As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, June 19, 2009

Let's Not Give The People What They Want

Blanche Lincoln just can't get behind a public option in health care.

U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., says she prefers private insurance cooperatives to a government-run provider that would compete with the private sector in reforming the nation’s health care system.

“We want to keep what works in the private industry and make it better,” Lincoln told Arkansas reporters in a conference call today. “There’s a lot of discussion about what else we might need that we can’t get from the private sector.”

The senator left the door open to supporting a government-option, though she acknowledged she has reservations.

“One of our biggest concerns is that it doesn’t need to be a government plan that usurps that ability to compete in the marketplace, which I’m concerned that a totally government-run option would do,” she said.

This really doesn't make any sense, other than in the sense that Blanche Lincoln values corporate contributors over her constituents, and doesn't feel that the public can hold her accountable as long as she raises enough money. Because the public plan is wildly popular. In most cases, a wildly popular issue would be precisely the one that could yield bipartisan support. But if that issue is in any way progressive, suddenly, public opinion doesn't matter anymore.

And not only is the idea of a public option popular in the abstract, the inclusion of a robust public option would save a lot of money and thus allow the congress to minimize its reliance on unpopular measures like tax increases. But suddenly here public opinion becomes irrelevant. You never hear a Blue Dog say “my seat is so vulnerable that I can’t afford not to back a super-popular public plan.” Ben Nelson’s not talking about how if Democrats want to stay viable in red states they need to robustly back a 70-20 issue like the public plan. The WSJ doesn’t run a headline saying “Opposition to Public Option Spells Political Trouble for Republicans.” Public opinion, in other words, can be a reason to eschew sound progressive policy but never a reason to enact it.

Exactly. There are these etched in stone "political realities," designed by elites, that say you just cannot cross corporate power. And so we hear nonsense about "fiscal responsibility" as a means to deny the most fiscally responsible option. And we hear that we "have to protect the free market" while denying the choice that would strengthen that market. The public option is nothing so much as trust-busting. And the elites want to keep together the trust.

Meanwhile, the three committees working on this in the House have really stepped up. They released a discussion draft based on the work of all of the relevant Chairmen, which includes a robust public option to keep insurers honest and allow for experimentation in the marketplace. Initially, the plan utilizes Medicare bargaining rates to ramp up, and then will use cost control plans to provide better coverage and more effective care.

I would prefer a single-payer system. But this actually is a significant step, and worth fighting for: a health care plan that offers lower costs, higher quality and better choice. During the press conference (on C-SPAN 3, not cable, because who gives a crap about health care, right?), John Dingell brought up the hearing in the House on rescission, the practice of insurers dropping people the moment they get sick, sometimes for technical violations on their applications like misspelling their name.

An investigation by the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations showed that health insurers WellPoint Inc., UnitedHealth Group and Assurant Inc. canceled the coverage of more than 20,000 people, allowing the companies to avoid paying more than $300 million in medical claims over a five-year period [...]

Late in the hearing, Stupak, the committee chairman, put the executives on the spot. Stupak asked each of them whether he would at least commit his company to immediately stop rescissions except where they could show "intentional fraud."

The answer from all three executives:


Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) said that a public insurance plan should be a part of any overhaul because it would force private companies to treat consumers fairly or risk losing them.

"This is precisely why we need a public option," Dingell said.

Here's the YouTube of that hearing. It should have 10 million hits by the end of next week.

Here's a Splicd version of the moment where they all refuse to commit to stop rescinding people when they get sick.


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