Posts tagged with 'healthcare reform'

Weekly Pulse: Who are Landrieu’s Alleged Phone Tamperers?

Posted Feb 3, 2010 @ 12:59 pm by
Filed under: Health Care     Bookmark and Share

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Photo by Lindsay Beyerstein

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium Blogger

The four young men arrested last week for allegedly attempting to tamper with the phones at the office of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) have ties to Republican politicians, conservative think tanks, radical campus activists, and even the intelligence community.

It appears that Landrieu was targeted, at least indirectly, because of her stance on health care reform. Two of the men posed as telephone repairmen while a third taped them with his cell phone. A fourth alleged accomplice was arrested in a car a few blocks away. (more…)

Weekly Pulse: Did Wiretappers Target Landrieu Over Health Care Deal?

Posted Jan 27, 2010 @ 12:01 pm by
Filed under: Health Care     Bookmark and Share

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium Blogger

The conservative videographer who donned a pimp suit to embarrass the anti-poverty group ACORN was arrested in New Orleans, LA for allegedly conspiring to bug the office of Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu.

It’s not clear why Landrieu was targeted, but many suspect that she was singled out because she played a pivotal role in advancing health care reform.

Filmmaker James O’Keefe and three other men have been charged with been charged with entering federal property under false pretenses for the purpose of committing a felony, according to Justin Elliott of TPM Muckraker. At RH Reality Check, Rachel Larris notes that, if convicted, the four could face up to 10 years in prison.

Like chum in the conservative shark tank

Landrieu, a conservative Democrat, negotiated an extra $100 million in Medicaid funds for Louisiana in exchange for allowing the health care bill to come to the senate floor. Accepting health care for the poor in the interest of health reform was like chum in the conservative shark tank.

Rush Limbaugh called her the most expensive prostitute of all time. “She may be easy, but she’s not cheap,” crowed Glenn Beck. It got so bad that Democrats call on Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) was called upon to denounce the chorus of conservatives attacking his fellow Louisiana senator as a prostitute. (Correction: Vitter did not call Landrieu a prostitute.)

O’Keefe must have realized that an exposé of Mary Landrieu would be a hot commodity.

“This is Watergate meets YouTube,” said Mother Jones Washington Bureau Chief David Corn said on MSNBC’s Hardball last night.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Health care reform in limbo

The arrests could not have come at a better time for the Democrats. Health care reform is in limbo as congressional leaders plan their next move after losing their filibuster-proof majority. The bugging scandal is deflecting attention from tense internal negotiations.

Brian Beutler of TPMDC reports that the House Democrats are converging on a strategy to get reform done: The House will pass the Senate bill and the Senate will fix it through budget reconciliation.

The Republican counter-strategy

While the Democrats agonize over what to do next, that senate Republicans are honing strategies to thwart any Democratic attempt to pass health care reform through budget reconciliation, as Dave Weigel reports in the Washington Independent. The reconciliation process allows both sides to vote on unlimited number of amendments. GOP leadership is hinting that if Dems take the reconciliation route, they will be forced to vote on every politically embarrassing amendment the opposition can dream up.

The stakes are high. In the American Prospect, Paul Starr reminds progressives that there’s till a lot worth fighting for, even without a public option. For all its faults, the Senate bill would still cover 30 million uninsured Americans, expand Medicaid, end discrimination based on preexisting conditions, and set up exchanges designed to keep rising insurance premiums in check.

A memo for reform

Finally, our sources tell us that Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly is making quite a stir on Capitol Hill with his memo advising the House Democratic caucus on the need to forge ahead with health care reform. In 1994, conservative commentator William Kristol wrote a health care memo to Republicans that became the backbone of their anti-reform strategy, even up to the present day. Benen hopes his memo will be a useful counterweight for Democrats. Benen warns the Democrats that it’s far riskier to fail than to pass reform that doesn’t please everyone.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Pulse: Abortion Doctor’s Assassin Goes On Trial

Posted Jan 13, 2010 @ 12:30 pm by
Filed under: Health Care     Bookmark and Share

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium Blogger

The man who admitted to gunning down Dr. George Tiller in church last May went on trial in Kansas on Friday. Tiller was one of a small number of doctors performing late term abortions in the U.S.

