Tuesday, August 18, 2009



The masquerade is over! The "public option" is ... dead.

Health care reform is now a private option: WHICH FOR PROFIT INSURANCE COMPANY DO YOU WANT? You have to choose. And you have to pay. If you have a low income, under HR3200 government will subsidize the private insurance companies and you will still have to pay premiums, co-pays and deductibles.

The Administration plan requires that everyone must have health insurance, so it is delivering tens of millions of new "customers" to the insurance companies. Health care? Not really. Insurance care! Absolutely. Cost controls? No chance.

You will next hear talk about "co-ops." The truth is that insurance company campaign contributions have co-opted the public interest.

I need your help to spread the word and rally the nation around true health care reform which covers everyone and maintains fiscal integrity without breaking our nation's bank! Your contribution will empower our efforts to continue to fight for the single-payer, not-for-profit health care bill, HR676 "Medicare for All," which I co-authored with Rep. John Conyers. The bill now has 85 sponsors in the House.

The hotly-debated HR3200, the so-called "health care reform" bill, is nothing less than corporate welfare in the guise of social welfare and reform. It is a convoluted mess. The real debate which we should be having is not occurring.

Removing the "public option" from a public bill paid for by public money is not in the public interest. What is left is a "private option" paid for with public money. Why should public money be spent on a private option which does not guarantee 100% coverage nor have any cost controls? A true public option would provide 30% savings immediately which would then cover the 1/3rd of the population who presently have no health care.

Unfortunately, under HR3200, the Government is choosing winners and losers in the private sector; proposing to spend public funds on subsidizing insurance companies who make money not providing health care. This process will insure only the expansion of profits. Gone is the debate over cost.

As a result of current negotiations, the Medicare Part D rip-off will continue for another decade, further fleecing senior citizens. Drug importation has been dropped, so no inexpensive drugs can be accessed from other nations.

Instead we are told the pharmaceutical companies will accept a 2% cut in the growth rate of their profits - they call this cost control!

If the matter were not so serious, it would be farcical: The executive branch pretends that the proposed health care reforms are something they are not. The legislation is being attacked for something it is not. Congressional leadership and the White House defend the legislation, pretending it actually is the very proposal that is being attacked. But it is not.

A commonsense government health care reform policy would insure that every single American has full access to health care by expanding Medicare to cover everyone under a Single Payer System. We are already paying for a universal standard of care, it is just we are not getting it.

I need your help to spread the word and rally the nation around true health care reform which covers everyone and maintains fiscal integrity without subsidizing insurance and pharmaceutical companies and breaking our nation's bank!

My voice in Congress will continue to challenge the special interests who do not want "single-payer" to succeed. I need you to join me in combating the special and corporate interests who spend millions to try to win this Congressional seat. With your help WE will win again. With your help I will continue to represent your concerns, be YOUR VOICE in the United States Congress, and be the voice for health care for all Americans!

Please contribute $25, $50, $100 in support of my campaign. Please contribute now.

With your help, we can accomplish ANYTHING in America. Persistence, dedication, truth and courage will lead the way and win out in the end.

Thank you.


Now They Tell Us: ABC Finally Cites "Health Care Experts" Saying Public Option Would Keep Costs Down

2 hours and 16 minutes ago — 1 Comments

After reporting on August 17 that "there are signs that the administration may be backing off the so-called public option," ABC's World News host Charles Gibson went on to cite "experts" who said, in Gibson's words, "[I]f you take out the public option in terms of insurance, there's going to be no restraints on the cost of insurance." But in the three months prior, World News has never cited any health experts making that point; rather, correspondents only reported that the intention of the public plan was to drive down costs or cited Democrats making that claim.

From the August 17 edition of ABC's World News with Charles Gibson:

GIBSON: It is one of the core issues in the debate over health care reform. Should there be a government-run insurance program side by side with private insurers? President Obama has been pushing hard for that, saying it is the key to keeping health insurance costs from spiraling out of control. But now there are signs that the administration may be backing off the so-called public option. An effort to accommodate one side in the debate may be causing a backlash on the other.

Jake Tapper is at the White House tonight to explain. Jake, good evening.

