Posts tagged with 'senate finance committee'

Weekly Diaspora: Moving Immigration Reform Forward

Posted Oct 15, 2009 @ 10:57 am by
Filed under: Immigration     Bookmark and Share

By Nezua, Media Consortium Blogger

A crowd of thousands gathered on Capitol Hill Tuesday, to lobby for and support immigration reform, as Debayani Kar writes for RaceWire. Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus “presented his key principles for comprehensive immigration reform” at the rally. (more…)

Daily Pulse: GOP Stalls For Time

Posted Sep 24, 2009 @ 11:42 am by
Filed under: Health Care     Bookmark and Share

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium Blogger

Republicans are continuing their attempts to derail health care reform. This week, GOP senators tried unsuccessfully to write further delay into the Senate Finance Committee’s bill, Alex Koppelman reports in Salon:

Working on reform legislation Wednesday, the panel spent most of the morning debating an amendment by Republican Jim Bunning of Kentucky that would have delayed votes on any other amendments until they were written up in official legislative text. The Congressional Budget Office would then have had to post the language for three days before votes—which would, effectively, have stalled any progress on the bill for a week or two, at least. There are, after all, more than 500 amendments waiting to be debated and voted on.

It sounds like a bid for transparency. In practice, there would be a 72-hour window for lobbyists to read the bill and tell legislators how to vote, as Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan) more or less admitted. Roberts said that the amendment would give time for “the people that the providers have hired to keep up with all of the legislation that we pass around here.” The hired guns Roberts mentions are health care industry lobbyists.

At this point, the GOP’s only hope is to run out the clock. Bad faith bipartisanship is a great time waster: Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly notes that Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is proposing yet another bipartisan group to negotiate the Senate’s health care bill. Grassley and Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont) already wasted the entire summer searching for a bipartisan bill that didn’t attract a single GOP vote, not even Grassley’s.

It’s not like the Republicans have a viable counter-proposal. James Ridgeway notes in Mother Jones that GOP is gearing up to run against health care in the midterm elections. Even the Republican Study Committee, supposedly the party’s legislative idea factory, couldn’t come up with anything besides tinkering with Medicare.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care and is free to reprint. Visit Healthcare.newsladder.net 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 Economy.Newsladder.net and Immigration.Newsladder.net. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.

Daily Pulse: Astroturfing the Public Option

Posted Sep 23, 2009 @ 10:49 am by
Filed under: Health Care     Bookmark and Share

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium Blogger

The Senate Finance Committee is slogging through literally hundreds of proposed amendments to the Baucus health care reform bill. The bill still doesn’t have a public option, but there’s a good chance that insurance subsidies will be revised upwards, as Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly reports.

Last Sunday, President Obama made his pitch for health reform on five national TV talk shows. John Nichols of the Nation criticizes Obama for his uninspired and frankly unappealing depiction of the public option:

Indeed, as Obama describes his notion of a public option, it is so constrained, under-funded and uninspired in approach as to be dysfunctional.

While there is no question that the right reform remains a single-payer “Medicare for All” system that provides quality care for all Americans while eliminating insurance company profiteering, if the best that can be hoped for is a government-supported alternative to the corporate options, then it should be robust enough to compete.

Obama advocates a public option open to the uninsured only, not to anyone who wants to buy in. If the goal of the public option is to reduce costs through competition, a limited public option would be self-defeating. A public option is supposed to drive down prices through competition. Obama’s version of a public option couldn’t compete: It would only take cases the insurers already rejected!

Speaking of insurers, Brian Beutler and Zach Roth report in Talking Points Memo that insurance company Humana is under fire for trying to scare senior citizens into resisting health reform, specifically cuts in Medicare Advantage, a federally subsidized private insurance plan. If so, Humana is in big trouble. Astroturfing seniors is a violation of the strict rules the government imposes on communications with Advantage beneficiaries.

Public News Service reports that health care activist Joe Szakos goes on trial in Virginia today for allegedly trespassing while protesting insurance rate hikes. Szakos is a member of the Virginia Organizing Project, a non-profit social justice group seeking accountability from insurers.

Obama made his first speech to the United Nations (UN) yesterday at the UN Summit on Climate Change in New York. Nearly a hundred heads of state met to iron out differences face-to-face before the official negotiations on a global climate pact begin on Copenhagen on Dec 18. In RH Reality Check, Karen Hardee and Kathleen Mogelgaard explain the link between reproductive freedom and climate change. New research reaffirms that contraception could be a powerful tool to help fight global warming:

So how does reproductive health fit into this picture? A new study by the UK-based Optimum Population Trust and the London School of Economics shows the connection between contraceptives and climate change. The study concludes that universal access to reproductive health could be one of the most cost effective ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. A Population Action International report from May detailed how population dynamics, not just overall growth, contribute to climate change.

Note that population activists aren’t saying that women in the developing world ought to have fewer children for the sake of the planet. They’re saying that societies grow in smarter, healthier, and ultimately greener ways when women have the power to control their own fertility.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care and is free to reprint. Visit Healthcare.newsladder.net 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 Economy.Newsladder.net and Immigration.Newsladder.net. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.

Daily Pulse: Dissecting the Baucus Bill

Posted Sep 17, 2009 @ 11:43 am by
Filed under: Health Care     Bookmark and Share

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium Blogger

Yesterday, a long and pathetic spectacle came to an end. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont) released the first draft of the Senate Finance Committee’s health care bill.

After months of fruitless negotiation in search of elusive bipartisanship, Baucus delivered a bill with no Republican support. You’d scarcely know it to read the bill. As Tim Fernholtz observes on TAPPED, the Baucus bill looks like a retread of the Republican alternative to Clinton’s health care plan.

