On Health Care, if Everyone is Happy, Nothing is Getting Done

by: Mike Lux

Thu Aug 06, 2009 at 10:30


There is a buzz building in the traditional media and in some DC Democratic circles about how we should just accept the fact that we are not going to get a bigger health care reform bill passed, and should just agree to accept the things that the insurance industry has already said they are willing to give us. The insurers say they are willing to give us doing away with coverage denial for pre-existing conditions, for example, or not charging sick people high rates. Let's just take what we can get, some Democrats are saying, declare victory, and go home.

This line of thinking reminds me of a piece of legislation that all you non-health care wonks out there probably have never heard of: the Kennedy-Kassebaum Act of 1996. This bipartisan bill passed the Senate 98-0 and the House 421-2. Its stated aims were to protect health insurance coverage for workers and their families when they change or lose jobs, and to limit to the pre-existing conditions denial problem. It was all policy the insurance industry agreed to, and the bill passed with a lot of fanfare. There was a very nice bipartisan bill signing ceremony (which I attended) on the South Lawn of the White House. Pundits were delighted.

There was only one problem with it, which you may have noticed if you think about it: it didn't actually do anything to solve our health care problems, even the ones it was specially intended to solve. People still lose their health insurance when they lose their job. Insurance companies still deny people with pre-existing conditions. And the problems of our health care system get steadily worse year after year.

You see, the insurance companies are really good at writing loopholes for themselves, especially if you announce in advance that you will only pass what they agree to.

Look, this should be obvious, but apparently it's not: when some big piece of our economy is really messed up, but some major corporate interest is making lots and lots of money off the system, if that corporate interest doesn't object to the "reform" being proposed, whatever legislation being proposed will not solve the actual problem. The 98-0 votes that folks like David Broder love and extol, the bipartisan bill signing ceremonies that thrill the hell out of everyone in DC - they don't actually solve or resolve anything important.

If Democrats take the easy path, and get that big bipartisan love fest on the White House lawn, health care will still be messed up in all the ways it's messed up now: health care costs (and the federal budget deficit) will still be spiraling up and up, the number of uninsured will keep going up as well, people who lose their jobs or have pre-existing conditions will still be priced out of the ability to get insurance. And instead of congratulating us for our great bipartisan compromise, voters will be pissed. President Obama and Congressional Democrats need to grit their teeth and stick to the business of comprehensive reform. It will make the insurance companies, and the Republicans, really mad. But failing to actually solve the problem AGAIN is a train wreck. Stick with it, folks, put your noses to the grindstone, and do what needs to be done.

Mike Lux :: On Health Care, if Everyone is Happy, Nothing is Getting Done

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Nothing will put (4.00 / 7)
the Rs back on power so fast then Democrats doing nothing in the guise of bipartisanship.  

Good post (4.00 / 3)
And you were polite enough not to mention that most egregious gift to corporate power.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08...

Pressed by industry lobbyists, White House officials on Wednesday assured drug makers that the administration stood by a behind-the-scenes deal to block any Congressional effort to extract cost savings from them beyond an agreed-upon $80 billion.

So let me get this straight? Obama refuses to draw lines a line in the sand on the public option, but will draw a line in the sand when it comes to protecting the profits of Big Pharma?

Well, at least Co-president Tauzin will be pleased.


Good post (0.00 / 0)
Another good post, Mike.  You're on a roll...

Thanks, Mike (4.00 / 1)
for reminding us about Kennedy-Kassebaum, which, of course I had forgotten about because it didn't have any effect whatsoever.  What WAS the specific loophole that allowed them to wriggle out of the ostensible purpose of the bill?

I MIGHT be willing to accept a deal with Big Pharma IF its purpose was to split Big Pharma from the Private Insurance Industry.  Divide and Conquer and all that.  They seem to be directing their fire at the Insurance Industry and laying off Big Pharma.  (Big Pharma funding the "new" Harry and Louise, etc.)  Without knowing the bottom line it's hard to trust this.