Scott Roeder admitted to shooting the Tiller, but he is pleading not guilty to murder, as Robin Marty reports in RH Reality Check. Yesterday, Judge Warren Wilbert shocked observers by allowing Roeder’s lawyers to argue that their client is guilty of voluntary manslaughter, not premeditated murder.

Kansas law allows the accused to plead “imperfect self-defense” if he had an “honest but unreasonable belief” that deadly force was necessary to protect innocent third parties. Roeder says he killed to protect the unborn. Pro-choice activists are alarmed that the judge allowed Roeder to use this defense. If he beats the murder rap, Roder could face just five years in prison. In the unlikely event that his legal gambit is successful, the precedent could be tantamount to declaring open season on abortion providers.

No doubt Nidal Hasan sincerely believed that he was protecting innocent lives when he murdered 12 soldiers at Fort Hood last November. Somehow, I doubt the Army will be as deferential to Hasan’s crazy religious ideas as Judge Warren Wilbert has been to Roeder’s.

In other health care news, Robert Reich of TAPPED asks whether the rich or the middle class will pay for health reform:

There’s only one big remaining issue on health care reform: How to pay for it. The House wants a 5.4 percent surtax on couples earning at least $1 million in annual income. The Senate wants a 40 percent excise tax on employer-provided “Cadillac plans.” The Senate will win on this unless the public discovers that a large portion of the so-called Cadillacs are really middle-class Chevys—expensive not because they deliver more benefits but because they have higher costs.

Reich cites a shocking statistic: Less than 4% of the variation in the cost of insurance coverage is based on differences in benefits provided. Most of the difference in price is based on the perceived riskiness of the beneficiaries. So, if you’re in a high risk pool comprised of, say, retired autoworkers, you’re going to pay a lot more for the same benefits than someone in a younger, healthier risk pool. When you look at it that way, it seems unfair to pay for reform on the backs of people who are already paying more for the same thing due to circumstances beyond their control.

President Barack Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius are meeting with top labor leaders on the “Cadillac tax,” as Brian Beutler of Talking Points Memo reports. Obama and Sebelius are trying to hash out a compromise that would be acceptable to the unions, who so far, have been implacably opposed to taxing expensive health care plans. The unions are reluctant to give any ground on this issue because so many of their members have accepted expanded health care benefits in lieu of wage increases over the years. Taxing those benefits now would effectively erase some hard-won gains by workers. Obama and the unions are reportedly discussing some kind of grandfather clause proposal that would exempt existing plans and only tax new plans.

Elsewhere in our high-deductible democracy, it turns out that health insurers secretly steered more than $20 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to oppose health reform while publicly professing to support the effort, according to Josh Harkinson of Mother Jones. The bagman was America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP). While AHIP was soliciting donations to run attack ads, AHIP’s top lobbyist, Karen Ignagni penned an op/ed in the Washington Post assuring the public that AHIP supported reform.

Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly hopes that the scandal will give ammunition to Democrats in the last big push to pass health care reform: “Policymakers struggling to resolve differences on the final reform bill may want to keep a simple adage in mind: Don’t let AHIP’s duplicitous campaign win.”

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Pulse: What’s Next For Health Care Reform?

Posted Dec 30, 2009 @ 12:54 pm by
Filed under: Uncategorized     Bookmark and Share

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium Blogger

The Senate passed its health care bill in the early morning hours of Christmas Eve. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had to make major compromises to secure the votes of fence-sitters like Sens. Ben Nelson (R-NE) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT). Reid sacrificed the public option to keep Lieberman on board and tightened the bill’s abortion restrictions to placate Nelson.

Next, representatives from the House and the Senate will merge their respective bills in a conference committee, creating a single piece of legislation that both houses will vote on. If the conference report passes both houses, it will proceed to the president’s desk to be signed into law. Conference will start after the winter recess. The whole process could be complete by late January. (more…)

Weekly Pulse: Bachmann Fan Threatens to Shoot Up Newspaper

Posted Nov 18, 2009 @ 12:19 pm by
Filed under: Health Care     Bookmark and Share

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium Blogger

A Michigan woman threatened a Minnesota newspaper with mass murder for criticizing Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN)’s anti-health reform rally, reports Paul Schmelzer in the Minnesota Independent:

…A woman in Michigan, angered over a newspaper editorial criticizing Bachmann’s event, threatened to take a gun to the paper and “do what they did at Fort Hood” in response.

