Health Care Reform: Public Option, Reconciliation, DOA?

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health-care-reform-sign.jpgLast night, Sen. Jay Rockefeller announced he would not likely support a Public Option reform through the Reconciliation process (a process by which different legislation passed by the House and Senate, can be reconciled and bypass a Senate filibuster with 51 votes.) That announcement, for all intents and purposes, spells the death knell for the reconciliation push to pass health care reform with a Public Option. Sen. Rockefeller has been a strong supporter of the Public Option. He expressed his reservations, leaving a bit of room to change his mind, but, it is hard to imagine what would, given his arguments against it.

Sen. Rockefeller is pinning his hopes on a bi-partisan approach, still, which would include a similar measure in the Senate version of the Health Care Reform bill. Rockefeller stated:

I don't think you [pursue] something like the public option, which cannot pass, will not pass. And if we get the Senate bill--both through the medical loss ratio and the national plans, which have in that, every one of them has to have one not-for-profit plan, which is sort of like a public option.

It appears then, that Sen. Rockefeller is not opposed to the Reconciliation process, which Republicans used 3 times during the Bush administration to provide tax cuts to the wealthy. He appears only to be opposed to pushing the Public Option through the Reconciliation process.

Which means, that the Senate's version of Health Care reform is still on the table to be passed through Reconciliation, and would likely receive Sen. Rockefeller's support. There are some 20 Senate Democrats who have signed on to urge their leadership to push the reform through the Reconciliation process, but, with the Public Option from the House version added.

It remains to be seen whether Democrats are going to be able to muster the votes necessary to use the Reconciliation process. Many are waiting for the results of Pres. Obama's health care summit meeting, which Republicans were invited to participate in, later this week. There are enough conservative Democrats in the House to derail the Public Option being added to the Senate version of the bill using Reconciliation. This may be influencing Sen. Rockefeller's calculus on the issue.

It remains to be seen if Republicans will remain seated at the 'summit' meeting' in lieu of storming out in protest to Democrats unwillingness to scrap everything and start over, again. In an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News day before yesterday, Sen. McConnell had this to say:

We know where the American people are on the bills the House and Senate passed, the 2,700-page bill that cuts Medicare by half a trillion dollars, raises taxes by a half a trillion dollars.

The NPR poll just a week or so ago indicated the American people were against that 58 to 38. They really want to us to shelve this bill and start over, and I hope that's what the president does when he puts this new proposal on the Internet later today or tomorrow.

This was masterful political theater by Sen. McConnell. He refers to this NPR Poll. The numbers were 55% opposed, and 39% in favor. McConnell either lied about the result in his argument's favor, or, has no business quoting poll numbers he can't remember, as if he does. But, look at the polling question:

As you may have heard, President Obama has proposed a plan to change the health care system that recently passed in the House of Representatives and the Senate. From what you have heard about this plan, do you favor or oppose Obama's health care proposal?

The question is confusing and without specifics. First, President Obama has presented no health care plan, only four objectives to be met by any health care plan the Congress passes. Second, the Senate bill is radically different than the House bill. These polled persons are being asked for a yes or no support answer to two different health care plans, neither of which is the President's crafting. It is like asking a person, "Do you prefer Blue or Orange? And they respond, Yes, or No.

Those responding to this question likely thought they understood the question, but, the question is both false in its reference to 'Obama's health care reform bill', and bogus in its structural reference to two different proposals, leading the respondents, most of whom likely know very little about which bill contains what, to answer in support or not support of legislation they don't know about.

Senator McConnell's reference to this polling result completely circumvents the straightforward question in other polls about the Public Option contained in the House version of the Bill. When the question is clear and informational, instead of confusing and falsely stated, the result is very different. In a Newsweek sponsored poll [PDF] of Feb. 19, here is the question and result:

Do you favor or oppose: Creating a government-administered public health insurance option to compete with private plans.

Favor: 50% Oppose: 42% Don't Know: 8%.
In this same poll, respondents were given specifics on the health care reform bills, and asked for their overall assessment of Obama's reform plan, (committing the same mistake as the NPR poll), favor, not favor, or don't know.
Now please think about the proposals I just described to you. ALL of these proposals are included in Barack Obama's health care reform plan. Having heard these details, what is your OVERALL opinion of Obama's plan - do you favor it or oppose it?

Favor: 48% Oppose: 43% DK: 9%

This is what happens when politicians cherry pick their data to make their arguments. The reality is, the more the public knows about what is in these bills, more favor them than disfavor them. Republicans know this, which is why they have been on a confusion and misinformation campaign with the public since this health care debate began.

Which raises the question, why are Democrats like Sen. Rockefeller still holding out hope for a bi-partisan passage of health care reform? Even the one lonely House Republican who voted for the House version, has now said he will not vote for Reconciliation to pass the health care reform. How could it possibly be clearer that the GOP has no intention of allowing Democrats to give the majority of Americans what they want on health care reform, regardless of what shape it takes?

The President's bi-partisan health care summit is going to be pure political theater. Televised, this meeting will give Democrats the opportunity to contrast their plan with the Republicans. The Republicans will no doubt use the meeting to portray themselves as cooperative and conciliatory, and Democrats as unwilling to compromise, or, alternatively, find an appropriate point at which to rise up together and walk out in indignation. Both sides will be using this summit to their advantage. And that's precisely how and why the American people continue to be left out of the priorities of our current day politicians and their political Parties.

I am not betting that health care reform will get done this year. Both Parties now have too much to gain politically as the election approaches, by demonizing the opposing Party for depriving their majority of the American people what they demand and expect for their tax dollars. And in the meantime, the Medicare/Medicaid deficits for the States and the U.S. government will grow, as will the millions more Americans having to live in America without health care insurance, using expensive Emergency Rooms for illnesses which should never have progressed as far as they did. This inaction by our Congress continues to grow an unsustainable debt upon the earnings of our children, when they enter the work force, and potentially bankrupts the U.S. government.

A bankrupt U.S. government is the surest way of finding out whether the American people really want small and limited federal government. Haiti has small and limited government. Somalia has small and limited government. Afghanistan has small and limited government. Is it really necessary to test common sense in this most extreme way? Small and limited government creates inordinate hardships on its people. Government needs to be whatever size the nation's people and her future require of it to continue as an effective government. Our government is no longer effective. Size is not the reason.

Sen. Mitch McConnell highlights the politics at play when he said in the above mentioned interview: "But the American people who are already quite angry about the effort to jam this down their throats are going to be even angrier."

Only 13% of Americans place health care reform as their top priority, though this was the second highest priority in the poll to Jobs and the Economy. If the majority of the American people believed health care reform was being jammed "down their throats", one would think it would be a vastly higher priority, especially to the majority who are still working in their jobs. These drastic and dramatic kinds of statements are designed to evoke a negative response in the American people. And that negative response is showing up as an approval rating of Congress well below 30%.

My family has very good health care insurance through the wife's employer. But, the premiums have been increasing dramatically year after year. And it no longer provides long term catastrophic coverage. Our deductible has risen from $500 per person, per year, to $1500 per year, in little over a decade. And the costs for medical procedures which we, and our insurance company pay, has skyrocketed over that same period. The system is broken and unsustainable as it is. Reform is absolutely necessary. The political parties stand between the American people and the reform they now, or will soon, desperately need.

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This page contains a single entry by David R. Remer published on February 23, 2010 3:12 PM.

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