Nothing from nothing leaves healthcare reform?

The great pianist and songwriter Billy Preston once sang, “nothing from nothing leaves nothing.” Although over 15 to 16 months I have seen the promise of health care reform start with single-payer and then morph into some sort of public option which, were it robust, should be able to contain health-care costs. This is kind of what the House passed. The Senate, on the other hand, is one confusing mess. Senator Max Baucus was given the keys to the city. I’m not sure what exactly he came up with. As chairman of the finance committee, he was in charge of coming up with a health care bill that was attractive to at least a couple of Republicans. Olympia Snowe and others were courted with sweeteners which seem to have eaten away at the core of health care reform. Senator Kent Conrad decided that he would introduce his own health-care legislation which was some sort of co-op. Although he sold this idea on the Sunday talk shows and pushed it hard for 6-8 weeks, thankfully (hopefully), it is died a quick death.

The public option is been tossed around like a medicine ball. In junior high school, we were asked to throw a medicine ball in order to build up muscle strength and coordination. Every other throw, the ball was dropped, kicked and then picked up and thrown again. This is exactly what has happened with the public option. What was once a robust counterweight to private health insurance has turned into something that states can opt in or opt out of, depending upon the whims of their legislature. Oh, and it seems that opposing healthcare is a great way to get on TV and increase your image/status… as in the case of Bart Stupak.

I have stated both on my radio show and on this blog that health-care reform must include something that is cost-effective, portable and increases access to healthcare. Currently, we are looking at a health-care bill that seems to do none of this. Many progressives have decided that they cannot support this bill. They want something else done. I understand the sentiment. I find this whole process extremely frustrating. Democrats seem to be completely unable to stick to their principles and stand up for the middle class. It seems like the only difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Democrats know what is right but can’t do it. Republicans have no idea what is right and won’t do it. BTW, President Barack Obama is a leader-come-lately. Look, I love this man, but I’m telling the truth. Where was he in the middle of the heat of the summer when healthcare was taking the big hits? He needed to be out of front stating that we HAD to have a robust public option. Alas, he wasn’t there.

Here’s my problem. Washington seems to be controlled by big business. Lobbyists from K St. seem to surround the Capital like locusts. If we scrapped the health-care bill and start all over, how are we going to come up with a different outcome? We’re going to have the same politicians, the same White House and the same lobbyists. As a matter of fact, the lobbyists will be better armed to combat arguments they’ve already heard. They will probably be armed with more money. I’m afraid that starting over will leave us with a bill that’s even worse than what we’re looking at now — if that is possible.

We’re spending $2.4 trillion on health care every year (we spent that much in 2008). Isn’t that enough money? Why do we need to pay any more? Everyone agrees that insurance does not add any value to healthcare. Why is Washington coddling the insurance companies? The whole reason for their existence is not to improve health care, to help doctors deliver better care or to help increase access to doctors by patients. Instead, their whole deal is to simply make money. They make money by not paying claims.

$2.4 trillion is enough money to take care of all 300 million Americans. Combine Medicare and Medicaid and SCHiP and all of the state-run programs into one program. Medicare for All! The government will set up a system to negotiate prices with pharmaceutical companies and medical device/product manufacturers. Premiums are paid out of our taxes in a graduated fashion. The more you make, the more you pay. Let’s extend patent protection for pharmaceutical companies by 2-5 years. Since the government is negotiating drug prices, pharmaceutical companies can recoup some of their losses through this mechanism. Doctors will be awarded for opening early and staying open late and on the weekends. This way, Americans can go to their physicians without having to take off from work. This increases access. Anyway, Medicare for All, at least for now, is a pipe dream. Right now, I’m good to try to work with my congressional representatives to try to get the best bill possible.

Billy Preston was right. Nothing from Nothing leaves nothing. The Senate is trying to sell us nothing and tell us it is something. They need to do better.