Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday Health Reform Update

Wow -- with all my Twittering (or tweeting, or whatever you want to call the insanity that wants to make me abbreviate in my dreams and have no thought longer than 140 characters) -- I didn't realize I haven't blogged all week! Well, here I am.

And today's a good day to blog because there's finally hope on the horizon. The NY Times is reporting today that the White House is going to release a compromise health reform proposal on Monday, in advance of Thursday's bipartisan summit (to be televised live, so don't call me or email me on Thursday). It's going to include all of the pieces that the House and Senate bills have in common -- no pre-existing condition exclusions, mandatory coverage, subsidies to help the middle class afford premiums -- and suggest compromises on all of the other issues. Should the Exchanges be state or national (national has benefits to both sides -- the Republicans want to let insurers offer plans across state lines; the Democrats don't trust the states to run the Exchanges well or fairly)? What to do about abortion, immigration (i.e., don't pay for abortion, but the devil's in the details; definitely don't give illegal immigrants much of anything, I suspect)? The Times says there will be a tax on so-called Cadillac plans -- high cost plans that the White House believes encourages people to get more health care than they need -- bad, bad thing for people with chronic illnesses who genuinely NEED more care. I don't think there will be many -- if any -- surprises. I will try to review the proposal and post a summary here as quickly as i can.

The White House sounds serious about this, and here's why. They are writing a bill that they believe, under the Senate rules, could be passed as budget reconciliation so only 51 votes are needed to pass it, rather than the 60 votes needed to pass non-budget bills. The opponents would challenge this as a parliamentary move, and the Senate parliamentarian -- you get a gold star if you know his/her name; he/she certainly wasn't elected by anybody -- decides whether there's enough connection to the budget to allow it to go through under reconciliation. If so, 51 votes passes -- a majority. How very un-democratic (not)!

Meanwhile, as if the progressives had planned the timing, health insurers are not doing themselves any favors by announcing huge rate increases. Anthem of California started things off with a proposed 39% premium increase, which the Department of Health and Human Services (which has no jurisdiction) said it would block. When Anthem back-pedaled, HHS issued a report listing increases of 18% and higher all over the country. If that doesn't explain the need for a public option to compete against private insurers and keep premiums down, I don't know what does. So Senator Bennet floated a letter that, as best I can tell, has about 15 signatories asking Senator Reid to hold a vote on a public option in the Senate using reconciliation.

Finally, there's a march going on from Philadelphia (it started this Wednesday) to DC to fill the mall in DC on Wednesday with pro-reformers. It's called Melanie's March in honor of Melanie Shouse, who lost her fight against breast cancer but became a health reform activist and example to all of us. The details are here if you want to participate in some way, even locally.

Folks, I know this blog isn't read by many people. I'm only one sick person in a broken body who talks to a lot of other sick people, and who sees the worst of our system's failures. But if you ever listened to me about anything, listen to me about this: If the President does not pull this off next week -- if he doesn't get unified support of the Dems, even if they don't like everything in his bill, and if he doesn't show up the Republicans as the party of NO, who have no concrete, productive ideas of their own other than tax cuts (the answer to all that's bad in the universe), this will be over and done with. Reform will never happen again in our lifetimes. We will keep paying premiums that increase 15-30% per year. We will keep having sick people uninsured solely because they are sick. We tried this in 1994 and it died. We've actually passed it in both the House and Senate this time -- if it dies now, no Democrat will ever try it again. And mark my words: if this dies, you can kiss away a second Obama term of office, too.

So PLEASE call your member of Congress now. Every one of you, call your Representative and your Senators -- both Senators and one Representative. If your members are already in favor, thank them and encourage them to hold fast and true. If they are against, make it clear that you want them to change their vote and tell them YOUR STORY so they have an example of WHY we need change. It doesn't matter if you've already called them. Call them again. And then again next week. Don't stop until they get that this is life and death for you and your family. Because it is. Life. and. Death. Jennifer

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the very informative update. I will call all of our legislators even though they support health reform. Encouragement and a local story of my struggle and the struggle of poor Minnesotans might help. You're a growing blog with 38 supporters now. It is catching on.

    Here in Minnesota, the Governor (Tim Pawlenty) has improperly (Court Finding) used emergency unallottment powers to eliminate General Assistance Medical Care. He manufactured the emergency by vetoing a bill and throwing the entire budget way out of balance. This will leave 35,000 very poor single Minnesotans ($2,500 annual income on average) without access to medical care. Some will be placed on a much more expensive program, but many will be left out in the cold medically. The legislature has voted to restore funding by votes of 145 to 9 in the Minn House and 45 to 9 in the Minn. Senate. He has vetoed that bill. They will attempt an override next week. Advocates for the poor and disabled are up in arms against him as are hospitals and clinics. If National Reform had succeeded, this type of travesty would be covered by law and people enrolled. Now it's a political football with the life and limb of hundreds or thousands of people left in the balance.