This little snippet from the Florida Senatorial debate is truly representative of the craven, cynical views of the right wing. Kendrick Meek does a fabulous job of pushing back on Rubio's specious lies about the health care reform bill.
Rubio comes out of the gate with the typical Republican meme about what a "disaster" it is. He cites as evidence a list of insurance company acts, suggesting that the poor, abused insurers are "forced" to make these decisions because of the reform bill.
Meek nails him right to the wall with it, too. He points out that what insurers are doing is nothing they haven't been doing for years, but now they're using the reform bill as their excuse for doing it. He doesn't spare Crist either, accusing he and Rubio of wanting to "pick the raisins out of the toast". Great analogy.
One of the more laughable claims comes from Rubio, when he actually defends the McDonald's mini-med plan. If you haven't heard about it, it goes like this: McDonald's charges their employees around $800/year to buy a health insurance policy that covers up to $2,000 of medical expenses. These plans are the biggest ripoff in the health insurance industry, and one of the reasons they are is because insurers don't maintain any kind of reasonable medical loss ratio. In McDonald's case, their insurer threatened to drop the policy if they were forced to comply with the 85% MLR requirement, claiming that employee turnover raised administrative costs.
David Leonhardt wrote a great column in the New York Times affirming Meek's arguments:
This episode was only the latest disruption that the health law seems to be causing. Also last week, the Principal Financial Group said it was getting out of the health insurance business, while other insurers have said they might stop offering certain types of coverage. With each new disruption come loud claims — some from insurance executives — that the health overhaul is damaging American health care.
On the surface, these claims can sound credible. But when you dig a little deeper, you often discover the same lesson that the McDonald’s case provides: the real problem was the status quo.
Exactly. The reforms are not the problem, and insurance industry activities (conveniently timed, I might add) are a reaction to their new reality; namely, they don't get to write the rules their way anymore.
If insurers continue down the temper-tantrum trail, they're going to find themselves in direct competition with the government in short order. The reforms to Medicare, combined with electronic health records and other streamlining, will bring Medicare into the 21st century, making a straight Medicare buy-in for younger citizens a viable alternative to insurance company idiocy. The Affordable Care Act was never supposed to be the end of the line, but it established the right of every American to have access to health insurance. If insurers won't provide that access, then the government will need to intervene. This is the essence of the power struggle right now.
When Rubio rebuts all the arguments with the claim that Meek is somehow 'radical' for supporting the public option because it "takes us one step closer to a single payer system", he should understand that his insurance company keepers are on their knees begging for a single payer system and if they keep moving in the direction they seem to want to go, that's where we'll be sooner rather than later.
The big wild card here is Crist. He comes across as reasonable, likeable, and right smack in the ideological middle of Rubio and Meek. His candidacy harms Meek far more than Rubio, and leaves Florida voters with a strange set of choices. In this section of the debate, he didn't add much value at all, basically claiming he could bully insurers into lowering rates, proving he was a 'fighter'. Everyone's a fighter, but the question rests on what principles they're fighting for. Crist represents the Republican dinosaur -- that sort of middle-of-the-road reasonable type that now wanders the political landscape with no place (or party) to call home. From what I saw, Crist sort of faded into the background while Rubio and Meek drew sharp distinctions. But Meek didn't hesitate to lump Crist in with Rubio, either.
The bottom line for me is that Rubio's tired Republican mantra about repealing the Affordable Care Act didn't play all that well, and handed Meek some points in the debate. He's going to need a lot of points to overcome Rubio's lead, though. What say you?