Ladies and Gentlemen, We Have Ourselves a Health Care Reform Bill

H.R. 3962 passed with 220 Yeas.

T’ain’t perfect, but it’ll do for a start.  The bits that people are moaning over can be remedied later.  Folks, we have momentum for reform such as we have never seen before.  Let’s not minimize that.  Remember Aristotle’s rule of great drama: start small and build.  Well, sometimes that works for legislation, too.  And we’re not exactly starting small, now, are we?

36 million more people will be insured or become eligible for Medicaid
There will be a trillion dollars raised to help subsidize this.
There will be multiple measures to help control the costs of Medicare
We will stop subsidizing private insurers in Medicare Advantage
Closes the donut hole
Allows Medicare negotiation for drugs
Includes the seeds of a public option
Prohibits denials based on prior conditions; ends rescissions except for fraud
funds more education for doctors/nurses
Begins dozens of health prevention programs, pilots, surveys
Creates entities to evaluate and recommend better treatment, cost saving
And on and on.

This will put enormous pressure on the Senate to deliver.  This puts us within reach of reform.  And it’s even bipartisan – Rep. Joseph Cao shocked the shit out of me by voting Yea.  That’s made a liar of Eric Cantor and will have the Teabaggers in a screaming fury.  I loves it.

Once reform passes and is signed into law, we will have a scaffolding in place upon which we can build.  That means electing not merely more Democrats, but better Democrats.  We shall have a useful list of targets in all those Nay votes.

My darlings, it’s open bar. 

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to return to my regularly scheduled writing…

(Thanks to rekenner for drawing my attention to the great good news)

Your Daily Dose of Health Care Reform Stupidity

Actually, some of it’s not terribly stupid today.  The House, of course, unveiled its health care reform bill.  It ain’t got a robust public option, but it’s got a strong one, and sometimes in politics, it’s necessary to settle for good enough.  Not that Rep. Grijalva’s given up the good fight just yet.

So, how’s the plan?  Well, Sen. Conrad’s happy – so happy, in fact, he’s even agreed to side with his caucus on a procedural vote on the Senate bill.  Amazing.  The CBO’s happyPresident Obama’s happyAHIP’s totally not happy.  And it outlaws using domestic violence as a pre-existing condition, along with some other goodies.  I haven’t seen a lot of analysis on it yet, but the fact that AHIP’s screaming makes me feel rather good about the results.

Yes, I’m that not nice.

There’s still some hangups regarding abortion.  Here’s something those anti-choice fucktards who are ready to derail health care reform because they don’t understand how this stuff works should consider carefully:

Time‘s Amy Sullivan had an item yesterday, unrelated to Stupak’s specific argument, which addressed the larger issue nicely.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the fungibility argument that many pro-life groups and politicians have employed to oppose health reform. The problem, they say, is that if any insurance plan that covers abortion is allowed to participate in a public exchange, then premiums paid to that plan in the form of taxpayer-funded subsidies help support that abortion coverage even if individual abortion procedures are paid for out of a separate pool of privately-paid premium dollars. You can debate about whether it makes sense to use this strict standard, but that’s the argument.

But are those pro-life organizations holding themselves to the same strict standard? As it happens, Focus on the Family provides its employees health insurance through Principal, an insurance company that covers “abortion services.” A Focus spokeswoman confirmed the fact that the organization pays premiums to Principal, but declined to comment on whether that amounts to an indirect funding of abortion.

Even if the specific plan Focus uses for its employees doesn’t include abortion coverage — and I’m assuming it doesn’t — the organization and its employees still pay premiums to a company that funds abortions. If health reform proposals have a fungibility problem, then Focus does as well. And if they don’t think they do have a fungibility problem, then it would be interesting to hear why they think the set-up proposed in health reform legislation is so untenable.

Might I just suggest to the anti-choicers that they shut the fuck up before they make themselves look even dumber?  I know they won’t take that advice, but then at least I can say “I told you so, you ginormous fucktards.”

The Party of No is busy whining about how horrible, awful, no good and terrible the Dems’ bill is, but when pressed, still can’t tell us what their own ideas are, and what’s more, probably won’t have them up on the intertoobz for public consideration when they finally do come up with some, as they’ve so often demanded of the Dems.  Typical, innit?

