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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Wade Rathke and Health Care Reform

When I interviewed Wade Rathke for the third time, he recounted a story from the 1970's in which proponents of welfare reform wound up killing a reform package because it didn't go far enough.

He also said that the public option wasn't a litmus test for his support. He went back nearly four decades to frame the issue. In the early 1970's, welfare rights groups he had previously been alligned with were fighting for welfare reform. They wanted a bill that would give a family of four earning less than $5,500 welfare benefits of $5500 when unemployed. The bill proposed $1800. So, the groups opposed the plan. By doing so, they actually joined forces with conservative groups who wanted the bill to give zero. The bill was defeated. So, sometimes, it's better to get some of what you want than be an ideological purist and oppose unless you get all.

There's members of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party that appear determined to repeat that history. Here's how Howard Dean characterized the compromise.

In a blow to the bill grinding through the Senate, Howard Dean bluntly called for the bill to be killed in a pre-recorded interview set to air later this afternoon, denouncing it as “the collapse of health care reform in the United States Senate,” the reporter who conducted the interview tells me.

Dean said the removal of the Medicare buy-in made the bill not worth supporting, and urged Dem leaders to start over with the process of reconciliation in the interview, which is set to air at 5:50 PM today on Vermont Public Radio, political reporter Bob Kinzel confirms to me. The gauntlet from Dean — whose voice on health care is well respsected among liberals — will energize those on the left who are mobilizing against the bill, and make it tougher for liberals to embrace the emerging proposal.

Markos Maloutsos has a similar though not as tough a thought.

My take is that it's unconscionable to force people to buy a product from a private insurer that enjoys sanctioned monopoly status. It'd be like forcing everyone to attend baseball games, but instead of watching the Yankees, they were forced to watch the Kansas City Royals. Or Washington Nationals. It would effectively be a tax -- and a huge one -- paid directly to a private industry.

Without any mechanisms to control costs, this is yet another bailout for yet another reviled industry. Subsidies? Insurance companies are free to raise their rates to absorb that cash. More money for subsidies? More rate increases, as well as more national debt. Don't expect Lieberman and his ilk to care. They're in it for their industry pals.

If you want a similar model, watch how universities increase tuition to absorb increased financial aid opportunities. And since the Senate and its industry-bought Senators won't allow insurance premium caps or an end to the insurance industry's anti-trust exemption (much less a public option to compete against them), there is nothing keeping those companies from jacking up rates to screw people. In fact, that's been their modus operandi for years.

Meanwhile, Arianna Huffington calls it "absurd" to "cede health care reform to Joe Lieberman". Roland Burris still hasn't committed to the compromise. The far left is ready to lay down the marker. Either health care reform will have what they want in it or they are ready to kill it. The far left will then put pressure on the Russ Feingold's and Bernie Sanders of the world and attempt to force a showdown over health care reform.

It's unclear what they think they will accomplish. There aren't the votes to pass health care reform with the public option. So, that would mean they'd want to kill the bill. It's much like the situation that Rathke described. Supporters of health care reform are on the brink of going for nothing if they don't get everything. They're ready to create the surreal situation in which Russ Feingold would vote with Jim DeMint.

Opponents, like me, would like nothing more than to watch the far left do its damdest to sabotage health care reform because they didn't get everything they want. There's nothing better than having your opponents arrange a circular firing squad and begin firing. They're not there quite yet, but their rifles are loaded and they're ready to fire.

1 comment:

Wellescent Health said...

While the most liberal may try to kill the bill because it doesn't go far enough, I think more likely that the Democrat cats will be herded, based on significant pressure, into passing some form of bill as the reform solution. With Obama having pushed so much effort on his reform plan, at the exclusion of other priorities, he is most likely going to twist arms to avoid the cost of defeat on this signature issue.