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  The Democrats: Really, You Just Gotta Laugh
Newspaper logo

COMMENTARY:

The Democrats: Really, You Just Gotta Laugh

by Dave Lindorff
Originally published in This Can't Be Happening yesterday, 12 October 2009

What makes it all so pathetic is that America already has an excellent model for delivering quality health care: a single-payer system called Medicare.

The Democrats in Congress, and their main man Barack Obama in the White House, have taken tens of millions in legal bribes from the health insurance industry over the past year, and have obligingly been hammering out in Congress a health “reform” bill that, instead of helping people, has been designed to help the insurance industry.

They started out by immediately blackballing any discussion of real health reform in the form of an expansion of Medicare to cover everyone of every age, which of course would have ended the problem of the uninsured, while cutting the nation’s overall health bill by at least a third, but in the process shutting down the private health insurance business.

Then they chipped away and are at this point on the verge of eliminating any so-called “public option” or government-run health insurance plan to even compete with the private insurance sector.

Finally, in a move as breathtakingly accommodating of the insurance industry as was the multi-trillion-dollar bailout financial bailout of Wall Street’s biggest banks, they proposed to require (on pain of a $3800 fine by the IRS) to require everyone in America to buy a health insurance plan from the private sector—a gift to the industry of some 40-50 million new captive customers.

But a combination of public outrage at this forced program of compulsory insurance and recognition that the inevitable government subsidy of low-income insurance buyers would be humongous has led Congress to backtrack, and start backing away from the mandatory aspect of this plan.

And now the private insurance industry, not satisfied that it has managed to practically dictate the terms of the health reform legislation so far, and angry that it might not get those 40-50 million new forced customers, is reportedly threatening to turn around and knife the president and the Democratic Congress in the back,

They’re threatening to (gasp!) start running attack ads on the “reform” legislation.

Remember the old “Harry and Louise” ads the industry ran attacking Hillary and Bill Clinton’s health reform proposal back in the early 1990s? Well, this time, it’ll be Harry and Louise attacking ObamaCare.

I can see it now. America’s Health Insurance Plans, the lobby for the insurance industry vultures, will set up some nice-sounding front group with a name like People for a Healthier America, and they’ll fund a new ad campaign like this:

Harry will be sitting at the breakfast table, reading the local paper. He’ll look up from his coffee as Louise is puttering around by the sink.

“This ObamaCare looks like it’s gonna drive up our insurance premiums, hon.”

“What do you mean Harry?”

“Well it says here that they’re not going to force the poor folks to buy insurance, so most of ‘em will probably wait until they get sick and then buy it.”

“Well what’s wrong with that, dear?”

“Nothin’ ‘cept that the law would also prohibit the insurance companies from charging those sick folks higher premiums when they do finally come in to buy insurance.”

“Well, wouldn’t it be unfair to charge them more, when they need it?”

“It might seem that way Louise, but if the insurance company has to take a loss on them, they’re going to make it up by charging us good folks who have insurance more.”

“Oh my god, Harry! We’re already paying $6,000 a year for our insurance. What will our premiums go up to?

“Says here they could go up by another $1000 a year!”

Announcer: Don’t let Congress make you pay for the uninsured. Call your Senators and Representatives and the White House, and tell them to demand that every American be required to buy insurance immediately! This announcement is brought to you by People for a Healthier America.

It’s funny really, to see Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana), the biggest recipient in Congress of insurance industry money, who has spent the last few months working hand-in-glove with the insurance industry lobbyists to craft a bill to their liking, suddenly accusing his erstwhile financiers of doing a “hatchet job” on his bill. Actually, his bill has been a hatchet job itself on the whole concept of health care reform.

All of this, of course, was entirely predictable. Like HillaryCare before it, ObamaCare has been doomed from the start by its unwillingness to address the basic issue behind America’s twin crisis of health care: lack of access for those with lower incomes, and absurdly high cost for everyone.

What makes it all so pathetic is that America already has an excellent model for delivering quality health care: a single-payer system called Medicare. Everyone in America gets this program, just like in Canada, Germany, France, Taiwan, Japan and elsewhere. The only difference is that in those other countries, people get it from the day they’re born. In America, you have to wait until you are permanently disabled, or until you reach the age of 65.

Far from having to “start from scratch,” as Obama duplicitously claimed in his last address to Congress in explaining why he was not proposing a single-payer solution despite its obvious success in other countries, solving America’s health crisis by adopting a single-payer system would be a simply matter of taking a well proven system that works and is popular, and expanding it to cover everybody.

But of course that would have made the insurance industry furious. They’d have to go back to just selling life insurance and homeowners insurance and car insurance.

And so we can expect a new round of “Harry and Louise,” and ObamaCare will go down in flames.

You have to laugh at these Democrats. Even when they brazenly try to sell out, they get screwed.


Dave Lindorff in Washington

About the author: Philadelphia journalist Dave Lindorff is a 34-year veteran, an award-winning journalist, a former New York Times contributor, a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, a two-time Journalism Fulbright Scholar, and the co-author, with Barbara Olshansky, of a well-regarded book on impeachment, The Case for Impeachment. His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net.



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This story was published on October 13, 2009.
 

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