Category Archives: healthcare

Embrace Failure Open Thread

I tried to watch some of the Health Care Summit on teevee yesterday, but it was fairly unwatchable, not least because of the cable channels. It wasn’t on C-SPAN – later I learned they buried it on C-SPAN3 (seriously? not even 2?) – so I landed on CNN, who managed to cut away to their gasbags every time one of the non-leadership Democrats started to speak. Then at the break they told me that what I was seeing from Republicans was “an honest difference of opinion”.

Anyway, this is a nice compendium of the things I missed thanks to commercials and Wolf’s talking beard. I must say, I did not know Rochester’s Louise Slaughter was a suthna.

And just as a side note to the whole stupid idea of this summit, which seems to be nothing more than a prelude to using reconciliation (aka majority rule) to pass healthcare reform – can you imagine if republicans felt the need to do the same thing prior to passing the tax cuts? The average person has no idea those things passed with a mere majority vote. Furthermore, nobody gives a shit! Just Pass The Damn Bill!

Update: See also, Greg Sargent

Take action before all the Democratic Senators Resign

The public option is making a comeback thanks to Michael Bennet and three other brave senators. Contact Harry Reid now before all the Democratic Senators resign because Republicans are hurting their feelings. Maybe those of you popular enough to have more than 20 facebook friends can post this as well.

And here’s a little commentary on Evan Bayh, the latest Repub- er, Democrat to announce he will be leaving the Senate.

We are all Ron Burgundy now

The Choakely loss is the best thing that could have happened to this horrific healthcare reform effort.  I say that for no other reason than that it will push us across the finish line.  We’ve been subjected to this shit for the last 9 months, drowning out all the other (major, growing, worsening) problems like unemployment, foreclosures, wars, you name it.  It’s time to put it to bed and move on.  Sad as it is, I find the new political calculus to be extremely clarifying.  Here are the facts as I see them:

  1. The Senate bill is nothing short of a major disappointment for all right-thinking progressives everywhere.
  2. Given GOP obstructionism, there is absolutely no way in hell another comprehensive bill gets to the Senate floor for a vote.  That ship has now sailed.  Permanently and forever.
  3. Congressmen are worthless assholes.

Granted, all three of these points are major negatives.  However, thanks to number 2, the issue is now binary: is the Senate bill better or worse than the status quo? We no longer have the luxury of debating the relative merits of various proposals.  There is only one choice left.  Does the House pass the Senate bill or not?

Consider that the Democrats will never again have the kind of majorities they have right now.  No matter what happens, it’s as good as gone in ten short months.  They took half-assed measures to combat a horrible economic climate, and for that they will be rightfully punished.  More accurately, we’ll all be punished, with Republicans.  But before that happens, they have to leave the people with something meaningful.  Otherwise they serve no purpose – why even have two political parties?  Can they really be that pathetic as to pass nothing at all?

Alarmed by the nonstop posts from Josh Marshall about House Democrats in disarray, I called my Rep yesterday to find out where he stood.  The intern had the gall to tell me that Sarbanes is a strong supporter of the public option and is waiting to see what happens to the bill after it comes out of conference.  Look, pal, I hate to spoil this for you, but I hope the conference bill is made out of two-ply so the Republicans won’t chafe their asses when they use it to wipe.  Even though they already passed one bill, the Senate still requires another cloture vote for the merged bill, and the Republicans have made it eminently clear that it’s not going to happen.  Therefore, who gives a shit what happens to it in conference?  I shudder to think how much worse the bill would have to become in order to get a Republican vote.  I’m guessing drastically reduced subsidies for the poor, because what else is there left to take?

So back to the question at hand: does the Senate bill improve the current state of healthcare for Americans or make it worse? And there’s really no question that for tens of millions of unlucky bastards, it’s an improvement.  So if you’re a Democrat in the House, you have to take the teabags out of your eyes and pass this fucking bill.  Right now they’re acting like Ron Burgundy when first presented with a plate of cat poop: denial.  I’m here to say, you put that cat poo in your mouth!  The insurance company hacks managed to drag this thing out long enough and by god, they did it.  They killed the public option!  It’s fucking dead.  Recriminations all around.  But guess what.  The so-called “public option” that was on the table was never anything more than a progressive fig leaf, something to distract from the absence of true single payer.  The proposals on the table were all weak as hell and were always going to require additional legislation to improve and expand.  So it is with this bill.  And the Senate bill puts us in a better future position than no bill at all.

One thing I’ll say about the rude awakening that Democrats received this week, it shook everyone out of their comfort zone.  Nothing wrong with the noises I’m hearing about fixing this or that poison pill in reconciliation.  The House seems so righteously pissed about having to eat the poop that I think odds are better that they’ll actually make it right.  Probably wishful thinking, but put it this way… if the Senate bill does in fact have as many shitty parts as everyone lets on, then there’ll be that much more motivation to fix it.  Hell, things got so hot for Nelson over his “Cornhusker Kickback” that he’s been preemptively begging them to take it out.  How often does that happen?