Finally, the GOP Stunt o’ the Day: Mitch McConnell jumps a veritable school of sharks:

In an interview on Dennis Miller’s radio show yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that the public option “may cost you your life”:

MCCONNELL: Well, it doesn’t make any difference frankly whether you opt-in or you opt-out, it’s still a government plan. You know, Medicaid, the program for the poor now, states can opt-out of that, but none of them have. I think if you have any kind of government insurance program, you’re going to be stuck with it and it will lead us in the direction of the European style, you know, sort of British-style, single payer, government run system. And those systems are known for delays, denial of care and, you know, if your particular malady doesn’t fit the government regulation, you don’t get the medication.

MILLER: Right.

MCCONNELL: And it may cost you your life. I mean, we don’t want to go down that path.

[snip]
Unsurprisingly, McConnell has gotten his facts wrong when he’s described other health care systems.

Color me shocked.

We’ll see how many sharks the Cons jump as reform draws closer to passage.  I hear they’ve been practicing for a record-breaker…

Your Daily Dose of Health Care Reform Stupidity

My, how things change.  And it’s just vaguely possible we’ll have to stop making “wet Reid’ jokes for a while.  Check out who didn’t pull the trigger:

As expected, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) hosted a brief press conference this afternoon and announced that there will, in fact, be a public option in the Senate health care bill, though it will give states the opportunity to opt-out of the plan.

Hot damn.  I can tell you that’s about the last thing I expected today.

The White House is perfectly happy with Reid’s decision.  Queen Snowe not so much, but note she didn’t absolutely say she’d join a filibuster.  Interesting.

Sen. Ben Nelson wanted an opt-in, just cuz we couldn’t possibly make it easy for folks to get reform, so we’ll see how loud he screams.

This is a pretty big moment, my darlings, and it’s time to pat yourselves on the back.  The public option wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for progressives pushing it.  Champagne all round.

Then go have a talk with Blanche Lincoln, who still won’t commit to standing against a Con filibuster.  Spank Ben Nelson for good measure.  And cheer on the Dems who are trying to ensure we see some of the benefits of reform before 2013.

It’s a banner day, and C&L has an excellent round-up for us.

Elsewhere, the burning stupid still flames:

Eric Cantor wants everybody to do reform over, this time without a public option.  I’m not sure which planet he’s currently inhabiting.

Health insurance companies are in full-on panic mode, using dumbass talking points in an attempt to get voters to lobby against their own interests.  I don’t know what they’re upset about – aside from the public option, which is fairly weak tea, they got everything they could possibly want.  Maybe they’re terrified reform means they won’t be able to charge women 50% higher premiums just because they’re women.

The Cons have at last rolled out some reform proposals of their own!

About a month ago, the Washington Post reported, “After years of trying to cut Medicare spending, Republican lawmakers have emerged as champions of the program, accusing Democrats of trying to steal from the elderly to cover the cost of health reform.”
Of course, the idea that congressional Republicans could be Medicare’s “champions” has always been a little silly, but the notion gets a little more ridiculous all the time.

On Wednesday, Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) introduced his own health care reform plan. Broun, one of the most vocal and persistent critics of comprehensive health care reform, calls his legislation the “only true free-market reform alternative.” And free-market it is. While most of his legislation mirrors other Republican proposals, Broun’s plan for Medicare seems rather revolutionary. He wants to completely get rid of Medicare and replace it with vouchers….
Presumably, seniors would then use their vouchers in the private insurance market.

Unfortunately, since nothing in Broun’s OPTION Act deals with the issue of preexisting conditions, insurance companies would deny seniors, who are more likely to have a chronic health problem, left and right.

[snip]
It’s worth noting that while the RNC and congressional Republican leaders have feigned outrage about Democratic efforts to find cost savings in Medicare, no GOP officials in Washington have denounced or distanced themselves from Paul Broun’s privatization plan.

So much for the champions of Medicare, then, eh?

Oh, and remember how they keep telling us that all we need in order to reform health care is to let the private companies have their way with us across state lines?  Um, yeah, the private companies say that won’t exactly work

Imagine my surprise when Mike Tuffin, Executive Vice President for America’s Health Insurance Plans (an insurance lobby), made the following comment during this exchange on “Fox News Sunday”:

WALLACE: Mr. Tuffin, your group, the AHIP, the American Health Insurance Plans, issued a study and ran some ads opposing one version of health care reform. The White House said some of the data in your study was misleading. Here’s how President Obama reacted generally to the efforts of AHIP.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The insurance industry is rolling out the big guns and breaking out their massive war chest. They’re earning these profits and bonuses while enjoying a privileged exception from our antitrust laws, a matter that Congress is rightfully reviewing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Question: Do you review — do you view that reference to possibly taking away your antitrust exemption as a threat, as punishment, for the fact that you’re opposing the president and Democrats?

