States going to court over healthcare

The new health care reform bill achieves much of its savings by passing off unfunded mandates to the states – and those state budgets aren’t exactly in a position to absorb large new spending plans.

Meanwhile, some employers are weighing the cost of fines against the cost of rapidly rising insurance premiums, and starting to wonder if it might just be much cheaper to drop employee coverage outright. At most, they’d be required to pay a fine equal to 8% of the worker’s wages – medical costs are closer to 18% of GDP and that means a worker’s insurance costs are likely to be more like 20-25% of their salary since their children and spouses are also covered.

In response, there is a growing movement for legal relief in the federal courts.  Currently, 20 states have signed on to the suit seeking to prevent the healthcare legislation from moving forward.

Complaints about the health reform package will take on many forms:  from questions about the legal role of the federal government and their constitutional legitimacy, to concerns that small businesses and independent contractors will be left out in the cold (once again.)

Conservative violence undermines legit healthcare criticisms

I’m not a particular fan of this health insurance reform legislation. Don’t get me wrong, I think we need serious health care reform in America, but I’m not particularly excited about guaranteeing millions of new customers for a broken system. I’m not looking forward to supporting this system when the mandates kick in – even if my own out of pocket contribution is just a small fraction of what the government pays on my behalf, I’ll feel ripped off.

But any legitimate concerns about the legislation will be drowned out in a growing chorus of violence and threatening rhetoric. Already, politicians and their families have faced death threats and attempts at sabotage, and the discussion on right-wing echo chambers is increasingly radicalized.

There are legitimate reasons to dislike this bill, but the rational arguments are more likely to be considered “further left” in relation to the American political debate. Real reform will have to go far beyond private insurance and toward a goal of basic universal coverage in a low-overhead non-profit environment.

Federal Popularity Plunges Again

The federal government isn’t a very popular institution these days, and despite a boost under the Obama brand, the public attitude toward D.C. is once again slipping toward some combination of disgust and apathy.  Disgust because of the things they do and the ways they waste our money, and apathy for the fact that we know we’re essentially powerless to stop them.

While Obama support is still running neck-and-neck with opposition, Congress and the healthcare plan have not fared so well.

Currently, about 20% or 1 in 5 Americans is confident in the job being done by Congress – 75% or 3 in 4 Americans think Congress is doing a poor job.  Obviously, this can’t be explained away by partisanship.  Its clear instead that Democrats as well as Republicans are becoming frustrated with the priorities and “solutions” being offered by federal legislation.

On healthcare, Americans have been turning against the proposal since the public option was gutted.  For every further compromise that has been made, they’ve lost even more supporters – and now just less than 40% of Americans still want the plan to go through.  It was over 50% in June, but they were discussing a much different bill at that time.  (Coincidentally, the more popular version would have been less generous to the established insurance cartel, so Congress had to fix that!)

And finally, for the direction of the country and where we are headed:  About 1 in 3 Americans are happy with the path they see, but 2 in 3 are worried about the future because of the choices we’re making today.

Will the politicians realize that they don’t have the legitimate support of popular opinion behind their acts?  Well, they probably do realize already – but they also know that doesn’t stop them from spending insane amounts of money to build up strategic alliances and personal wealth..

Healthcare debate on TV

Since TV is what Americans actually spend time on, Obama has decided to bring the debate to the people.

On February 25th, you might get a chance to watch the circus in high-def.  But we wouldn’t call this definite just yet, because Republican leaders are claiming that they haven’t heard anything “official” yet.  While Obama is speaking of the event as a certainty, there’s no sign that anyone else is quite as sure about whether or not it will actually happen.
There are quite a few reasons, in fact, why neither Republicans nor Democrats would want to be seen publicly defending their ridiculous positions.  For the Republicans, there basically is no argument other than to stop Democrats and therefor preserve the status quo.  While this rallies those who particularly fear or hate the Democrat’s plan, it doesn’t win over that vast majority that is unhappy with the current healthcare situation.

For Democrats, they’re going to be forced to answer why their solutions all involve caving in to the various lobbying interests that have conspired to advance their own self interest at the cost of the broader public.

Then again, who will really call the other out on their sins and who has the credibility to make such an accusation stick in the minds of voters?

If there’s a debate, we’ll be lucky to hear anything truly substantial beyond a few career public speakers trying to score points with witty remarks and snappy comebacks.

