Fundamental Agreement on Health Care Reform

A new RNC spot, slated to air in Florida, continues the GOP’s “shock and lie” response to health care reform by pushing a “Senior’s Bill of Rights,” implying that Obama’s plan fails to protect, or infringes on the same.

Although this attack is long since discredited, it suggests a line of attack that we Democrats are missing. Two of the “rights” pushed in the ad — that we should “prohibit government from getting between seniors and their doctors” and “prohibit efforts to ration health care based on age” — are problems with the current system, at least partily abolished under the extant bill, which prevents discrimination on the basis of pre-existing conditions in public or private systems. We should be hitting this too.

Now, “I agree” strategies are generally risky, because they minimize gaps
between candidates or groups, and leave the “agreeing” party open to exploitation (remember McCain’s ads in the general). But because we’re so thoroughly losing the message game, it might be good policy to “agree” with the bill of rights, frame the current bill as a better means to the same end, and remind the public of the utter lack of an alternative plan across the aisle. At this point, it’s worth a shot.


  1. According to Rachel Maddow last night, the GOP has basically admitted they aren’t going to go along with any bill. I’m pretty psyched about this because it will force Democrats to debate each other. There’s a lot of disagreement even within Obama’s big tent and I’m looking forward to watching the fireworks.

    1. Hoping for gridlock? Mike, you’re embarassing yourself. We understand that you disagree with the Democrats’ agenda, but even the Republicans agree the system is broken. This stalling, refusal to put forward your own plan, and willingness to nakedly lie about our plan just proves that the GOP cares about
      nothing but its own health, and exploiting their opponents whenever possible, not about actually helping the American people. This is why your party lost big
      last time and, god willing, will never govern again. If conservatism is about nothing other than shutting everyone else down, your ideology has finally achieved the failure it so desperately sought. Congratulations.

      1. Ames, We can change the terminology and this conversation could easily be about Social Security circa 2004, so spare me the sky-is-falling scenario. Is there any remorse on your end for killing social security reform when both sides agree that the system is broken? Or are you going to tell me how Democrats’ obstruction then was completely different than Republican obstruction now?

        The point is, Democrats have the votes they need to get their agenda through. They don’t need Republican support and I find it incredibly hard to swallow that even the best possible plan the GOP could put forward would be embraced or even considered.

        I can’t figure out why Democrats like yourself pretend that you want conservative input. Is it so you have the cover of bipartisanship if it fails? When liberals dream at night they see universal healthcare, not a hybrid system that would please the Right…so why don’t Democrats take their 60 votes and get something done?

        Oh…wait….i forgot….not ALL Democrats like the plan on the table and a lot of them will not support it. But hey, you should still blame the GOP for that. maybe we hypnotized them when you weren’t looking.

      2. Looks like I’m not alone in my opinion:

        “And spare me the whining about how the Republicans don’t have a better plan. They don’t have the White House. They don’t have the Senate. They don’t have the House. They don’t have to have a better argument than the claim that the Democrats’ plan isn’t better than the status quo. It’s not as if the Democrats shot down Social Security in 2005 and have now done something better.”

  2. Mike,
    Fireworks at the expense of real change ot a failed system are not ggod for the country. And Republicans sitting on their hands because they aren’t in charge anymore isn’t good for the country either.

    1. That’s assuming you accept the notion that healthcare is the pressing issue liberals claim it is. Just because President Obama and the ghost of Ted Kennedy say it’s the issue of our time doesn’t mean the Right has to agree.

      Why aren’t the Democrats using the 60 votes they have?

      1. Isn’t that the point? It isn’t just liberals versus you, as much as you’d like to say it is. But people who aren’t usually behind health care reform went into this agreeing with a level of reform (a majority of americans, hospitals, insurance companies, pharmaceutical).

        Besides, health care reform has always been a list topper of concerns in polling. It’s just that now that a Democrat is pushing reform, you can say, oh wait, no everything is fine.

        I think even if they disagree with Democrats, most republicans still think we need some reform. There’s a reason it’s nearly always a top 3 issue for Americans in polling. Even if you personally are sitting pretty.

        It was harder to find than I thought, but I found polling back almost every year from at least 2004 where health care was a top 3 concern

        Even if you personally are sitting pretty with your health care.