Here’s another reason I like the new situation, as opposed to what we were facing a mere week ago.  With 60 votes off the table, Nelson and Lieberman and the rest of the jackass caucus become instantly irrelevant.  I can’t be the only one who fully expected Lieberman to screw us over and turn Republican at the final cloture vote, WWF-style, with a folding chair to Harry Reid’s head as he crossed the aisle.  The supermajority actually empowers too many assholes, and in fact emboldens the GOP to be completely obstructionist.  Because after all, “Dems have 60 votes, it’s not our fault they’re incompetent!” is pathetic, but had a point.  Now I think (hope) we’ll see more legislation that forces them to make tough votes.  For instance, I dare them to filibuster bank reform.

OK, now I’m rambling.  All I’m saying is, despite all the angst coming from the netroots this week, I actually expect the Democrats to absorb these blows and come out swinging after Wednesday’s State of the Union address.  If they do, it will take everyone by surprise, and they’ll get that much more credit for doing something that should have been a goddamn given all along.  And if they don’t, well… I’m Ron Burgundy.  Go fuck yourself, America.

UPDATESteve Benen has the manifesto.

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Apropos of nothing, I’m sitting here watching Festival Express on netflix as I type.  Highly recommended… I was going to link Don’t Ease Me In until I realized Pinky posted the very same clip a year ago.  So Buddy Guy gets the nod instead.  Band is hot, so crank the volume up as loud as it goes for this one…

The enemy of my enemy is my fellow technocrat

There’s been a recent outbreak of Blogger Warz!! between two of my favorites, Greenwald and Krugman.  It’s good reading, so I won’t bother excerpting (ok maybe a little).  Greenwald wrote an article discussing Obama advisor and current Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Cass Sunstein, and a recent paper he published regarding preferred methods of government propaganda.  Greenwald:

Sunstein advocates that the Government’s stealth infiltration should be accomplished by sending covert agents into “chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups.”  He also proposes that the Government make secret payments to so-called “independent” credible voices to bolster the Government’s messaging (on the ground that those who don’t believe government sources will be more inclined to listen to those who appear independent while secretly acting on behalf of the Government).   This program would target those advocating false “conspiracy theories,” which they define to mean: “an attempt to explain an event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who have also managed to conceal their role.”  Sunstein’s 2008 paper was flagged by this blogger, and then amplified in an excellent report by Raw Story‘s Daniel Tencer.

Greenwald rightly notes that if it was a Bush Administration official proposing these things, we’d be pissed.  Things start to get hot, however, when later in the article Greenwald makes note of the recently uncovered relationship between “independent health care modeling expert” Jon Gruber and the Obama Administration, namely a $400,000 contract to provide cost estimates on the impacts of various reform proposals.  This is a guy who is an MIT health economist, technical expert and leader in the field.  It’s definitely a good thing that lawmakers are relying on technical experts to help craft new laws that will have sweeping impact on society.  But he has repeatedly failed to disclose his financial ties to the current reform effort, even as he advocates for it (op-eds, NYT, WaPo, etc) and is in turn held out as a technical expert by senators, administration officials, etc, trying to sell their plan.

Krugman leaps to Gruber’s defense (and his own), not because the guy’s actions were particularly defensible, but because the revelations have the potential to be politically damaging in this final hour of healthcare reform.  (These shady things are supposed to come out after the fact, not during!)  He closes with this:

And here’s the thing: by claiming that there’s a huge scandal when nothing worse happened than insufficient care about disclosure, Greenwald and the people at FDL are actually reducing our ability to call foul on real corruption. After all, if everything is a scandal, nothing is a scandal. One of these days, perhaps soon, we’ll have a genuinely corrupt administration again — but when whistleblowers try to call attention to the misdeeds, you can be sure that there will be claims that “even liberals said that Obama did things just as bad or worse.”  The crusade against Gruber is getting really destructive.

As I had hoped, Greenwald responded to Krugman this morning, and pretty much dismantled his argument with the Vulcan logic we’ve come to expect.

For me, this is the nub of the matter.  I couldn’t disagree more with Krugman’s claim here, as he has it exactly backwards.  What will make it impossible to effectively call out wrongdoing by future corrupt administrations (by which Krugman seems to mean:  Republican administrations) is the willingness of some people to tolerate and defend corruption when done by “their side.”  The next time we have what Krugman calls a “genuinely corrupt administration” which, say, secretly pays people they’re holding out as “independent” experts, the administration’s defenders will say:  “how can you possibly object to our doing this when Obama did it, and not only did you fail to object then, but you defended it?”

