August 19, 2009

Will progressives stand for real health care reform?

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As it becomes more clear the Republicans don’t really want health care reform, and more possible progressive Democrats might insist on real reform, it sets up some interesting dynamics. The August recess has provided time for both sides to take a breath and see what they really have. And perhaps for the country to see what both sides really want. Take away the public option, and yes, it really is a windfall for the insurance companies, kind of like the bailout was for the banking industry ….  And remember what a big hurry lawmakers were in to make that one happen? Had to happen right now, right away, or the entire American economic system was going to disappear forever? Yep. Nearly a year later, we’re seeing the record bonuses and banking profits roll in.

Now, as Bob Herbert pointed out in a  New York Times blog this week, health care reform minus the public option mostly means herding the young and well into forced health insurance pools. Who benefits from that? Uh, insurance companies….. Because these are folks who traditionally put off insuring themselves because they don’t need it, for the most part. The Washington Post reports today  that the Obama administration was unprepared for the intra-party rift that developed over the public health insurance program. Or, one might say, they were surprised when some Dems stood up for themselves and refused to bargain away the basics of reform.

So the progressives are saying we’re not going to go for that. They might just stand firm. If they do that, and say we don’t need you Republicans for health reform, some of the so-called middle-of-the-roaders might get a firm spine. Sen. Max Baucus, for example, in Montana, had been pushing for a public option as he tried to help the president stitch together something Republicans and Democrats could live with. Then he backed down from that position, as did Obama. Yet his state, Montana, has among the highest rates of uninsured in the nation, as reported in New West. In Montana, for example, 34 percent of residents under the age of 65 went without health insurance for all or part of 2007-08. (Over age 65, of course, Montanans, like the rest of the nation, have single-payer, or ‘socialized medicine’ known as Medicare.) The vast majority of uninsured residents of  the state – 78 percent – were members of working families. And so on. So just who is Baucus trying so hard to help? Working families, or insurance companies? The Senator has taken heat for accepting millions of dollars in campaign contributions from insurance companies and other health industry interests, no doubt about that. And he is the guy charged with crafting the compromise.

The President says he doesn’t want to “draw a line in the sand” around the public option, or anything else. And he plans to communicate that tomorrow when he talks to Organizing for America, a grassroots arm of the Democratic National Committee, the Post article says. But if the lines keep getting drawn by opponents of real reform, what choice does he have? That’s the question for August.

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