a moral argument and put the GOP and its industry checkwriters on the defensive and have this debate in 2010 leading up to the midterms.
But please walk away from this millstone around your necks, and let Mad Max and Rahm Emanuel know that Democrats will start over next year with a new negotiating position separate from the political suicide the White House has in mind now. Rather than starting off in a quest for a futile bipartisanship that tosses aside the moral argument behind health care reform in the pursuit of a deal that represents a tragic sellout of the American family for corporate welfare, congressional Democrats need to honor Ted Kennedy's memory and start out next year with Medicare-for-all and make the GOP argue against that in an election year.