I don’t expect Krugman will respond further to this, if for no other reason than it will continue to give oxygen to the controversy.  In many ways this dispute epitomizes the burgeoning grudge match on the left between those who are Democratic true believers, and those who are willing to cry foul no matter who is in charge.  I’m sympathetic to both sides (which I previously would not be, had we not just lived through the Bush administration) and am curious what others think about this.  Here’s those links again:

Greenwald argument

Krugman rebuttal

Greenwald rebuttal


Marcy Wheeler rebuttal, responding to claims from Krugles that she’s a scandal-monger

The Dean has Spoken

Pull the plug!

Yes indeed, this bill is now officially terrible. The obvious outcomes are higher insurance costs for all, millions of people forced to buy overpriced crappy insurance from ‘non profit’ fronts of for profit companies, and millions of pissed off middle class folks that will be forced to buy crappy insurance out of their own pocket. I’m fine with paying higher taxes to expand medicaid and/or medicare, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to support an insurance company giveaway.

Congratulations pussies. You’ve gobbled up all the poison pills they fed you.
I heard Mitch McConnell describe the trajectory of public support for ‘Obama’s’ healthcare plan…it peaked in the late summer/early fall and is now tanking. I guess he didn’t notice that the decline also coincided with all the compromises to the conservatives’ crappy ideas?

I nominate Dean for Hero of the Week for standing up to this shit. Please tell me I’m missing something…

Bernin’ up the floor

Maybe relative to the Clinton’s attempt, we can praise this current round of healthcare ‘reform’ as a step in the right direction. I will not be one of those people. What happened today was classic Republican gaming of the system to avoid a vote on the proposal that makes the most sense, allowing people to buy into Medicare if they want to.

Tonight I give you Bernie ‘the mad socialist’ Sanders:

“The day will come, although I recognize it’s not today, when the U.S. Congress will have to vote to stand up to … all those who profit every single year off of human sickness,” Sanders said. “That day will come.”

Some day, Bernie, but for now rest assured that if you don’t support making a profit off of literally everything, especially human suffering, you are not an American but a wild haired Russia loving socialist. This clip is some classic Bernie.

Franken v. Thune

Here is some quality Senatorialization on the part of Al Franken today….  As you watch this, keep in mind that Sen. Thune is being groomed as the Republican Obama of 2012 – the young, handsome senator with no record and no baggage, on whose persona the teabaggers of America can project all their hopes and dreams…

Republican congressmen are worthless.  Smack ’em down!


Joe Lieberman, Hypocrite

I had to put a moratorium on posts about the healthcare reform effort, because after awhile, as noted in the comments, the sheer mountain of hypocrisy begins to crush one’s soul. These asshole senators criticize government-run health insurance on the grounds that it is too expensive, even though every reputable study shows that it dramatically lowers the overall cost of healthcare.  Last week it seemed like the public option got pushed down a flight of stairs in the senate negotiations, only to land on its feet in the form of Medicare buy-in for people aged 55-64.  Not the greatest, but not too shabby either!  It’s basically the middle of the road proposal Ted Kennedy was working on a few years ago.  I’m especially partial to this particular compromise, because I know for a fact it would provide direct relief to my in-laws, who, as members of the 55-64 demographic, are stuck in medical insurance hell purgatory (not to be confused with the poor bankrupted individuals who really are in medical insurance hell).

My father-in-law retired a few years ago from his job at, of all places, an insurance company, because the stress of working for those fiends was affecting his health.   So he took another job in order to keep some health benefits, this time at a health clinic.  He’s a network engineer, and he was tasked with bringing their woeful computer system into the 21st century.  Right after he finished the upgrade, the fuckers cut his health benefits.  Curious timing, that!

Thus began the quest for a 55-year old couple to find private health insurance.  And guess what?  It’s damn near impossible.  All plans were prohibitively expensive.  Finally they got hooked up with AARP, which got them a plan that they could afford, but really only protects against catastrophic illness.  All other costs (doctors visits, etc) are basically paid out of pocket.  And they are still 10 years away from qualifying for Medicare.

So the Medicare buy-in compromise has resonance with me, and I hope they pull it off.  Naturally Lieberman has to come shit on everything.  As Ezra Klein put it:

Lieberman was invited to participate in the process that led to the Medicare buy-in. His opposition would have killed it before liberals invested in the idea. Instead, he skipped the meetings and is forcing liberals to give up yet another compromise. Each time he does that, he increases the chances of the bill’s failure that much more. And if there’s a policy rationale here, it’s not apparent to me, or to others who’ve interviewed him. At this point, Lieberman seems primarily motivated by torturing liberals. That is to say, he seems willing to cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in order to settle an old electoral score.

God damn right!  Apparently, this post hit a nerve, because Ezra is now under attack from the various spineless suckling creatures affixed to the underside of Lieberman’s droopy balls for rudely bringing up the subject of needless deaths.  it’s bad form, you see.  Even though, you know, it’s the moral imperative for this whole god awful initiative.