How pro-life. (more…)

See more posts tagged with: , , , , ,    |   Comment now

Daily Pulse: Has Baucus Pulled Snowe’s Trigger?

Posted Sep 15, 2009 @ 11:03 am by
Filed under: Health Care     Bookmark and Share

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium Blogger

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), perhaps the only moderate Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, predicted that the committee’s forthcoming bill will not include a public option with a trigger. (Note that even if the Finance Committee’s bill doesn’t include a public option, one could still be added later in the legislative process, with or without a trigger.)

Still, the lack of a trigger in the Senate bill would be strange, says Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly, because the trigger was Snowe’s idea.

A public option with a trigger is a compromise whereby a public system would only come into effect if private insurers failed to cut costs within a certain number of years. The alternative would be for the Finance Committee to pass a bill with no public option at all.

To progressives, adopting the “wait and see” approach is like giving Bernie Madoff another five years to run his Ponzi scheme, just to make absolutely sure he’s a crook. On the other hand, if the trigger is written fairly, we can be confident that we’ll get a public option eventually, given the insurers dismal track record for cost control and the lack of competition.

A triggered public option may also appeal to moderates looking for political cover. It lets them say “the public option if necessary, but not necessarily the public option.” If costs come down on their own, the public option won’t kick in.

If the Baucus bill doesn’t include a trigger, should we declare the idea DOA? Not necessarily, Benen explains:

So, what’s up? Is Snowe moving away from her own idea? Is the trigger done for? Not really. I did some digging on this earlier and it seems Snowe’s comments were only in the context of the Finance Committee bill, which was never likely to have a trigger anyway. Snowe brought up the idea as far back as the spring, and encouraged the Gang of Six members to consider it, but her Republican colleagues rejected it out of hand. No matter what the Finance Committee agreed to, the trigger wasn’t going to be part of the equation.

But the idea may yet gain traction, because the Finance Committee bill isn’t the be-all, end-all version of the reform legislation. More to the point, the White House is going to have a hand in the process, and if Snowe wants a trigger, and she’s the 60th vote, it may yet happen,

Meanwhile, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) announced that a strong public option would pass by Christmas. Harkin chairs the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP), so he’s in a good position to make that prediction. As chair, Harkin vows to carry on the legacy of his predecessor Sen. Ted Kennedy (D- Mass). Harkin’s Senate HELP Committee provides a liberal counterbalance to Sen. Max Baucus’s (D-Mont) more conservative Finance Committee.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care and is free to reprint. Visit for a complete list of articles on health care affordability, health care laws, and health care controversy. For the best progressive reporting on the Economy, and Immigration, check out and This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.

Weekly Pulse: Angry Mobs Demand Status Quo

Posted Aug 5, 2009 @ 10:51 am by
Filed under: Health Care, Uncategorized     Bookmark and Share

by Lindsay Beyerstein, TMC MediaWire Blogger

By now it’s clear that the Senate Finance Committe won’t cough up a heathcare bill before the summer recess. As Nick Bauman points out in Mother Jones, the delay is sure to sap momentum for reform. Worse, the break will give healthcare reform’s opponents more time to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Disinformation is already running wild.

Dave Weigel of the Washington Independent points to July 31 memo from House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) entitled “A Very Hot Summer,” in which he announces that the GOP has launched an “entrepreneurial insurgency” against healthcare reform.

2009-08-04-recess-roastings-dc-embedAnd now the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is openly celebrating the angry mobs of anti-reform protesters that are disrupting town hall meetings and shouting down pro-reform Democrats, as Eric Kleefeld of TPM DC notes. “Roaring Chants Interrupt Healthcare PR Campaign As Dems Lose Their Cool and Town Halls Turn Into ‘Town Hells’,” gloats one NRCC email message to reporters. This campaign’s official logo depicts a donkey being roasted alive (image at right) .