TUFFIN: No, we don’t, Chris. That is a very limited federal exemption. It has nothing to do — every analyst who has looked at this has said it has nothing to do with competition or costs.

REALLY? Can we quote you on that? After more than a year of Republicans insisting that all we need to do is repeal their anti-trust exemption and the “free-market” would magically lower prices, the VP of AHIP is telling us that it “has nothing to do with competition or costs.” G.T.K., buddy.

If we can revoke their anti-trust status and hit ’em with a public option, the howls should be sweet music to all our ears.

Hold on tight, my darlings.  The next few days should be interesting indeed…

Your Daily Dose of Health Care Reform Stupidity

You know, I rather think the romance is over:

Well, I guess it’s safe to say private health insurers have no intention of rebuilding burnt bridges. Suzy Khimm noted the other day, “Activists on the left have long insisted that insurance companies aren’t to be trusted. But up until now, it’s been hard to make the charge stick, since the insurance lobby — a.k.a., America’s Health Insurance Plans — has been cooperating with the White House and its allies.”
That cooperation is officially over.
It started last week with a deceptive report on health care premiums. Soon after, insurers launched a new round of attack ads. Now, Sam Stein reports on the industry’s message to Republicans.

A top lobbyist for the major private insurance industry trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), urged Congressional Republicans to not even consider helping Democrats pass health care reform lest they aid an “enemy who is down.”
Steve Champlin, a lobbyist for the Duberstein Group who represents AHIP, declared that the road to a bipartisan health care reform bill was, essentially, dead. And he urged GOP members to keep it that way.
“There is absolutely no interest, no reason Republicans should ever vote for this thing. They have gone from a party that got killed 11 months ago to a party that is rising today. And they are rising up on the turmoil of health care,” said Champlin. “So when they vote for a health care reform bill, whatever it is, they are giving comfort to the enemy who is down.”

Chaplain made the remarks at an annual AHIP conference. He added that he expected reform with some kind of public option to pass, though he emphasized the importance of Republicans standing firm in opposition.

This comes right about the time AHIP shyster-in-chief Karen Ignagni is pinky-swearing they weally weally still do totally want reformRiiiiggghhhttt.  What’s an ark?

Steve Benen explains conversation enders on his way out to the woodshed to discuss same with Rep. Todd “I Totally Believe Debunked Talking Points About Canadian Hip Replacments” Akin.  Might I just say: One of us!  One of us!

Queen Olympia Snowe is trying to put the public option on ice, even going so far as to threaten to stand with Cons on a filibuster (was there ever any doubt?) if the Dems put in even a public option with opt-outs.  Unfortunately for her, she did so when the Maine AFL-CIO was having a confab.  They suspended their convention so that everybody could make a few pointed phone calls.  I wish I’d been there when the calls started flooding in…

Speaking of opt-outs, that idea’s gaining so much steam poor Ben Nelson’s afraid we’re going to end up with that icky old public option.  Steve Benen’s take was, as always, interesting and enlightening.

It’s rather pathetic that Arlen Specter needed to have the connection between health care reform and people willing to take risks for the American entrepreneurial dream.

Mary Landrieu’s drawn a line in the sand on the public option – and is standing squarely on the wrong side of it:

As for Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who opposes the public option for bizarre reasons, and doesn’t seem to understand precisely what the public option even is, she told NPR this afternoon that the polls showing strong national support for the idea don’t matter, because Americans are wrong.
“I think if you asked, ‘Do you want a public option but it would force the government to go bankrupt,’ people would say ‘No,'” Landrieu said.
Now, I’ll gladly concede that popularity does not always denote merit. In other words, sometimes polls will show public attitudes pointing in one direction, but that doesn’t make the direction necessarily correct.
But Landrieu’s arguments are getting increasingly incoherent. Yes, if you asked people if they want the government to go bankrupt, chances are pretty good the poll results would be one-sided. But why on earth does Landrieu think a public option would bankrupt the government? Does she realize that the public option is a way to save money?

I don’t think anyone who’s as demonstrably stupid as Landrieu can realize simple facts like that.

You know what Americans like as much as the public option?  Subjecting the insurance industry to anti-trust laws.  Damn skippy!

Elsewhere on the public option front, Nancy Pelosi says the President has been quite clear enough on his desire for the public option, thankyousoverymuch, and moreover is hunting down the votes she’ll need to make sure we get a public option.  I’m liking her more and more every day.

Rep. Weiner reminds his colleagues that there is no chance for a do-over.  Hopefully, he’ll manage to hammer that through a few thick skulls.

