Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Democrats prepare to commit political suicide

Odum at Firedoglake Whither Bernie? 12/19/09 talks about the political risk that the Democrats are taking if they pass the Lieberman-Nelson Predator State version of the health care refomrm bill. And contrasts that with the popularity of the public option, which could have made all the difference between a good bill and a fundamentally flawed one.

There may be some good that comes out of the final version of the bill. If the Democrats with a popular new President and large majorities in both Houses couldn't get the public option and solid consumer protections - most of which in practice depend on having a public option - passed in a package that gives huge benefits to the insurance monopolies, they certainly aren't going to be willing to do so after they've given the insurance companies the enormous gift of a guaranteed expanded market. If the Democratic members of Congress were serious about doing any such thing, they would insist on stripping out the individual mandates from the Lieberman-Nelson bill. After all, they don't start for four years, so why give away all your leverage with the insurance companies if you have some intention for going back for improvements?

Meanwhile, Odum gives a summary of "what makes this bill worse than nothing" both policy-wise and in terms of wrecking the Democrats' political position to carry through on those already-empty promises of future improvements:

The lack of regulation, of cost control, an uninhibited insurance and pharmaceutical industry with a direct, legally-enforcable line to every American’s bank account [the individual mandates]; these are not theoretical concerns from high minded liberal elite, as the administration’s allies are trying to pass them off as. These are practical realities that will hit everyone and will hand control of our government right back to the Republicans in the quite understandable political backlash.
Taylor Marsh in On NBC’s MTP, No Women to Discuss Healthcare 12/21/09 suggests a way to gauge the potential political damage to the Democrats of what we might call the unilateral mandate, i.e., consumers are required to pay for insurance but get minimal protections from insurance company anti-consumer tactics like extremely high premiums:

Listening to David Axelrod say that Obama’s mandate won’t got above 8% of anyone’s income if they can't afford it, I just did the math. Democrats are simply clueless about what the middle class are experiencing financially. The current Senate health care bill proves it beyond any doubts.
The individual mandate was always problematic in itself. But there would be a whole different context if people knew they had a solid public option alternative with reasonable deductibles that didn't have a business incentive to cut off the insured as soon as they got sick or find other tricks to deny them coverage. The presence of the public option would then put real pressure on insurers to provide affordable coverage and good service.

But we're about to get an Obama-Lieberman-Nelson Predator State version instead: individuals required to pay up to 8% of their incomes directly to insurance companies with no effective protection against exorbitently high deductibles, recissions of coverage when people get sick, or even against all forms of denial of coverage for "prior conditions."

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"It is the logic of our times
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