If the reformers used the NRCC’s playbook, reporters would be deluged with retaliatory tweets claiming that teabaggers are killing babies and raping old women, but facts are stubborn things. As of press time, the Pulse is not aware of any ritual sacrifices by teabaggers at townhall meetings.

Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly warns that the GOP’s strategy to egg on the wingnuts could have unintended consequences:

It’s probably the one angle the corporate interests and their lobbyists haven’t considered: the unintended consequences of rallying confused right-wing activists to shout down policymakers who’ll improve their health care coverage. Once you wind up the fanatics and point them in the direction of a town-hall meeting, you never really know what they’re going to say, do, wear, or hold. In at least one case at the Doggett event, there really was a sign with Nazi “SS” lettering.

Top Obama adviser David Axelrod denounced groups like Conservatives for Patients Rights for stoking the protesters. Axelrod pledged to aggressively combat misinformation about the Obama administration’s reform plan, as Rachel Slajda of TPM reports. Is it a coincidence that Axelrod was abruptly issued a Secret Service detail this week without explanation?

In the American Prospect, Paul Waldman describes how Republican members of Congress are promulgating the urban legend that the healthcare bill includes mandatory euthanasia:

In some tellings, government bureaucrats will visit the elderly to force them to choose their manner of death. In another, their doctors will be required to “tell them how to end their life sooner” (this one is being popularized by Betsy McCaughey, as despicable a merchant of lies as has ever slithered through our public debate). One GOP member of Congress after another has simply dispensed with all the complexity and said that the Democratic health plan will cause seniors to be “put to death by their government” or some variation thereof.

The rumor grew out of a provision to reimburse doctors for end-of-life care, including discussions of living wills, as Waldman explains.

Speaking of misinformation, Rep. Kent Sorenson (R-Iowa) is tweeting nonsense about a shadowy healthcare commissioner who decide’s everything for you, as Jason Hancock of the Iowa Independent reports. “Page 42 healthcare bill ‘Health Choices Commissioner’ will decide health benefits for you. You will have NO choice,” Sorenson breathlessly informed his followers. In fact, according to an analysis by the Pullitzer Prize-winning website PoliFact, the healthcare commissioner would regulate insurance companies to make sure they don’t exclude people for preexisting conditions.

At the rate misinformation is mutating, perhaps Republicans will have convinced themselves that the bill will create Health Care Commissar who will involuntarily euthanize you and make your grandmother have an abortion by tomorrow morning.

Congress will return from summer break on September 4. Expect heated rhetoric and increasingly frenzied political theater in the weeks ahead.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about healthcare and is free to reprint. Visit for a complete list of articles on healthcare affordability, healthcare laws, and healthcare controversy. For the best progressive reporting on the Economy, and Immigration, check out and This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.

Weekly Pulse: Flipping the Byrd on Healthcare Reform

Posted Mar 25, 2009 @ 11:30 am by
Filed under: Health Care     Bookmark and Share

This week, the healthcare reform debate churned on behind the scenes as the economic crisis and treasury secretary Geithner’s latest bank rescue plan dominated the news cycle. Meanwhile Democrats weighed various strategies to advance healthcare reform even without a filibuster-proof majority in the senate. Drug policy made headlines this week. Attorney General Eric Holder expanded upon the administration’s new found tolerance towards states that permit medical marijuana. The morning after pill will soon be available over-the-counter, thanks to a ruling by a New York Federal judge.

“Could an obscure Senate rule free Barack Obama from the filibuster and enable health-care reform?” asks Ezra Klein in the American Prospect. Democrats are eager to maintain momentum for their ambitious healthcare reform agenda, but the potential of a filibuster could derail the plan. It all comes down to numbers: If a healthcare reform bill were introduced in the Senate, the Democrats would not have the 60 votes they need to block a Republican filibuster.

However, as Klein explains, it’s possible to pass a healthcare bill with a simple majority in the Senate:

Imagine you want to run health reform through the reconciliation process. Here’s how it works: Congress includes reconciliation instructions in the budget. Those instructions direct certain committees — say, the Finance Committee and the Health, Energy, Labor, and Pensions Committee — to produce health-reform legislation hitting certain spending targets by a certain deadline. Once finished, the legislation is tossed back to the Budget Committee, which staples it together into an omnibus bill and sends it to the floor of the Senate for 20 hours of debate followed by an up-or-down vote.