And, finally, Nate Silver believes the momentum’s shifting in favor of the public option.  Of all the things that have given me confidence that this could, indeed, happen, his assessment gives me the most optimism.

Strange feeling, that.

Further Thoughts on the President’s Peace Prize

I’ve been seeing a lot of invective against the President and the Nobel Committee from both the left and right, perhaps one of the only times this year they’ll find themselves in agreement on anything.  There is a substantive difference in the invective: Cons are screaming incoherently, while the lefties are a little more analytical about their criticism.  Obama doesn’t deserve it, they say.  He hasn’t done anything, they say.

Bullshit.

Even the fine folks at Firedoglake, who never miss an opportunity to bash Obama, have to admit it’s bullshit:

FDL’s writers have been among the sharpest of the reality-based critics of the Obama administration, as posts like this one will show.  But, contrary to what’s been claimed, we’re not so steeped in reactive Obama hatred that we won’t give the man credit when it’s due.   Case in point:  His being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Yes, he’s only been in office a little over eight months.   Yet he’s already made more progress with both Russia and Iran than George W. Bush and the neocon cabal made in eight years, which makes experts on the Middle East like Juan Cole quite happy:
President Obama is slowly putting Iran in a box. His cancellation of the useless and expensive so-called missile shield program in Eastern Europe, which had needlessly antagonized Russia, has been rewarded with greater Russian cooperativeness on Iran. The U.S. right wing accused Obama of a failure of nerve. But in fact his move was shrewd and gutsy, since he predisposed Russia to increased cooperation with the U.S. in regard to Iran’s nuclear research program.
Obama’s full-court press for a United Nations Security Council resolution on nuclear disarmament also pulled the rug out from under Iran’s previous grandstanding tactics, whereby it accused the U.S. and its allies of only wanting nuclear dominance, not the abolition of nukes.
Cole goes on to note that President Obama chaired the U.N. Security Council at the summit level on Thursday, and pushed through an important resolution on nuclear disarmament.

Spencer Ackerman, no gentle soul he, makes much the same point in a hard-hitting post, and concludes:

Progressives have a unique responsibility to hold Obama to his own stated vision, and the vision that the Nobel committee honored today. But there is a difference between an incomplete agenda and a counterproductive one. And in truth, the agenda is never complete. The work goes on. But we are on a path. Fired up, ready to go.

And PalMD quotes the Nobel Committee, then makes the point:

What the committee may or may not have meant is that Obama seems to be more interested in at least understanding the beliefs and desires of our friends and enemies, and using this understanding as a basis for diplomacy.
So while the award may seem quixotic, it’s not unprecedented. The Nobel committee is in essence saying, “we know the US is enormously powerful and influential, and we’re happy to see that you may be using your powers responsibly.” To paraphrase Sally Field, they really like us!

How should we, as Americans, respond to this honor? It is and honor. We are a true representative democracy, and our elected head of state was just given the world’s most prestigious award. It is an endorsement by others of many of our basic values. This is an opportunity for us to say to the world, “yes, we are uniquely important” Many of our values are universal. The world still looks to us as a model democracy. After years in the wilderness of world opinion, we are being recognized for our accomplishments and ideals. I like that.

So do I.

And the Obama administration is taking this very, very seriously:

The State Department reflects on the significance of President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize.

“Certainly from our standpoint, this gives us a sense of momentum — when the United States has accolades tossed its way, rather than shoes.”
That’s the take of Hillary Clinton’s State Department on President Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, according to her spokesman, Assistant Secretary PJ Crowley.

Crowley added, “There is an opportunity here. The tone has changed — but obviously we recognize that, while the tone in the world has changed, the challenges remain. They are very significant.”

So forgive me if I see you pissing and moaning that Obama didn’t deserve this and the Nobel Committee’s a bunch of idiots, and call bullshit.  It is bullshit.

Besides, it’s not Obama’s fault he won this thing.  The right, as in so much else, is to blame.  And, furthermore:

Larisa Alexandrovna has hit it right on the mark when she says, ‘When that recipient happens to be the leader of a nation – representing his country all over the world – then that honor is also bestowed on the citizens of that nation.’ 
Yup, Obama didn’t win this Nobel Peace Prize. America did.

Before you start shrieking we don’t deserve it, keep in mind that we finally voted the Cons out.  And the Nobel Committee recognizes that peace is a work in progress.  This is a call to action, not a reward for a job well done.  If you can’t take it in that sense, I’m very sorry for you.