TAPPER: Good evening, Charlie. Well, that's right. The president's push for a public, government-run plan has long been -- long been one of the centerpieces of his health care reform push. But now there are signs that he may be walking away from it, and liberal Democratic allies say you can't have true cost containment from private insurers without it.


TAPPER: The president -- at this point I think there is a pragmatism that is coming over this White House. They realize that it is more important for them to pass something, even if it is incremental and not everything they wanted to pass, and so they are setting expectations lower and lower.

GIBSON: But, Jake, we talked to several health care experts today, and they all said if you take out the public option in terms of insurance, there's going to be no restraints on the cost of insurance. And one by one, it seems, the cost-saving measures are coming out of health care reform.

TAPPER: That's exactly right. And you saw over the weekend Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius also said that it looked like the end-of-life care provisions would also be gone from the bill, and that's another area where they had hoped to achieve real cost savings. So this bill is really being winnowed down considerably.

In previous three months, World News repeatedly ignored "experts" on cost-saving benefits of public option

Media Matters for America did a Nexis search* of World News transcripts and could not find any experts discussing the benefits of a public option on World News within the past three months. Rather, correspondents characterized the cost-saving benefit only as a Democratic claim, flatly asserted that the public plan was intended to drive down costs, invoked Republican concerns about a public option, or held no discussion about the benefit of a public plan at all.

From the August 12 edition of ABC's World News:

GIBSON: And the public option that may or may not be involved in an eventual bill, if it gets through Congress, the public option, would that be like Medicare, where you, where you, where you get the government collecting the money and dispersing it, but you use your own doctor? Or would it be like the congressional plan where you choose among?

TIM JOHNSON (ABC News chief medical editor): Well we don't know the details, and the administration has not come up with its own plan, but it sounds more like Medicare. Where there will be a government insurance program, one of the options on the long list with other private plans that you can choose from.


KATE SNOW (ABC News correspondent): Supporting the President, a small business coalition and a teachers union started running this ad today.

NARRATOR: There's a bill in Congress that will lower health care costs for families and businesses. That's what we need. Now.

SNOW: But it's unclear whether the savings for families will happen. Reformers hope that a government insurance plan competing with private plans leads to lower premiums for all. But that's just a goal. And, will businesses have lower costs? Depends on their payroll. In the House bill, if it's more than $250,000, the company has to help employees pay for health insurance.

From the July 28 edition of ABC's World News:

JONATHAN KARL (ABC News congressional correspondent): Well, Charlie, the Senate Democrats are now on the verge of a deal that would do away with a central feature of the President's plan. And that's the creation of a government-run insurance program to compete with private insurance companies. They're doing this to break that gridlock and to get a few Republicans to support the deal. But there's a real risk that they're going to lose liberal Democrats in the process. You know, Charlie, back in April, 28 Democrats signed a letter saying that they believe that that government insurance program is essential to health care reform.

GIBSON: Jake, it does seem that the Senate Democrats are backing off on a lot of the things that the President said, at the beginning were critical to him.

TAPPER: That's exactly right. And, in fact, last week, when the President was asked what his health care priorities are, he listed just two, bringing down the costs of health care, and making sure that the bill is deficit-neutral. This is a change from different priorities he mentioned. As recently as May he was talking about universal coverage. So the President, as this process has gone forward, has recalibrated his priorities and expectations.

From the July 22 edition of ABC's World News:

TAPPER: The President will argue tonight that health care reform makes economic sense. "If we do not control these costs," he'll say, "we will not be able to control our deficit. If we do not reform health care, your premiums and out of pocket costs will continue to skyrocket."

So, how is health care reform progressing on Capitol Hill as members of Congress try to sort out how to pay for reform and how to control costs? Well, it depends who you ask and who is doing the asking. Talking to the House Democratic leader today, a key Democratic senator jokingly asked for divine intervention. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi insists everything is smooth sailing with the House bill that would require every American to get health insurance or pay a fine, create a government-run health plan to compete with private insurers to drive costs down, and impose an up to 5.4% new tax on top wage earners.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (host, ABC's This Week): This is a very, very tough vote for a lot of members, Charlie. We just saw in Jake's piece that sentiment. A lot of members don't want to take a tough vote, which is going to have real cost controls and a tax increase if they know the Senate isn't going to act, as well.

