Heath Care Reform Notes

By now, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that all the GOP cares about is scuttling health care reform of any sort, simply to injure the President politically.

What is astounding, however — especially given the Democratic victory in November and how close they are to 60 votes in the Senate — is that party operatives at the highest levels continue to browbeat the base into accepting the “inevitability” of dropping the public option.

It’s like me trying to convince my daughters, over and over again, to stop trying so hard at math because it’s “inevitable” that boys are going to be better at it naturally, and to just devote their energies to other things.

What I’m not telling them is that through my actions, I’m working to help create and sustain the very conditions I claim to deplore.

It’s similarly irresponsible of those who claim to work for the Democratic Party to push the GOP’s agenda for them.

They’re good people, these legislators, officials, and operatives, I’m sure. But for the life of me I can’t tell if they’re just much too afraid of failing to pass any kind of bill whatsoever, or whether they’re really principled supporters of not only protecting the insurance companies, but expanding their market as widely as government can.

You see, if you push for universal health care coverage without a public option, you’re basically giving the HMOs and insurance companies — people who make money off of limiting or denying care altogether — a ton of new customers. With a few wrist-slapping regulations for selling purposes, that any organized monopoly can get around, of course.

Those private, for-profit companies who broker our health care for us just have no incentive whatsoever to cut costs or compete to provide better service to their subscribers.

Unless…

…unless and until there’s a player in the health care delivery marketplace that’s not guided by the profit motive but by a mandate to provide the very best care to as many people — perhaps even everyone — for the lowest cost possible. That, in a nutshell, is the public option, or Medicare for the rest of us (I’m under 65).

Now of course the insurers are afraid of a public option. And it’s understandable that they’d demonize it as “socialist,” “Obamacare,” “death panels,” or a “gubmint takeover” of any sort. That’s the way they talk.

But why on God’s green earth have these becoming the talking points of Democrats at the highest levels? Why are some of the most powerful Democrats in the White House and Congress arm wrestling members of their own party to reject the public option and accept not what’s in the best interests of the American people, but of the insurers?

Why aren’t prominent Democrats, on and off the Hill, making it clear to the American people that neither libraries nor the public education system respectively “sank” bookstores or private schools? These are public options, as is Medicare.

Are those who oppose “socialism” or “gubmint” in general willing to kill Medicare, public libraries, or public schools? Probably!

But that’s the very point, dear reader. These are not the people who should be deciding the future of health care for all of us, any more than a fan who runs onto the field should be allowed to stop the ballgame.

Ever watch a sporting match when a stripper or other loon jumps onto the field? What does the camera do – follow their every move for the titillation and amusement of the viewing public? It would certainly boost ratings!

No, grownups at the networks long ago realized the best thing to do is ignore them and focus on the game. This is not in the least to discourage further bozos in the future.

So too our media would do well to give the town maulers as little air time as they deserve. Because these “patriots” are scaring some of the President’s closest advisors into doing things that go against the principles of their own party.

But maybe that’s the point.

So why are prominent Democrats twisting arms and portraying the supporters of a public option as children and radicals? The answer can only be, for me, because they’re in bed with the insurers. Politically, of course.

And the voters are smart enough to figure out for themselves that the change they voted for was sold out to the insurance companies for — what? Votes? So that something could be done instead of “nothing?”

Let me say a little bit about that “nothing” that’s been said by people like Howard Dean and James Carville. But I’ll say it in a language more familiar to me and, I suspect, many others.

Ever play poker? You can’t play poker or politics well when your overriding goal is to minimize risk. Can’t.

In order to win (I believe), you have to have some stomach for the possibility you might lose, and then have a plan for when you do.

Put another way, if you play simply to avoid losing, instead of to win, you’ve already lost.

Democrats need to realize three things, and quickly. Besides the fact that they’re in a very high-stakes poker game with a very nasty and united Republican foe.

1. Parties have their most power when they rally around their base rather than fighting it.
This is a base which already sees — correctly — the public option as a compromise from single-payer solutions. Unlike in single-payer, a public option, not only allows the insurers to exist, but forces them to compete for your dollar.

I don’t know who’s selling the idea that it’s politically useful for “centrist” or “moderate” Democrats to “stand up” to their base. Listening to some of the things currently being said about our President by the other side, it’s like watching a family member get physically assaulted, then throwing in a punch at them myself, just to prove to the attackers what a cool guy I am.

And last time I checked, competition in the marketplace was a good capitalist value. I’ve also never heard of a sports league that got together to ban a prospective new team simply because they were afraid of how well it might do.

And I’m not a lawyer, but I believe that when companies get together to do this sort of thing (with or without the help of the US government), it’s called violating anti-trust laws. Just a hunch.

2. Getting a robust public option to the American people is a battle Democrats not only can win without GOP support, but have to.
Look, there are damn few GOP Congresspeople left who love their country more than their party right now, perhaps understandably so because of the results of the last election. And you’re not going to win votes from across the aisle by punching out members of your own party.

The GOP has gone all in, you see. All no. I wish them luck trying to sell the beauties of the current system to the voters in 2012.

Right now, the only people who can sink a public option are fellow Democrats. So if one doesn’t go through, guess who’s (rightly) going to take the blame? You guessed it.

This anticipates my last and perhaps most important point, which concerns the health care reform endgame.

3. Democrats and the American people have almost as much to gain from the defeat of a public option at the hands of Republicans than its successful passage.
Now of course this doesn’t mean we work to ensure a bill will fail. No, we’re not the Republicans, and no, this is not single-payer we’re pushing. We’ve all done our homework and know that a vast majority of the American people support a public option.

Just not the insurance lobby.

Suppose all Democrats get behind the public option and lose. Is it the poor American people who’ve lost their one and only chance ever to get any kind of relief from the behavior of the insurers, no matter how cosmetic?

No.

If Democrats put just a little more political capital on the table, (all in would be single-payer, remember) and they win, then Obama becomes the next FDR. That’s what Republicans fear most.

But if they lose to the reactionary, naysaying opponents of health care reform, they and the American people win. Why?

Well, because it would unmask the GOP for everyone to see as the party of no to reform, no to relief from the insurance (and pharmaceutical) companies’ monopoly on health care delivery, and no to anything the President does.

The initial political moves have already been made brilliantly — the President tried, in good faith, to negotiate with Republicans. They returned the favor by turning around and spitting in his face, calling him a socialist and spreading lies about his birthplace, death panels, and the like. This is what needs to go on each and every national TV ad.

Mr. President, now’s not the time to play it cool. Now’s the time to play it tough, and fight back — cleanly, fairly, firmly, and decisively — against your opponents. Don’t lose this historic opportunity to show the world how the politics of fear and hate can be fought successfully with the power of hope.

My suggestion is you use the power of the reconciliation process to push a public option through. It can be done; it just needs someone with as much determination as the former president when he used this process to push through tax cuts for the wealthy.

If the New Deal and Medicare are any indication, history and the American people will be firmly on your side, and you’ll enjoy unprecedented power to move mountains domestically as well as internationally.

Believe me, the people who voted for you have more than got your back if you stand up for a public option, and nothing attracts votes from independents like a strong party with strong leadership.

Do it, Mr. President. Get your field marshals off your fellow Democrats and send them out to fight who they should have been fighting all along: the GOP.

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