There’s always a catch. In this case, Klein explains, the catch is a provision known as the Byrd Rule, which states that only provisions directly related to spending or deficit reduction can be inserted during budget reconciliation. Everyone seems to agree that healthcare reform will have a profound impact, for good or ill, on the nation’s bottom line–but would healthcare legislation “count” under the Byrd test? Klein says that nobody knows because the final decision would rest with the inscrutable Senate parliamentarian, Alan Frumin . George W. Bush used the reconciliation process to pass everything from oil drilling to trade policy, but there’s simply no way to know whether the parliamentarian would indulge the Democrats on healthcare. Klein writes, “It’s the legislative equivalent of deciding a bill on penalty kicks.”

Even so, the Republicans aren’t taking any chances. The Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen recently chided Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) for saying that using the reconciliation process to pass healthcare reform would be a step towards “mob rule”.

Public interest lawyer Roy Ulrich argues in AlterNet that we may not see healthcare reform until we see campaign finance reform. Ulrich notes that most liberals, President Obama included, want healthcare reform to included a publicly-financed health insurance option. However, even some of the Democrats in the Senate are hostile to that idea, notably Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), who has received more than $413,000 over the past four years from drug companies and health insurance carriers.

Drug policy continues to make headlines this week. Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly follows up on Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement that he will no longer raid medical marijuana facilities in California, where the drug is legal with a doctor’s prescription: Holder stated that on his watch, federal authorities would only target traffickers posing as legitimate dispensaries, bona fide purveyors of medical marijuana.

Benen notes that Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is giving an unpredictable justification for his entirely predictable outrage: “This Attorney General is not doing healthcare reform any good,” said Grassley. “The first rule of medicine — ‘do no harm’ — is being violated by the Attorney General with this decision.”

Yes, that’s the same Chuck Grassley who cheers on Rush Limbaugh for telling lies about comparative efficacy research (CER) and healthcare reform. I’m not making this up. Chris Hayes of the Nation has the details. Limbaugh, Fox News and other right wing media outlets have been deliberately circulating misinformation about the president’s comparative effectiveness research program. In reality, CER is a tool for doctors to make better treatment deisions. Limbaugh and his cronies are claiming that it has something to do with healthcare rationing and Grassley is cheering them on.

Despite some deescalation on the medical marijuana front, President Obama has shown a troubling willingness to further militarize other aspects of the drug war, Democracy Now reports.

And finally, a big step forward for birth control, thanks to a federal judge in New York. Thanks to the judge’s ruling, Plan B, also known as the morning after pill, will be available over-the-counter to women over the age of 17 within the next 30 days, Dana Goldstein notes in the American Prospect. The judge found the FDA erred in restricting access to Plan B during the Bush era.

See more posts tagged with: , , , , , ,    |   Comment now

Weekly Pulse: Not in Kansas Anymore: Sebelius Tapped to Lead HHS

Posted Mar 4, 2009 @ 11:44 am by
Filed under: Health Care     Bookmark and Share


By Lindsay Beyerstein, TMC MediaWire blogger

The Obama administration unveiled two major nominations on Monday: Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius for Secretary of Health and Human Services and Nancy-Ann DeParle for health czar. The czar is responsible for shepherding healthcare reform legislation through Congress and the Secretary will be responsible for implementing the plan.

Correlation doesn’t necessarily imply causation, but we’d like to remind everyone that In These Times floated Sebelius’ name for HHS in September of 2008; Ramon Castellblanch wrote:

Three major obstacles face the next secretary. One, tens of millions of Americans lack health insurance. Two, any attempt to deal with this crisis will result in the private insurance industry—and its lobbyists—swooping in to turn policy changes into a windfall for itself. And three, for eight years, the department has been crippled by low morale and staff departures caused by Bush administration mismanagement. The next secretary must have the ability to help undo this damage.

Castellblanch argued at the time that Sebelius was the right person for the job because of her executive experience as governor, her knowledge of the insurance industry, and her strong progressive values.