From the July 21 edition of ABC's World News:

TAPPER: With members of the House and Senate having difficulty agreeing on the more contentious issues in health care reform, President Obama came to the rose garden today to accentuate the areas of consensus.

OBAMA: We are closer than ever before to the reform that the American people need, and we're going to get the job done.

TAPPER: Both the Democrats' bills in the House and Senate would reform insurance rules to, for example, prohibit denying coverage for those with preexisting medical conditions, offer a government-run plan to compete with private insurance to lower costs, and emphasize prevention and wellness programs. But the President was not all sugar and spice today.

From the July 15 edition of ABC's World News:

KARL: Now the hard part. Democrats are still divided on key details, including whether to create a government-run health insurance program and how to pay it for all. And Republicans are gearing up for a fight.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Let me point out that this legislation has not one, single provision that is aimed at reducing the cost of health care.

KARL: The President disagrees, and pushed back today from the White House.

OBAMA: Deferring reform is nothing more than defending the status quo and those who would oppose our efforts should take a hard look at just what it is that they're defending.

From the July 14 edition of ABC's World News:

KARL: The sweeping changes to the health system would include a mandate requiring all Americans buy health insurance or pay a fine. Subsidies to help households with less than $88,000 in income buy the insurance. Eliminating co-payments and deductibles for preventative care, including physicals. No denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions. And creating a government-run insurance program to compete with private insurance.The price tag? More than $1 trillion over ten years. To help pay for it, the bill would slap a new surtax of up to 5.4% of those with incomes of over $400,000 a year. Most Republicans are already vowing to oppose the plan.

REP. ROY BLUNT (R-MO): What we really have here is a bill that, without any question, will kill jobs, will limit access to health care, will raise taxes, and will lead to a government takeover of health care.

From the July 13 edition of ABC's World News:

TAPPER: Republicans and moderate Democrats have been increasingly expressing concern about the price tag of a trillion dollars over a decade. Liberals worry the President might abandon his proposal for a government run plan to compete with private insurers to drive costs down. The President had one message for all of them.

OBAMA: For those naysayers and cynics who think this is not going to happen. Don't bet against us.

From the June 24 edition of ABC's World News:

TAPPER: Another major point of contention, the President's push for a government-run health insurance plan to compete with private insurance. Today Republicans said that would drive for-profit insurance companies out of business.

REP. JOE BARTON (R-TX): If your bill were to become law, we wouldn't have much of a private health care system in America within 10 to 20 years.

TAPPER: And the White House is showing some flexibility on the issue of the government-run plan, Charlie. The White House chief of staff recently told Democratic senators that the President is open to alternatives.

From the June 23 edition of ABC's World News:

TAPPER: The other big topic today, health care reform. The President has been pushing for a government-run public plan to compete with private insurance plans. He argues that would help drive down costs. But for the first time today, the President said such a plan was not a deal breaker.

From the June 15 edition of ABC's World News:

TAPPER: President Obama pitched his health care reform package to mixed reviews. He told the physicians that General Motors and Chrysler's economic woes were in no small part due to skyrocketing health care costs.

OBAMA: If we do not fix our health care system, America may go the way of GM. Paying more, getting less and going broke.

TAPPER: And he said costs could be contained by creating a government run insurance plan to compete with private insurance. But doctors fear the not for profit public plan will drive private insurers out of business, swamping enrollments for the public plan and forcing the government to slash doctors rates. Republicans call the public plan a nonstarter.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me bring in our medical editor Tim Johnson right now. And Tim, let's go back to the President's AMA speech. Jake talked about the opposition to the public insurance option by the nation's doctors. I understand why the health insurance companies are against. They fear that it's going to put them out of the business. What's the - what re the doctors' biggest concerns?

JOHNSON: The biggest concern quite frankly is economic. Medicare which is a public option plan for the elderly pays about 20% less to the doctors than private plan dos. And doctors are fearful that a widespread public plan will do the same. They have a love-hate relationship with Medicare by the way. They like predictability, and the simplicity of the forms but don't want to take the lesser amounts that are typically offered by a public plan.

