Kalamazoo Single Payer Across the Nation is hosting an informational meeting at the Kalamazoo Library this evening to give our local crazies a chance to shriek about health care. Don Cooney and others are asking the relatively sane among us to show up early and keep things civil. I can barely speak in a coherent sentence these days, so eloquence and precision are out of the question, and I'm open to correction, but here are a few reality checks I’m taking along, adapted from panels on Rachel Maddow and the Diane Rheum, I mean Rehm, show:
There is no “Obama Health Plan”— President Obama has left the creation of legislation to the Congress, which is making a hash of things. Congress receives $millions$ in contributions from health insurers and the results are as you see.
[Inside baseball: the Clinton administration presented Congress with a fait accompli health care proposal, and it died. Obama’s team made the call to let the House and Senate write what they wanted, so long as it gets “done” within the year. This may have been a strategic mistake, though I, wearing my hat of barroom expertise, am hoping that Obama is letting the extremists hang themselves with their own rope, and will show up at the eleventh hour with a “compromise” health care plan that is close to what we wanted all along. I’m wearing my Blue Lantern “Hope” t-shirt as we speak.]
AARP has not yet chimed in to endorse any plan; neither has big pharmaceutical, at least not overtly. The radical right and the insurance lobbies, of course, started honking and bleating before anyone had actually proposed anything.
Why the rush? Obama might have spent two years traveling the Chautauqua circuit, educating and explaining—or that might have cost him capital and momentum, and it never gets done. The interest groups are already at the table and brought their own appetite—that is, they are interested in “reform” that will benefit their own interests.
The “Hitler” calumny: There’s an innocuous provision (from Christopher Dodd, I think?) about helping people design a living will/power of attorney in the event of terminal illness (90% of Americans say they want to die at home, but 80% of us die in institutions, usually because of not having put our wishes in writing). Entirely voluntary, with no more legislative force than a pamphlet about exercise and diet, but this is the item that was distorted by the loony right into warnings about “death panels”, Hitler, etc. from Caribou Barbie.
Small businesses (under a certain number of employees) will be given access to the government run option for health insurance, a shared pool that will lower costs by force of volume, a national insurance co-op, so to speak. Small businesses and farmers are already used to the idea of co-ops when buying supplies in bulk; the talking heads inability to sell this idea is a wonder of obfuscation.
There is NOTHING in any of the plans before Congress that would create anything like the British or Canadian systems, where old people and retards are apparently left on ice floes to die. Talking point: no one in the world is completely happy with their health care system (not even the French), but the US ranks in the 30s compared with other countries, so any direction other than down can be seen as progress.
Kalamazoo Single Payer Across the Nation events planned for this week and next week:
Tuesday: 7 to 9 p.m. public information meeting at the Kalamazoo Public Library, 315 S. Rose St.
Friday: 4 p.m. rally that will begin in Bronson Park and continue with a march to the nearby office of U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph. Upton opposes the current House health-care bill.
Aug. 18: 4 p.m. rally at Upton's office in St. Joseph.
Discovered after this post was written, a better-informed checklist from Rep. John Dingell:
This bill would:
• End the practice of denying insurance because of pre-existing conditions.
• Not allow termination of insurance if you become seriously ill.
• Preclude exorbitant out-of-pocket expenses, deductibles or co-pays.
• End annual or lifetime caps on coverage.
• Provide guaranteed oral, hearing and vision care for kids.
• Allow people to keep their doctor and their plan if they wish, while also creating more choices of insurance plans.
• Eliminate lifetime limits on health insurance coverage.
Unfortunately, the fiction about this bill is getting more attention that the facts. This bill will not do the following:
• Will not lead to employers discontinuing health care coverage in favor of government coverage. Based on an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, H.R. 3200 will actually increase the number of people who get health insurance coverage through an employer compared with current law.
• Will not create an undue burden for small businesses. According to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, 96 percent of small businesses will pay no additional fees under the bill. In fact, small businesses will benefit from tax credits to empower them to provide health insurance for their employees. Small businesses are now paying 18 percent more than big businesses for the same policy; we will stop this unfair practice.
• Will not exempt members of Congress. Our health care plan will be subject to the same rules as all other employer-sponsored plans.
• Will not cover illegal immigrants, leaving American citizens to pay for it. Section 246 of H.R. 3200 specifically prohibits federal funds from being spent to cover illegal immigrants.
• Will not lead to government-sponsored euthanasia. This bill provides an option for individuals to discuss life-extending measures under various scenarios and for Medicare to cover the cost. It is entirely the individual's choice; it does not require anyone to use the benefit and it does not penalize those who don't. Patients and their families would consult with health professionals, not government officials, if they choose to use the benefit.
• Will not lead to government-sponsored abortions. An amendment was added in the Energy and Commerce Committee that explicitly states no public money can be used to fund abortions.