Sure enough, the Baucus bill is a boon to the insurance industry. The government would force people to buy more of the same expensive, crappy private insurance that necessitated reform in the first place. Instead of driving down costs through competition with a public option, Baucus wants the government subsidies to help people buy bad insurance they can’t afford. That’s not the free market. In capitalism, if your product is too expensive, people don’t buy it. Under Baucusism, the government forces you to buy insurance and kicks in some money to help you afford it.

As expected, the bill contains no public option. Instead, the bill calls for 50 state insurance co-ops to bargain for better rates—but the bill hobbles the co-ops by restricting their enrollment and bargaining power. If the goal is to drive down prices, you want the biggest possible co-op to drive the hardest possible bargain. So, anything that keeps co-ops smaller or restricts their ability to negotiate undermines the exercise. Which proves once again that the Baucus and the Blue Dogs only care about holding down costs when the money is coming out of the pockets of the big business contributors.

Individuals must have insurance, but employers are under no obligation to offer it. Companies would pay a fee if they did offer insurance and workers and the workers ended up getting public subsidies instead, but not the full cost of the subsidy. So, the taxpayers would be subsidizing employers who won’t do right by their employees.

The Baucus bill throws down the gauntlet on organized labor by calling for a 35% tax on high-quality health insurance plans. The tax could raise $200 billion, but as McJoan explains at AlterNet, it’s a giant middle class tax hike that hits union workers the hardest.

Luckily, nothing is set in stone. This is just the first draft of one of the Senate bills. The Baucus bill will have to be combined with the much more liberal bill passed by what was then Sen. Ted Kennedy’s (D-Mass) Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is already signalling that the final bill will look very different by the time the full senate is called to vote on it.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care and is free to reprint. Visit Healthcare.newsladder.net 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 Economy.Newsladder.net and Immigration.Newsladder.net. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.

Weekly Pulse: Health Bill Poised to Suck

Posted Jul 29, 2009 @ 11:02 am by
Filed under: Uncategorized     Bookmark and Share

by Lindsay Beyerstein, TMC MediaWire Blogger

The Senate Finance Committee is reportedly very close to finishing its healthcare legislation. But as the bill’s details leak, anticipation is quickly turning to dejection in progressive healthcare circles. Early word has it that the almost finished a bill includes no public option, no employer mandate, and no insurance exchange. Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly explains why the Senate Finance Committee bill is going to suck.

At TAPPED, Scott Lemieux argues that if the Senate legislation doesn’t have a public option or an employer mandate, we’d be better off not passing a healthcare bill. Conventional wisdom is that even a bad bill would be better than nothing: Once we get the basic infrastructure for universal healthcare in place, it will be easier to build on that rather than starting from scratch. However, as Lemieux points out, a bill with no public option would only further entrench the insurance industry and make it easier for them to block reforms in the future.

Remember that the bill that comes out of the Finance Committee still has to be reconciled with other versions, like the version from the Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee. So, it’s possible that progressive Senators will win some concessions. However, as we’ve discussed before, the Senate is the key to passing healthcare reform, and the Blue Dogs are the key to passing the bill in the Senate. Whatever comes out of the Finance Committee is going to carry a lot of weight with the Blue Dogs.

It’s no wonder we’re fighting over a bunch of lackluster options. As Isabel MacDonald observes in AlterNet, corporate-run media has virtually banished all talk of single-payer healthcare. If you’re a single-payer advocate and you want to get on TV, you have two options: Be Bernie Sanders or get arrested in the Senate.

Democrats should try implementing a radical progressive agenda one of these days—they’ll be accused of doing so, anyway. Amanda Marcotte of RH Reality Check notes that even though universal healthcare is more likely to cover iPods than abortions, mainstream media and the anti-reform brigade insist on discussing abortion funding as if it were a live option. Here in the real world, pro-choicers don’t even have the votes in Congress to overturn the Hyde Amendment, which bans the usual sources of federal funding for abortion. According to some experts I interviewed a few weeks ago for a forthcoming article, there might be a clever legal way to set up the healthcare program so that its funding wouldn’t fall under the Hyde Amendment, but no one expects the Democrats to even try.

Make sure to keep an eye out for Ms. Magazine‘s summer issue, which contains a moving profile of assassinated abortion provider Dr. George Tiller by Michele Kort. The piece is titled “The Man Who Trusted Women” after Dr. Tiller’s credo, a phrase that one admirer paid their last respects with, via a funeral wreath with the words “Trust Women” emblazoned in the center. Kort quotes Tiller explaining what that quotation means in practice:

Chromosomal abnormalities make up about 24 percent of our [late abortion] patients, and sometimes the heart, the lung, the intestines, all of this is outside of the body [of the fetus]. Most places in the United States say that even if you have this kind of a problem you may not have a termination of pregnancy. …What this says is that…women are not smart enough, they are not tough enough and they do not love enough to make these family decisions about their children and their families.

James Ridgeway of Mother Jones reported that Tiller’s alleged assassin, Scott Roeder, was savoring his moment in the media spotlight while he sat in prison, awaiting his first court date on Tuesday. Roeder has been bragging lately about his bigshot anti-choice friends and hinting at a broader conspiracy. Maybe he’ll take a few more terrorists down with him. That would be a bright spot on a bleak healthcare landscape.

If the Finance Committee produces a bill with no public option, no employer mandate, and no insurance exchange to bring down costs, then insurance industry gets everything and we get nothing but orders to buy their crappy product. Let’s hope things shake out for the best.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care. Visit  Healthcare.newsladder.net 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 Economy.Newsladder.net and
Immigration.Newsladder.net
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This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.