From the June 9 edition of ABC's World News:

KARL: Now, the biggest, most controversial part of this bill is the creation of a government-run insurance program that would compete directly with private insurance companies.

GIBSON: So there would be private companies operating side by side with the government insurance company. Republicans are complaining they'd hoped to be included in negotiations on this bill. Bipartisanship out the window?

KARL: It sure looks that way. Democrats seem to think that they've got all the votes they need to charge ahead on their own and Republicans have just dug their heels in, in opposition to that idea of a government-run insurance program.

GIBSON: And any solid sense, A, of how much this is going to cost, and B, how it would be paid for?

KARL: Well, there's no official price tag on this yet, Charlie. But the estimates put it well over $1 trillion, and there is nothing in this outline today that says how they would pay it for. What we're told is the Senate Finance Committee will answer that question sometime next week.

*Nexis search terms:

(cost! or sav!) AND health AND ((public w/3 option) or (public w/3 plan) or (government-run) or (government w/3 plan) or (government w/3 insurance) or (public w/3 insurance))

health AND ((public w/3 option) or (public w/3 plan) or (government-run) or (government w/3 plan) or (government w/3 insurance) or (public w/3 insurance))

Source: ABC News transcripts

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Co-Ops: Can't Cut Costs. Can't Attract Republicans.

NYT explores the difficulties co-ops would have, including current insurer monopolies BECOMING co-ops: [1] "The history of health insurance in the United States is full of largely unsuccessful efforts to introduce new models of insurance that would lower costs. And the health insurance markets of many states suggest that any new entrant would face many difficulties in getting established ... Mr. Conrad's own state demonstrates the uncertainties surrounding cooperatives. Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota dominates the state's private insurance market, collecting nearly 90 percent of premiums. As a nonprofit owned by its members, the company would hope to qualify as a co-op under federal legislation, said Paul von Ebers, its incoming president and chief executive."

W. Post on what co-ops couldn't do: [2] "co-ops would lack perhaps the main advantage of the public option: reimbursement rates for doctors and hospitals set by federal law, like those paid by Medicare, the program for older Americans. Federally determined reimbursement rates were central to the cost-saving promise of a government-run health plan and a potentially powerful competitive advantage."

Government report indicating co-ops won't cut costs uncovered by HuffPost's Sam Stein: [3] "The U.S. General Accounting Office produced a report on cooperatives in March 2000 that was mostly sour on the idea. Using five different co-ops as examples, the study concluded that on the key function -- lowering the cost of insurance -- these non-profit insurance pools came up well short ... without a large number of participants, co-ops essentially were subject to the whims of the insurance market, unable to use market influence to get consumers better deals on coverage."

Ezra Klein discusses the range of co-op possibilities: [4] "The theory of the public option [is[ a robust public insurer can do a better job holding down costs and delivering access to high-quality care than a fractured private insurance system. Obviously, a lot of people don't like these ideas. Among them are insurers, Republicans and, crucially, providers like doctors and hospitals, who fear that a large public insurer will hold down costs, which will in turn hold down incomes ... You could imagine a co-op proposal that actually offered a meaningful alternative to private insurers. Some months ago, Conrad, alongside public plan supporter Chuck Schumer, seemed to be edging in that direction. But I haven't heard anything similarly encouraging since then. The co-op is now a favored alternative for Republicans who don't agree that the profit motive is a problem in health insurance..."

Health care analyst Bob Laszewski: "Co-Ops Are the Single Dumbest Idea I Have Heard in the Health Care Debate in Twenty Years [5] ... on day one how many members does the co-op have? Well it has no members on day one. So, the co-op's provider relations guy goes to the doctor and hospital administrator and demands better prices and protocols. My guess is the provider's response would go something like this, 'So you are here because your stated objective is to screw my reimbursement down more than it is, you have no members now, and if I give you the rates to take members away from the existing health plans you are going to make life even more difficult for me than those existing health plans have?' My guess is that when the provider stops laughing…"

White House releases Q&A to explain its current position, suggests co- op details determinative: [6] "Q: Is he in favor of a co-op? Would that achieve the goals? A: Senator Conrad and others who are drafting a proposal for a co-op system believe that it would achieve those goals. We have not seen the details of that proposal, so it's hard to evaluate at this point. Senator Conrad has been very constructive in offering this proposal and we look forward to talking to him further about it."

