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COMMENTARY:

How the GOP Scams Seniors on Health Care Reform–While the Dems Stand By

by James Ridgeway
First published in his blog Unsilent Generation yesterday, 28 September 2009

The main reason for the confusion that reigns over all things health care right now is the Democrats’ refusal to make a clear case for reform. They aren’t willing to go after the real enemies of affordable health care for all: drug and insurance companies.

The Republican strategy for defeating health care boils down to a game of smoke and mirrors, with conservatives scamming seniors into thinking that reform will be bad for them. In fact, most of the proposed changes to Medicare would be positive. As the New York Times explained in a Sunday editorial, ” the various reform bills now pending should actually make Medicare better for most beneficiaries—by enhancing their drug coverage, reducing the premiums they pay for drugs and medical care, eliminating co-payments for preventive services and helping keep Medicare solvent, among other benefits.”

That’s not to say there won’t be cuts. The Times points out:

The Obama administration and Congressional leaders are hoping to save hundreds of billions of dollars by slowing the growth of spending in the vast and inefficient Medicare system that serves 45 million older and disabled Americans. The savings would be used to help offset the costs of covering tens of millions of uninsured people.

One of the main reasons for the confusion that reigns over all things health care right now is the Democrats’ refusal to make a clear case for reform. They aren’t willing to go after the real enemies of affordable health care for all: drug and insurance companies. And so as usual, the ideological vacuum left by the Democrats is being filled by Republican misinformation and fear mongering.

The result is that any decent proposals that are quickly whittled down in favor of the drug and insurance industries. Last week, Sen. Max Baucus and two other Democrats—Thomas R. Carper of Delaware and Robert Menendez of New Jersey—joined all the Finance Committee Republicans to defeat an amendment by Florida Senator Bill Nelson that would have demanded more concessions from drug companies. Most notably, the amendment would have allowed Medicare to buy drugs for low-income seniors at the same prices as Medicaid.

Meanwhile, Obama’s hands are tied. He can’t stand up for seniors, because he already made a deal with the drug companies. In a June agreement with the administration, Big Pharma promised $80 billion over 10 years towards health care reform. Thinking this was a solid deal, the drug companies began running ads in support of Obama’s plan. Nelson’s proposed schemes of cuts in the form of rebates, according to the New York Times, “would have more than doubled the amount of money to be given up by the industry.” But fortunately for the drug industry, and unfortunately for everyone else, the finance committee senators ensured Nelson’s amendment went nowhere.


Born in 1936, James Ridgeway has been reporting on politics for more than 45 years. He is currently Senior Washington Correspondent for Mother Jones, and recently wrote a blog on the 2008 presidential election for the Guardian online. He previously served as Washington Correspondent for the Village Voice; wrote for Ramparts and The New Republic; and founded and edited two independent newsletters, Hard Times and The Elements.

Ridgeway is the author of 16 books, including The Five Unanswered Questions About 9/11, It’s All for Sale: The Control of Global Resources, and Blood in the Face: The Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, Nazi Skinheads, and the Rise of a New White Culture. He co-directed a companion film to Blood in the Face and a second documentary film, Feed, and has co-produced web videos for GuardianFilms.

Additional information and samples of James Ridgeway’s work can be found on his web site, http://jamesridgeway.net.

This article is republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.



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This story was published on September 29, 2009.