But I’m not posting this to focus on blogger wars.  What kills me is this (h/t Greg Sargent):

If you’re like me and can’t stand to listen to that punk speak for the full two minutes, let me paraphrase for you.  He voices his support for Medicare buy-in.  This was taken from an interview THREE MONTHS AGO.

Fucking.  Swine.  At what point does Lieberman get reviled by polite society?  I’m thinking one last job for Blackwater before they go…  I’m sure there’s an old Yoo memo still kicking around somewhere that ought to cover it.


Why am I not surprised

Nearly 15 years ago, two Democratic senators — Joe Lieberman and Tom Harkin — decided that the filibuster had become an institutional menace. They called the parliamentary maneuver a “dinosaur” that had become “a symbol of a lot that ails Washington today,” and presented a plan to kill the filibuster once and for all…

Ironically, Lieberman is now a “dinosaur” that has become “a symbol of a lot that ails Washington today”.

Restless Vagina Syndrome

Here’s a great article on the latest USA RULES! Health Care Debacle. Big Pharma is creating a new disease called Restless Vagina Syndrome. The “disease” is actually called female sexual dysfunction (FSD), and the pharmaceutical industry wants to help. Or is this going to be the next thing that men slip into women’s drinks?

And if I may interject what most old women probably think when their old husbands feel the need to artificially inflate their egos, so to speak…take it away Wanda!

Here is a totally opposite use of restless vagina syndrome…don’t slip this in the drinks….


This post deserves music… (can you guess what’s coming?)

Slouching towards Bethlehem

Here’s Glenn Greenwald on Maddow last night talking about the flagrant insurance company whoredom of senators Evan Bayh and Joseph Lieberman.  Unsurprisingly, the same two who have made the most noise about killing the public option.  For shame!

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[UPDATE – Here’s additional reading on Bayh’s ties

His wife, Susan Bayh, sits on the board of WellPoint(WLP Quote) in her hometown of Indianapolis. Over the last six years, Susan Bayh has received at least $2 million in compensation from WellPoint alone for serving on its board.

She joined Anthem Insurance (the precursor organization to WellPoint) in 1998, when she was 38 years old and a midlevel attorney working for Eli Lilly (LLY Quote). Her work experience prior to her stint at Lilly was five years as a junior law professor at Butler University in Indianapolis. Her work background at the time she was appointed to the Anthem board would have been surprising, given that she had no insurance experience and was relatively young and inexperienced to serve as a director on a multibillion-dollar board.

… and Lieberman’s lies

When he was seeking reelection in 2006, Joe Lieberman campaigned as a supporter of healthcare reform and expressed his support for “universal healthcare.” When the rubber hit the road, however, Lieberman emerged as a frontline warrior for the healthcare industry in its efforts to block reform. Yesterday, he not only noted his opposition to the very modest public option contained in the legislation that Majority Leader Harry Reid put forward, he also stated that he would cross the aisles to support a Republican filibuster. Should we be surprised? No. Lieberman has long been one of the industry’s favorite players on the hill, accepting more than $1 million in campaign contributions from the insurance industry and more than $600,000 from pharmaceuticals and related healthcare-products companies. But his ties run deeper than that. His wife Hadassah previously worked for two lobbying firms, Hill & Knowlton and APCO, handling matters for their healthcare and pharmaceuticals clients.


Also, building on some sentiments to which I alluded in the last post, here’s Ezra Klein putting the public option with opt-out clause into proper perspective.

In the Senate, this is about to become the “liberal” half of the debate. But it’s not very liberal at all. It is a compromise, and a conservative one at that.

For the real liberals, the public option was already a compromise from single-payer. For the slightly less radical folks, the public option that’s barred from partnering with Medicare to maximize the government’s buying power was a compromise down from a Medicare-like insurance plan. For the folks even less radical than that, the public option that states can “opt out” of is a compromise from the straight public option. Access to the public option will be a political question settled at the state level. It is not a settled matter of national policy.

In many ways, this is a fundamentally conservative approach to a liberal policy experiment. It’s only offered to individuals eligible for the insurance exchanges, which is a small minority of the population. The majority of Americans who rely on employer-based insurance would not be allowed to choose the exchanges. From there, it is only one of many options on the exchange, and only in states that choose to have it. In other words, it has been designed to preserve the status quo and be decided on the state level. Philosophically, these are major compromises liberals have made on this plan. They should get credit for that.

And yet we should expect to see this bill watered down even further before it craps out the end of Congress.  I’m guessing they will ultimately pass this by taking a few last kicks at the usual victims – restricting abortions and immigrant access, that kind of thing.  It’s a caveman mentality.  They can’t be satisfied unless someone gets hit with a club.

William Butler Yeats:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?