Julie Burkhart of RH Reality Check writes of Sebelius’ record as governor, “[Gov. Sebelius] has been a tireless advocate for expanded health care for pregnant women, for comprehensive and medically accurate sexual education and for more accommodating adoption statutes.”

Naturally, the right wing hates the Sebelius nomination because of the governor’s strong pro-choice record, but there doesn’t seem to be much they can do about it.

Anti-abortion groups are insinuating that Sebelius is a close ally of Dr. George Tiller, a Kansas physician who performs late-term abortions. Operation Rescue has tried unsuccessfully to shut down his clinic for years, making Dr. Tiller the White Whale of the Kansas anti-abortion movement. The alleged smoking gun is the revelation that Sebelius invited Tiller to the governor’s mansion for dinner. As Ezra Klein points out in the American Prospect, Tiller and his staff did dine with Sebelius, but only because they placed the winning bid at fundraising auction.

Burckhart reports in RH Reality that the Speaker of the Kansas House, Mike O’Neal, introduced two anti-choice bills on Tuesday in an attempt to embarrass the governor on abortion. Presumably, he hopes to force Sebelius to veto the bills before her confirmation hearing.

Senators Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts of Kansas, both conservative Republicans, have pledged to support Sebelius. Brownback says abortion is murder. So, it might seem odd that he’s supporting the ardently pro-choice Sebelius. Once again, home state boosterism triumphs over the “rights of the unborn.” Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly concludes that Sebelius’ confirmation is all but assured: If Operation Rescue can’t even pick up Sam Brownback, the religious right doesn’t have the political muscle to sustain a serious senate fight.

The liberal group Catholics United is also supporting Sebelius, Sarah Hepola reports in Salon.

As governor, Sebelius proposed that the state provide health insurance for every uninsured child in Kansas from birth to age five. In 2008, Jonathan Stein of Mother Jones praised Gov. Sebelius for vetoing a voter-disenfranchising ID law and nixing unhealthy coal-fired power plants.

Sebelius’s record as a reform-minded insurance commissioner may provide a preview of coming attractions at HHS. Sebelius served as commissioner from 1995 to 2002. As a candidate, she signalled her independence by refusing campaign contributions from the insurance industry. As insurance commissioner, Sebelius backed a number of pro-consumer reforms for health insurance including a patient’s bill of rights, mandated maternity coverage, and enhanced privacy protections. Sebelius also blocked a proposed merger of Kansas’ non-profit health insurance company, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, by a for-profit company because the deal would have increased insurance premiums and forced hospitals to turn away patients who couldn’t pay. The insurance companies fought Sebelius all the way to the Supreme Court and lost.

Obama’s pick for health czar, Nancy-Ann DeParle, is a health policy veteran from the Clinton administration. Matt Cooper of Talking Points Memo notes that she is married to New York Times reporter Jason DeParle.

Nancy-Ann DeParle currently works for a private venture capital firm and serves on the boards of various medical device companies. There was speculation that the Obama administration might scrap the health czar post alltoghether after former Sen. Tom Daschle was forced to abandon his confirmation bid when his income tax irregularities came to light. Ezra Klein writes in the Prospect that DeParle seems like an odd choice given the health czar’s portfolio as the president’s top liaison to Congress on health care reform:

The reason it’s hard to evaluate DeParle is because it’s not clear what she—or the Office of Health Reform—is meant to be doing. The OHR, remember, was built for Daschle: He wanted space in the West Wing where he could run the policy and politics of the health reform process. But few expect DeParle to assume a similar role. The OMB and the NEC have taken a central role in policy design and it’s hard to imagine the Office of Health Reform muscling control of the process away from them. Daschle was a political heavyweight whose particular basket of congressional-liaison qualifications is not reproduced in DeParle.

DeParle must, of course, resign from the boards of medical device companies before she takes the job. According to the Obama administration, DeParle’s recent affiliations present no conflict of interest—time will tell whether that assertion bears up under scrutiny.

On the whole, Sebelius and DeParle are two strong picks to advance Barack Obama’s health care reform agenda. If confirmed, these two nominees will bring energy and experience to the fight.

