Sunday, February 28, 2010

Healthcare "summit", part II

Here are some more points about the so-called healthcare "summit".

8. It is not reconciliation that is perverse, it is the filibusteR, which is not part of the constitution or any kind of "law of the land." It is part of Senate
protocol, and is totally undemocratic. Of course, so is the Senate in a very real sense, since every state gets 2 senators regardless of its population.
Combining this with the filibuster means that something like 30% or less of the population can prevent the huge majority from getting its way. In fact,
combining the nature of the Senate and the filibuster with the fact that so few people vote, you can see how senators representing only a tiny fraction of
the population can prevent anything from getting done. Reconciliation really means majority rule: the basis for most of our constitutional democracy.

9. Tom Coburn is a doctor. So? He makes two main points. Number 1: Fee for services -- in other words, paying healthcare providers on the basis of procedures
undertaken instead of results obtained -- encourages overtreatment and de-emphasizes preventive medicine. This is true, and has been addressed by Obama and other Democrats. Number 2: Tort reform will save lots of money. This is dubious as I have stated elsewhere. Coburn claims that 1/3 of healthcare spending is wasted on non-medical expenses. Yes, but it's not frivolous lawsuits. The outrageous waste is on profits for the insurance industry and duplicated and wasteful administrative expenses. Here in Massachusetts most healthcare companies such as Harvard Pilgrim, Tufts and BCBS are not for profit; in other words, the money they make does not go to shareholders and stock speculators. This is rarely the case in other parts of the country (BCBS in Maine, for example, is part of the same for-profit corporation (Anthem, subsidiary of WellPoint) that is trying to raise premiums in CA by up to 39%.) Execs of these companies are getting very high salaries while gouging their premium payers. That doesn't seem to enter Coburn's calculations at all.

10. A beneath contempt point from the beneath contempt party: John Kyl (PTR whip) of Arizona says that Democrats trust Washington to make decisions while Republicans trust American individuals and families. It takes a lot to be completely beneath contempt, but this babble makes it with room to spare.

11. The Dems have had their moments -- good and bad. VP Biden makes the good point that the Republicans want to eliminate annual and lifetime caps on benefits, and forbid denial of benefits for pre-existing conditions, as well as other regulatory steps, yet they don't want the government to interfere in the free market. He points out that this is contradictory. On the other hand, the President, who was generally pretty tough, is a bit unbelievable when he claims "We have tried to take every cost-containment idea that is out there. Every health care proposal that economists say will reduce health care costs we have tried to adopt in the various proposals." Well, there is one that is the grandaddy of them all that was not even put on the floor by the Dems: SINGLE PAYER. This is the one idea that has been proven to work throughout the world, but is the plan that dare not speak its name. Even its pale imitators, the public option and Medicare buy-in have been throttled by industry shills like Lieberman. Shame on you Obama for this lie.

Which brings me to the really surrealistic part of this whole debate. Dozens of countries throughout the world have universal healthcare plans that are successful, much cheaper than ours, and which produce healthier citizens. The bloviating pols are constantly calling our failure of a system the "best in the world," but no commentator seems to have challenged them. JUST LOOK AROUND AT THE OTHER COUNTRIES IF YOU WANT TO SEE WHAT WORKS!!!!!!!

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