But if the result is Kennedy-Kassebaum redux, no way.  And if anything like that is the final result, Obama should accept it only grudgingly, as might a union leader forced to settle on a bad contract, and not as some great victory.


sTiVo's rule: Just because YOU "wouldn't put it past 'em" doesn't prove that THEY did it.


Several different loopholes. (4.00 / 1)
The biggest reason it didn't work, though, was so big and obvious that it really doesn't even count as a loophole: the bill said nothing about insurers being able to price policies so high people couldn't afford them.  

[ Parent ]
It was noted in the news... (0.00 / 0)
That many insurers deliberately jacked their rates even higher than before on folks with pre-existing conditions to discourage them from signing up...

They followed the letter of the law... no rejections... they just made a deal that no one could accept...

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!


[ Parent ]
Kennedy-Kassenbaum only applied to group plans... (0.00 / 0)
If you weren't on an employer plan, you were not protected under this bill...

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!


[ Parent ]
I Think You're Forgetting (4.00 / 2)
how the bipartisan resolution condemning MoveOn won the war on terror, Mike.

A bit of cherry-picking your examples!

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


Do the Democrats in DC .. (4.00 / 1)
realize that passing a crappy bill only disheartens the base .. there by assuring that the base isn't jazzed up to vote in the midterms? .. and increasing the chances that someone like Corzine(or Dodd) will get smoked as a result?

You'd think Democrats would remember 1994... (4.00 / 2)
when another Democratic trifecta was unable to get healthcare reform done and got rocked in the midterms. Sadly, it seems the only ones remembering that are the Republicans. This worries me.

[ Parent ]
1994 happens for a lot of reasons (0.00 / 0)
not just healthcare...gun control, NAFTA, Clinton's budget, Clinton scandals, etc.

 


[ Parent ]
Not enough of them care. (4.00 / 1)


[ Parent ]
right on mike (0.00 / 0)
it's public option or bust, at least for this democratic voter

if you double-cross me dems, don't ask for my vote again


is there any evidence (0.00 / 0)
that anything like "the business of comprehensive reform" you describe is being worked on, or has some chance of actually happening?

not everything worth doing is profitable. not everything profitable is worth doing.

I'm slightly more optimistic than some. (0.00 / 0)
I'd give it maybe 1 in 5 chance.

[ Parent ]
So how do we stop this from happening? (0.00 / 0)
Ideas are welcome.



Reminds me (4.00 / 1)
This line of thinking reminds me of a piece of legislation that all you non-health care wonks out there probably have never heard of: the Kennedy-Kassebaum Act of 1996. This bipartisan bill passed the Senate 98-0 and the House 421-2. Its stated aims were to protect health insurance coverage for workers and their families when they change or lose jobs, and to limit to the pre-existing conditions denial problem. It was all policy the insurance industry agreed to, and the bill passed with a lot of fanfare. There was a very nice bipartisan bill signing ceremony (which I attended) on the South Lawn of the White House. Pundits were delighted. There was only one problem with it, which you may have noticed if you think about it: it didn't actually do anything to solve our health care problems, even the ones it was specially intended to solve.

Reminds me of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 that we praise LBJ for passing as Majority Leader

That said, someone needs to tell that people, because according to Quinnipiac;

Voters say 59 - 36 percent that Congress should not pass health care reform if only Democratic members support it.

http://www.quinnipiac.edu/x129...


Total number of R votes for the Social Security Act of 1935: (4.00 / 1)
Zero.

If Quinnipiac had included that tidbit in their poll, would it have had any impact on the results?


[ Parent ]
Well if you're saying (4.00 / 1)
the public would change their mind if they saw the Republicans as obstructionists and acting in bad faith, I'd agree, except, they're not seeing it that way right now.  

[ Parent ]
I'm saying buy-partisanship is not all it's cracked up to be. (0.00 / 0)
The establishment propaganda-meisters have been pounding the public with "centrist good-partisan bad" for decades. Sometimes the inclusion of a fact or two in a poll can make a difference.

Also, I have no particular desire to paint the Rs as any more "bad faith" or "obstructionist" than the Dems. I picked the SSA of 1935 because it's so generally popular.


[ Parent ]
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