June 16, 2009


After the rape and pillage of the last several decades, do we really care all that much about the survival of the insurance companies? If they were providing adequate service at a reasonable cost, it might not be so infuriating. But to pay all that money and get so little in return?

Yet the Senate Republicans, the Party of No, the Handmaidens of Corporate Welfare, are more concerned about losing their political patrons than the fact that people all over the country are, quite literally, dying.

WASHINGTON — The mood was upbeat in early March when scores of powerful lawmakers and lobbyists joined President Obama in the East Room of the White House to talk about fixing the nation's health care system. Still, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, rose to tell Obama that many Republicans had a problem with his plan to let the government compete with private insurers.

"There's a lot of us that feel that the government is an unfair competitor," Grassley said. "We have to keep what we have now strong, and make it stronger."

Translation: We can't possibly let you cut into insurance companies' obscene profit margins!

Three months later, disagreement has turned to discord over a key element of Obama's health care prescription: his insistence on a "public plan" to compete with private insurers. America's Health Insurance Plans, an industry trade group, is joined by the American Medical Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others that have expressed misgivings about greater government involvement.

"We're not sure that the government is very good at running a health plan," said Nancy Nielsen, president of the AMA, which heard Obama defend his plan Monday.

Except for Medicare, with that measley 3% in administrative costs - and the V.A. system. But we'd rather not talk about that!

That has led to a number of compromise proposals, designed to inject choice and competition into the market without letting the government set prices or shift costs to the private sector.

"What I am trying to do — and what a public option will help do — is put affordable health care within reach for millions of Americans," Obama told the American Medical Association.

The first Senate and House bills to emerge this month would offer a public plan, but a third bill, in the Senate, to be unveiled soon might not include it. Ten of 11 Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee wrote Obama this month in opposition.

An analysis by the Lewin Group, a health care consulting firm, found that a public plan such as Medicare would draw 119 million people away from private insurers. That's because a plan patterned after Medicare could pay doctors and hospitals 20% to 30% less than its private competitors. Limiting who can join and regulating what the plan must pay providers would reduce the upheaval, the analysis said.

In other words, we need to make sure the people who need it can't get it...

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