December 29, 2009

From Democracy Now--Kill the Bill or Support Passage? A Debate on Healthcare Legislation Between Insurance Industry Critics:

The progressive community is split over the $871 billion healthcare reform bill that passed the Senate last week. Some have lambasted the Senate for removing language that would have created a government-run health insurance program to compete with private insurers. Others believe the Senate bill is the biggest expansion of federal healthcare guarantees since the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid over four decades ago and should be supported as a first step toward reform.

There was quite a bit more agreement than disagreement over feelings about what's in the health care bill and that there still needs to be a push to improve it. However Wendell Potter does not agree that it would be best to kill the bill and would rather push to continue to try to improve it in conference. Firedoglake's Jon Walker believes the bill should not pass if it is the Senate version that makes it through the committee and that we should start over and try to get some improvements through with reconciliation.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to the health bill in Congress. Well, Congress might be in recess right now, but the debate over the final shape of the healthcare reform bill is far from over. The $871 billion Senate bill that passed last week still has to be reconciled with the House bill. Democrats are hoping to be able to present a final version for President Obama to sign by late January or early February.

Meanwhile, the progressive community is split about what to push for. Some have lambasted the Senate for removing language that would have created a government-run health insurance program to compete with private insurers. Others believe the Senate bill is the biggest expansion of federal healthcare guarantees since the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid over four decades ago and should be supported as a first step toward reform.

Well, today we’ll have a debate between two outspoken critics of the health insurance industry. Both support the overhaul of the nation’s healthcare system, but they disagree over whether or not to “kill the Senate bill.”

Jon Walker is a policy analyst at the website Firedoglake. He’s been closely tracking healthcare reform debates. He believes the Senate bill is deeply flawed and writes, quote, “This Senate bill is not a step forward for progressivism, it is a step backward. It is part of the transformation of all-important public social responsibilities into a privatized profit-making machine that lives off of government money won through a corrupt cycle of lobbying, campaign donations, and corporate giveaways.” He joins us from Washington, DC.

Wendell Potter is with us, a senior fellow on healthcare for the Center for Media and Democracy. For twenty years he was a former executive at CIGNA and Humana, health insurance industry’s—among the nation’s largest health insurers. Last year, he left his job as head of communications for CIGNA. Earlier this year, he testified on the health insurance industry at a Senate committee hearing. In an op-ed published in the Huffington Post last week,

Wendell Potter wrote, quote, “It is tempting to join the ‘Kill the bill’ folks, but it would amount to cutting off our noses to spite our faces.” Wendell Potter joins us now from Philadelphia.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Wendell Potter, let’s begin with you. Why are you in favor of the passage of this Senate bill? Why would you like to see this be the new healthcare reform in the United States?

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