This is compromise? RNC release lambastes co-ops. TPMDC: [7] "...if at the very least you thought that the Democrats could escape the 'government run health care' canard by, say, dropping their plans to create a government run health insurance system, you were mistaken. As the RNC makes clear, in their eyes, 'Public option by any other name is still government-run health care.'"

Progressives take a stand for the public plan. Dems digging in for public option generate headlines. W. Post: "Public Option Called Essential." McClatchy: "Obama's hint that he'd drop public plan provokes ire." [8]

Progressive Caucus not potted plants. Politico: [9] "Along with their sharply worded letter, the three House members sent an attachment listing the '60 Members of Congress who are firm in their position that any legislation that moves forward through both chambers, and into a final proposal for the president's signature, MUST contain a public option.'"

HuffPost's Ryan Grim questions Sen. Conrad's head count assertions: [10] "Conrad, a Democrat from North Dakota (pop. 641,481), is presumably assuming that a bill containing a public option would need 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. But even if that is the case, not a single member of the Democratic caucus -- including Conrad himself -- has actually announced that he or she would support such a filibuster. And a few Republicans -- Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine -- might not support it either. 'Senator Conrad should leave the vote counting to the leadership,' a peeved Democratic leadership aide told the Huffington Post ... Even Conrad himself is not a definite no. His spokesman said he has yet to take a personal position on the public option."

Pro-Soc. Sec. privatization Blue Dog Rep. tries to scrap entire health care bill. CNN: [11] "When a [town hall] questioner, Ray Evans, said he believed the President wants to do too much at once and asked whether [Rep. Allen] Boyd would 'be willing to scrap everything' and start over to do pursue reform more incrementally, the congressman responded: 'I think that is an excellent idea … we may end up there.' In a later interview with CNN, he said the idea had been been floated with the congressional leadership. He said that with the strong emotions and heated opposition he is seeing, the idea of doing health reform in a more piecemeal fashion is something he is strongly considering."

Families USA and Third Way talk down public plan to LA Times: [12] "'The health reform bills have many critical factors designed to make healthcare more accessible and more affordable,' [Families USA Ron] Pollack said in an interview. He and others noted that the bills working their way through the House and Senate included provisions that would transform the way Americans get health insurance -- even without a government plan. 'The public plan is not the essential element of reform,' said Jim Kessler, vice president for policy at Third Way, a centrist Democratic think tank in Washington."

American Prospect's Paul Waldman calls bluff of public plan opponents: [13] "I hereby challenge not just any insurance company representative but any conservative officeholder (current or former - I'm looking at you, Sarah and Newt), political professional, activist, pundit, or regular person who complains about the terrifying specter of government-run health care, to take the following pledge: When I become eligible at age 65, I will refuse health coverage under Medicare. After all, Medicare is an awful single-payer, big-government program, and we know they want no part of that. So who's going to take me up on it? Anyone?" [1] http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/18/health/policy/18plan.html
[2] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/17/AR2009081702965.html?wprss=rss_business
[3] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/17/compromise-co-op-proposal_n_261044.html
[4] http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2009/08/co-ops_as_an_alternative_to_th.html
[5] http://healthpolicyandmarket.blogspot.com/2009/08/co-ops-are-single-dumbest-idea-i-have.html
[6] http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2009/08/17/white-house-issues-qa-on-health-plan/
[7] http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/08/rnc-think-the-gop-will-support-co-ops-think-again.php
[8] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/17/AR2009081702859_pf.html
[9] http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0809/26203.html
[10] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/17/where-is-kent-conrad-gett_n_261265.html
[11] http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2009/08/17/blue-dog-excellent-idea-to-start-over-on-health-care/
[12] http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/washingtondc/la-na-obama-healthcare18-2009aug18,0,3291748.story?track=rss
[13] http://prospect.org/cs/articles?article=insurance_fraud

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