Wednesday, June 17, 2009


That sentiment is ascribed to Representative Ron Kind, a conservative Democrat from Wisconsin, several paragraphs into this story from The Hill about secret health care meetings that are currently taking place between Blue Dog Democrats and centrist Republicans.

I believe it. One thing that's clear from the story is that the likelihood of the Senate and the House passing any reform with a public option is probably zero:

Those centrist factions are wary of the proposals their respective leaders will introduce this month. [Democratic] Blue Dogs are leery of the so-called public option in the healthcare reform bill that is expected to hit the House floor this summer.

... The [centrist GOP] Tuesday Group bill contains a number of policies that are similar to those being discussed by Blue Dogs, including the option of forming insurance cooperatives. The coalition's measure does not contain a government-run public option, an essential healthcare reform ingredient for liberals.

But is anything going to be passed, this year or anytime in the Obama presidency? Stan Greenberg, who polled health care for Bill Clinton when Clinton was trying to overhaul the system, insists, in this New Republic article, that there's a chance "if Obama learns from the Clinton experience and rises to the educative role that he relishes," but Greenberg's enumeration of the storm clouds on the horizon is much more convincing than his cautiously upbeat conclusion:

I've been immersing myself in my old surveys and focus groups and memos to the president. It's even led me to return to the field, posing the same questions to the public, to determine how the mood has shifted and how the forces that oppose reform can best be countered.

Perhaps I should know better than to have sensed any profound changes in the country. And, when I got the results for the new survey, I looked at each question warily, remembering how it all went badly wrong. As I reached the last of the questions, I exclaimed: "Oh no. It can't be. Nothing's changed."

Then and now, the country proclaimed its readiness for bold reform. In both instances, one-quarter say that the health care system "has so many problems that we need to completely rebuild it"; half the country sees "good things" in the current system but believes "some major changes are needed." Then and now, about 60 percent of the public feel dissatisfied with the current health insurance system. Yet three-quarters are satisfied with their own health insurance--once again eerily parallel numbers. The same holds when the public is asked to focus on reform. Yes, we're no longer living in the shadow of Ronald Reagan. But the country has maintained the same anxieties about government's ability to improve the system. The country divides evenly on whether the greater risk is an unchanged status quo or government reforms that "create new problems." And, finally, Obama might want to pay attention to how closely his situation echoes Clinton's. Then and now, more people favor the president's health care plan than oppose it, but the supporters make up less than a majority....

Read the Greenberg article. Not a damn thing has changed -- people are wary of losing coverage or being dropped for getting sick, but as long as their coverage is working out for them, they're content. They want reform, but they don't want it to cost anyone any money. And they look at health care reform in What's in it for me? terms -- which means, for instance, that senior citizens, who opposed Clinton's plan going in (they were truly and understandably content with the status quo), already oppose the Obama plan:

It may surprise you that Obama has already lost seniors, according to our current survey--only one-third approve of his plan. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see there isn't much in it for them. There is already talk of carving out major savings from Medicare and, unlike during Clinton's battle, no offer of a new drug benefit. Clearly, they need to see health care gains for themselves too.

Good luck making that case. Unfortunately, the message is It's good for the country; it may not be good for you, but it's good for people you know, not now but eventually -- but that's not going to win any votes.

I don't understand why this had to happen so early in Obama's term. It seems to me that nothing short of a Bush-on-Iraq-level all-out propaganda war could get this done -- it would take months and months and months, and a monomaniacal focus. I'm very pessimistic.


And here's what we get the longer we do nothing:

Executives of three of the nation's largest health insurers told federal lawmakers in Washington on Tuesday that they would continue canceling medical coverage for some sick policyholders....

The executives -- Richard A. Collins, chief executive of UnitedHealth's Golden Rule Insurance Co.; Don Hamm, chief executive of Assurant Health and Brian Sassi, president of consumer business for WellPoint Inc., parent of Blue Cross of California -- ... would not commit to limiting rescissions to only policyholders who intentionally lie or commit fraud to obtain coverage, a refusal that met with dismay from legislators on both sides of the political aisle.

...A Texas nurse said she lost her coverage, after she was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer, for failing to disclose a visit to a dermatologist for acne.

The sister of an Illinois man who died of lymphoma said his policy was rescinded for the failure to report a possible aneurysm and gallstones that his physician noted in his chart but did not discuss with him.

... The committee's investigation found that WellPoint's Blue Cross targeted individuals with more than 1,400 conditions, including breast cancer, lymphoma, pregnancy and high blood pressure. And the committee obtained documents that showed Blue Cross supervisors praised employees in performance reviews for rescinding policies.

One employee, for instance, received a perfect 5 for "exceptional performance" on an evaluation that noted the employee's role in dropping thousands of policyholders and avoiding nearly $10 million worth of medical care....

But this isn't a big news story. It's as appalling as tobacco executives saying under oath in Congress that they don't believe smoking causes cancer -- and yet it's not a major news event, except, apparently, to the L.A. Times, which has been covering the rescission issue for a while now.

Americans who don't go to Michael Moore movies just don't believe this will happen to them. They bloody well don't want to pay a bit more in taxes to ensure that they'll never have to worry about this kind of abuse, because they're mostly content now.

And so nothing is likely to change.

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