The Weekly Pulse: Public Insurance Would Work Too Well and We’d Like It Too Much, Republicans Warn

Posted Dec 17, 2008 @ 12:23 pm by
Filed under: Economy, Health Care     Bookmark and Share

A common thread is emerging in the right wing response to healthcare reform. Its opponents aren’t claiming that public healthcare will be bad. Rather, they are terrified that the new system will be so good that no citizen would buy expensive private insurance–or vote for politicians who wanted to take public insurance away.

The Obama team is sending clear signals that healthcare reform is a core economic issue, and the health insurance industry is becoming increasingly anxious by the future administration’s determination to bring healthcare costs under control. Some Americans are seeing their healthcare premiums rising at four times the rate of inflation, if they have insurance at all. Healthcare reform is a pocketbook issue for all of us, according to the Obama team.

In tough economic times it might be tempting to postpone healthcare reforms, but Obama is adamant that delay would be a false economy.

In the American Prospect, Joanne Kenen and Sarah Axeen support claims about the high cost of doing nothing:

A recent report by the New America Foundation’s health-policy program estimates that the cost of doing nothing about health care, including poor health and shorter lifespan of the uninsured, is well above $200 billion a year and rising. That’s enough to cover the uninsured and still have some left over for other public-health needs.

If healthcare costs continue to rise at their current rates, it will cost $24,000/yr to insure a family of four by 2016, an 84% increase from today. At these rates, half of American households would have to spend at least 45% percent of their income to be insured.

In the Nation, Willa Thompson describes how a bicycle crash made her appreciate the connection between healthcare and politics. Thompson was 21 years old when she suffered major injuries after a collision with a truck. Luckily, she was covered by her parents’ medical insurance until she turned 22. She later realized that if she had been just a few months older when the accident happened, she wouldn’t have been able to pay for her medical care.

We all agree that something needs to be done. Let’s briefly review the options that have been proposed so far. Obama wants to provide healthcare for all by requiring private insurance companies to cover everyone and creating a public health insurance plan to compete with private insurers. The second part of his plan is the public option that Republican opponents are so scared of.

Insurance companies love the idea that we’ll all be forced to buy their expensive product. They’re not so keen about competition from the public sector.

Ezra Klein writes, “If you’re looking for the coming fault line on the left of health care politics, keep an eye on what happens to the public insurance option in the health reform bill.” Will the public plan survive? Not if the Republicans and the insurance lobby have anything to say about it. As evidence, Ezra cites this passage from a recent article in Congressional Quarterly:

Mark Hayes, a Republican health policy adviser to the Senate Finance Committee, said Republicans have concerns because the government plan might have access to price controls and other tools not available to private insurers. This could lead to lower premiums in the government plan, which would cause most consumers to migrate out of the private market, he said.

“Over time the effect the government option could have [is an] erosion in the private market, [making] other choices not available,” Hayes said.

The consensus among progressives is clear, the public plan must prevail. In fact, many advocate going all the way to single-payer health insurance. Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee argues in the Progressive that Obama and Daschle should opt for single payer health insurance. Now is no time for piecemeal solutions:

Such a path would perpetuate the crisis and deal a cruel blow to the hopes of Americans for real reform. Those in Congress and liberal policy organizations who are embracing caution or promoting more insurance, not more care, are playing a risky game. It could jeopardize the health security of tens of millions of Americans and, in the process, fatally erode public support for the Obama administration.

Ezra links to a candid post from the blog of the right wing Cato Institute wherein Michael F. Cannon argues that blocking Obama’s health plan is the key to GOP survival. Why? Because, history shows that once people start getting good healthcare from the government at a price they can afford, they want to keep reelecting the politicians who make that possible. Cannon calls the phenomenon where people reelect governments that give them good healthcare “becoming dependent on the government,” we call it “voting our self-interest.”

In other healthcare news, public health advocates are not pleased about rumors that Obama may ask Mark Dybul to stay on as US Global AIDS Coordinator for the first year of Obama’s term. Dybul is responsible for implementing the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which funds AIDS prevention and treatment in 15 poor countries. Advocates say that Dybul, a medical doctor, is too focused on medical interventions and behavioral changes for individuals, and not sufficiently concerned with broader public health initiatives.