The rest of us are going to go do some celebrating.  And one of the things we’ll be celebrating is how very far we’ve come.

Your Daily Dose of Health Care Reform Stupidity

My darlings, this is delicious: Sen. Ben Nelson just got his arse totally pwnd:

The Nebraska Democratic Party put the state’s senior senator, Ben Nelson, in an awkward spot on Saturday by passing a resolution making support for a government-run insurance option a central aspect of its platform.
In a nearly unanimous vote at a committee meeting in Fort Omaha Metro Community College, about 70 attendees approved language that urges members of Congress “to vote for such health care reform proposals that contain a robust public option at all stages of the legislative process including conference and reconciliation, and encourage legislators to pass such reform.”

That’s quite the cannon shot over the bow, there.  Nice.

There’s actually quite a bit of good news today, but before we get to that, let’s sample some stupid.  And who can be more stupid than Bobby Jindal, who’s apparently illiterate?  He sure as shit can’t read polls, because there he is claiming there’s no public support for health care reform, and there the polls are showing precisely the opposite.  Dumbshit extraordinaire, our Bobby.

The White House has been happily touting the AMA’s support for reform, and had a nice little get-together with doctors to show off lab-coated support.  In what I’m sure is a huge coinkydink, the RNC suddenly decided it doesn’t love the AMA anymore.  Are you shocked?  I’m shocked.  Like, totally.

Those of you breathlessly awaiting the day the Senate Finance Committee will at long last pass their fucking bill shall have to hold their breath a bit longer, alas.  And I wouldn’t bet on Wyden voting aye, were I you.  The man’s a little pissed at his amendment getting dicked around, with good reason.

Dems, alas, aren’t always the champions of health care they should be.  Take the 6 Dem governors who’ve decided against signing a milquetoast letter in support of health care.  If they have a good excuse, I haven’t heard it yet.

But I promised thee good news, and good news thee shall have.  There’s some pretty fucking awesome good news, because it looks like conservative Dems are finally understanding that it’s a great idea to get on board with reform, including the public optionHarry Reid’s working on herding cats, and remarkably might have some success on that front.  It helps that the public option polls so well.  And I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s new book makes the case for health care reform:

In the book, the heart surgeon writes, “We have a moral responsibility, I believe, to see that every single American has affordable access to health care.”
“The need to improve the productivity, fairness and consistent quality of American health care is deeply intertwined with our economic problems. Fixing health care will help the economy,” Frist wrote. “Thus, I strongly support the administration’s determination to act on both fronts simultaneously, great as the challenges will be.”

In case you’re wondering, he is indeed referring to the Obama administration.  Mind, he’s trying to temper his support a bit, but what he wrote’s a wee bit difficult to walk back.

Reason for optimism?  Steve Benen thinks so:

At this point, I was more or less expecting Democratic leaders to start lowering expectations, and preparing the party base for a letdown on the public option. Instead, most of the rhetoric seems to be pointing in the other direction, and the reported efforts of the leadership and the White House is no doubt contributing to the Democratic centrists who now seem less willing to break ranks.

But it’s still wise to temper one’s enthusiasm. For one thing, the distance between here and the finish line is still pretty long. For another, as we recently learned, “some form of a public option” can mean different things. Reid conceded last week that “public option” is a “relative term.

Taken together, put me down for “cautious optimism.”

Add me to the list.

DOMA Repeal in the Works

It’s about bloody time:

Next week, Democratic Reps. Jerrold Nadler (NY), Tammy Baldwin (WI), and Jared Polis (CO) will be introducinglegislation to repeal the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which “defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman for purposes of all federal laws.”

Prepare for the frothing fundies’ and the right-wing hysterics’ impending rabid fits. Just because they’re currently busy Teabagging on health care reform doesn’t mean they’ll ignore the awful news that teh gays are destroying traditional marriage. Just like they did in Massachusetts:

As my friend Bruce Wilson notes at the Huffington Post, after six years of gay marriage in Massachusetts the divorce rate has actually gone down – and it was already the best in the nation.

Provisional data from 2008 indicates that the Massachusetts divorce rate has dropped from 2.3 per thousand in 2007 down to about 2.0 per thousand for 2008. What does that mean ? To get a sense of perspective consider that the last time the US national divorce rate was 2.0 per thousand (people) was 1940. You read that correctly. The Massachusetts divorce rate is now at about where the US divorce rate was the year before the United States entered World War Two.

Something tells me they’ll ignore the above and spout bullshit anyway. Have fun rubbing their noses in the above data anyway.