I’d like to start with last Friday’s Bill Moyers Journal. Wendell Potter was his first guest. Mister Potter used to work for the insurance industry and has since had an epiphany. Although Mister Potter points out some flaws in the bill, he would vote for it. Moyers’ next guest was truly explosive. Doctor Marcia Angell is one of the representatives of physicians for a national healthcare program. She opens up on the current health-care bill in the Senate with both barrels. She is thoughtful, critical and informed. You can find the video — here. You can find the complete transcript — here. Below is a portion of what she had to say –
BILL MOYERS: But given that, why have the insurance companies, health insurance companies been fighting reform so hard?
MARCIA ANGELL: Oh, they haven’t fought it very hard, Bill. They really haven’t fought it very hard. What they’re fighting for is the individual mandate. And if they get that mandate, if everyone does have to buy their commercial products, then they’re going to be extremely happy with it.
BILL MOYERS: But this is all about politics now. It’s not about pure health care reform. So given that reality, what would you have the President do?
MARCIA ANGELL: Well, I think you really do have to separate the policy analysis from the political analysis and I’m looking at it as policy. And it fails as policy. Moreover, a lot of people say, “Let’s hold our nose and pass it, because it’s a step in the right direction.” And I say it’s a step in the wrong direction.
You’re right. Politics is different and there are a lot of people who say, “Look, it’s a terrible bill. Even a step in the wrong direction as policy goes. But we need to get Obama elected again and we need to continue with the Democratic majority in Congress. And so we need to give Obama and the Democrats a win. If we don’t, the Republicans will come in and take over Congress in the fall, and then the White House in 2012. But the problem with a political analysis is sometimes you’re right and sometimes you’re wrong. And Democrats and particularly liberals have a history of outsmarting themselves.
And I’m not so sure that if this bill goes down, it’s going to make it any harder for them politically. So I think it’s difficult times for the President and for the Democrats. But if you look at it as a matter of policy, the President’s absolutely right that the status quo is awful. If we do nothing, costs will continue to go up. People will continue to lose their coverage. Employers are dropping health benefits. Things will get very bad. The issue is will this bill make them better or worse? And I believe it will make it worse.
Currently, I would hold my nose and vote for this bill. I would work through the progressive movement to try to change the dynamics in Congress. Until the dynamics are changed, I don’t think we can get a better bill through Congress.
Representative Eric Cantor was on Meet the Press last Sunday. He had a few things to say about Medicaid. “The problem is with the president’s bill, it’s about expanding Medicaid. No one wants to, to go onto Medicaid. That’s why physicians in Florida and other states are leaving Medicaid in droves because of the imperfect reimbursement structure.” What I truly love about this statement is that Representative Cantor pretends that the reimbursement structure is because of something else or someone else. Republicans have been cutting physician reimbursement since the mid-1980s. Democrats jumped on the bandwagon sometime later. So it’s completely disingenuous for him to say the problem with the bill is that we are cutting physician reimbursement. He has the power to change that.
I’m really not going to spend much time talking about Eric Massa, because he is more of a side bar or distraction to real health care reform. He is the car crash on the side of the road that everybody stops to look at. You can read more about his craziness — here and here. From a healthcare standpoint, former Representative Massa stated that the Democratic leadership were pushing him out because he voted no against health-care reform. This seems to be completely false with no evidence to support it.
Representative Alan Grayson introduced a bill in the House supporting the public option. The bill basically allows the public to buy into Medicare at the existing cost of Medicare. This would give Americans the choice of buying into Medicare or simply buying private insurance. Personally, I think this is a good idea. It gives Americans options, but it is not the final solution.
Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent from Vermont) stated on Thursday that he was prepared to introduce an amendment introducing the public option into the Senate bill.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that there will not be a public option in the final bill. This is the politics of reform. This is the House and the Senate trying to get a complex piece of legislation passed. There’s been a lot of reporting that the House does not trust the Senate. The Senate has made promises in the past and yet somehow it’s not been able to pass the legislation promised.
Since Rachel Maddow spent a good deal of her show talking about it, I figured I should talk a little bit about Representative Bart Stupak. Mister Stupak is a Democratic representative from Michigan who has tried single handedly to hold up the health-care legislation because of its abortion language. Rachel does a great job trying to figure out who these 12 congressmen are who agree with it and stand with Bart Stupak. It appears that the 12 congressmen may be only three or four. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer stated unequivocally that he was not negotiating with Bart Stupak. It appears that he has neither enough congressmen nor enough votes to hold up legislation.
I saved one of the best statements of the week for last. Former Governor Mitt Romney decided that he would let us know that it is ridiculous that people die without healthcare. He said, “Look, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for us to have millions and millions of people who have no health insurance and yet who can go to the emergency room and get entirely free care for which they have no responsibility, particularly if they are people who have sufficient means to pay their own way.” This is not the first time a Republican has said that anybody can go to emerge room and get excellent care. This is such a crock of garbage. If you have high blood pressure, the best way to avoid complications of that blood pressure is not to go to the emergency room but instead to go to your family doctor. This is how you keep costs down. Regular checkups. Management by the same doctor over a prolonged period of time. One of the great ways to drive costs up is to wait to have a complication then go to the emergency room.
I would encourage everybody to take a look at HR 676. This bill was introduced by John Conyers months ago. He introduces that almost every legislative session. He’s done so for more than 10 years. This is the United States national healthcare act. This is the single-payer bill.