CSPAN Dares Democrats to Broadcast Health Debate

The House and Senate have each passed their own versions of the healthcare bill, and now before Obama can sign it all they’ll have to do is work out the differences and come up with something that both chambers can agree on.

Now, there are quite a few differences in the bills, with the House version being a small help to some poor people and the Senate bill largely being a massive corporate give-away, so there’s quite a bit of interest among the voters and political analysts as to which one will ultimately shape the law of the land.

The CEO of CSPAN is even offering to help the Democrats publicize their “great” reform of a critical social system – but the party’s leadership doesn’t seem too interested in showing their constituents how this money-stuffed sausage is made.

Of course, its not like reconciliation of other legislation gets broadcast on cable TV, so this isn’t a new trend toward secrecy (its just the old one we’re used to by now.)  Instead, CSPAN is giving the Democrats a chance to live up to Obama’s campaign ideals of open discussions and transparent political processes.  Only problem here is that publicizing the political process is unlikely to win them many fans – especially as they’ve gone out of their way to make sure the insurance companies are the #1 group represented by said reform.

A public conference would probably require Congress to stand up for the common voting folk, but it would do incredible damage to their ability to raise funds and deliver on the expectations of their corporate sponsors.

I won’t be holding my breath for live coverage of the legislative reconciliation process, but I’m getting the popcorn ready for what will promise to be an interesting public response to an incredibly unpopular bill.  Aren’t you glad to know that you’ll be forced into buying an inefficient product from a publicly traded for-profit business?

A Healthcare (Insurance) Nightmare

Congress keeps compromising and tweaking their “healthcare reform overhaul” legislation, and every step it gets toward the number of needed votes is a disaster for the actual American people.

By last count, the public option is completely gone, but all U.S. citizens will still be forced by the threat of penalty to buy a private insurance plan. Although there are some regulations in how these private providers can set prices and make their services available, the biggest change for private insurance companies will be that the government is magically coming in to swoop up all the 55 and older folks.

As Medicare absorbs all the older people, the real risk of the insurance companies will drop close to zero – at the same time they have a captive market of 18-55 year olds with little choice in whether or not they want to participate. Fundamentally, the young will subsidize corporate insurance profits, while also paying the taxes necessary to take care of the 55 and older crowd.

Unfortunately, all of the good jobs are still being held by the 50-60 year olds!

Unemployment is a nightmare for the under 30 crowd, and so many people have never officially become a part of the work force because they never got a job after finishing college.

I’ve had enough of this messing around – I’m ready to see Congress come up with a plan for universal coverage that doesn’t simply put pressure on those who haven’t yet bought coverage. If you want everyone under the government’s protection, go ahead and do it.

Just don’t dare force us into supporting private profitability under the guise of doing some great social charity…

Senate Votes Down Public Option

Two amendments aimed at providing a public healthcare option were shot down in the Senate Tuesday.

A large minority of Democratic senators are are caving in to insurance pressure, and just a few of the most corrupt Senators have taken up as champions of a public option.  Perhaps they’re trying to reclaim some credibility as blue working-class heros, but the party’s Senate leadership seems dead-set on selling out their constituency.

Blue collar democrats are stuck in an abusive and financially draining relationship – but if they leave, where can they go?

Healthcare – Private profits, public mandate

Max Baucus has a plan for healthcare, but it is as bad or worse as doing nothing.

As if to prove what is wrong with the corporate and political environment in America, Baucus wants us to believe that using public force to enforce private profitability is a key to staying healthy and wealthy.

This plan would mandate health insurance to all Americans without providing a non-profit public option.  It also wouldn’t address the costs of becoming a doctor, the legal costs of fighting frivolous lawsuits and malpractice insurance, or the health costs of all of the crap the FDA approves as food and medicine.

What it would do, is add millions of new customers to the health insurance rolls.

Good job, Max!  Way to earn those corporate contributions.

Will Obama support this plan or fire back with a new media offensive and round of speeches?  The campaign version of Obama opposed mandates and the issue has become quite a topic for debate between limo liberals and their blue-collared minions.  Despite the theoretical macro-benefits of mandated insurance, the move alone won’t do much if anything to address the affordability of the insurance coverage for those individuals who couldn’t afford it in the first place.

So we have to wonder.  Is the problem that Americans can’t afford insurance, or is the problem just that they’re choosing to buy something else?  The facts show we spend more per capita than plenty of places with universal coverage, so I think the big problem is on the cost end.

Maybe if there was a health coverage product that Americans felt was a good value, there would be more of us signing up for it.