        1. Wait until all these baby boomers start cashing their social security checks and see where SS ranks in the polling.

          1. I’m not saying it’s not important or not linked, just that you’re saying health care isn’t a “pressing issue” right now, even though people have been saying it is.

            And instead bring up something that while most agree is important, no one sees it as a crisis and it won’t come up for years.

            1. I’m saying it’s equally pressing. If SS collapses under the weight of the baby boomers it will affect far more people in far worse ways than healthcare does.

              1. Um, Mike? Social Security is just fine. Will be until 2047, at which point it’ll have to cut back on benefit payout, unless we find a way to put more money into the trust fund. Like, maybe, I don’t know, abandoning the two foreign wars we’re fighting right now that cost us upwards of $20 billion each month? Just a thought.

                1. The time to act on a projected bankruptcy is not 40 years from now (and the latest estimates have been moved back to 2037 and 2017 for Medicare). All that is happening by ignoring it now is to kick the can down the road.

                  The larger point I am making is that each party has their own notion of what is important. When you factor in illegal aliens, kids who are already covered under S-Chip and the voluntarily uninsured the true number of people with no healthcare in this country is minimal. This is an exaggerated problem and for every anecdotal story liberals tell about someone with no healthcare there are equivelant stories about someone who chose not to have it.

                  1. Mike, you are correct about the moved estimates. Mea culpa. The rest of your comment is a tissue of lies, distortions, and half-truths, as usual. It’s really too bad you’ve bought the party line on this, because you’re getting fucked just like the rest of us.

                    1. I’ve got full coverage, dental and vision. I’m nowhere near fucked. To the contrary, I find that holding a steady job is a passport to all kinds of great hings, healthcare just being one of them.

            2. But your comments seem to contradict, you keep saying oh health care isn’t as pressing as Democrats say, and then in your next breath seemed to imply we’re all going to be doomed by a failing SS any moment now.

              But if you insist they’re equally pressing, I’m still not quite sold on the immediacy of SS reform since you imply immediacy is what is running the argument. It’s not the best answer, but you can always move a couple of numbers around in SS and make it solvent for decades longer than the estimated 2037 problem.

              But health care is a prime concern for Americans (despite your claim that everything is fine), so government is doing what the people think needs reform, (whether or not they agree with Obama is a different measure).

              I believe we still have people at the table who usually aren’t (insurance companies, pharmaceutical, health care representatives), so there’s really no better time than now.

              When trying to pass SS reform, Bush couldn’t even get AARP to come along (but I admit this may change for Obama too).

              1. The insurance companies, etc are there because the Whitehouse told them it’s their only hope for survival. The see the writing on the wall. Democrats control the Whitehouse and Congress. They would prefer universal healthcare. The cooperation of the healthcare industry is the only way that goal will be slowed down.

                The best way to tell if a problem is being over-hyped is when the proponents need to tell lots of horrible stories to the American people because a majority aren’t aware there even is a problem. Healthcare is a real concern for a slim group of people. We already have government-provided healthcare. It’s called Medicare, Medicaid and S-Chip. Tell me who doesn’t have healthcare and doesn’t qualify for any of those programs and I’ll show you people that are either here illegally or have chosen not to be insured.

                1. Again, at least top 3 polled concern for at LEAST the past 5 years. Sometimes number 1 of social issues.

                  I’m just saying, you’re wrong, people think health care should be a priority for the president and congress. Want me to give you every poll I can find with what they think Congress should have their priorities being every year?

                  The only time I saw that it disappeared was post-9/11, for obvious reasons.

                  I don’t care what reason the insurance companies are on board, if you have the people on board who are willing to change to make things better, you take that opportunity.

                  1. I’d bet that if you asked people why they answered that way they would say it was cost, not a lack of coverage. Those are two separate issues.

                    1. I agree, two separate issues. But lack of coverage is only part of the reform.

                    2. But the cost reductions are much more agreeable to the Right. It’s when the public option starts getting thrown aronud that the debate falls apart.

                2. Here, 2007:


                  2002-2005: Lists numbers for it’s priority. It goes up and down (always above social security).

                  Health care costs is a common concern for Americans at least for the last decade. Even if you don’t think it should be or is.

        2. I like how you just made a comment about health care not being important right now, and then go into social security which has even less immediacy.

          1. I think they are at the minimum equally important. All social programs are linked. Social Security is linked to Medicare. Medicare is linked to the larger healthcare debate. To ignore one is to ignore all.

    2. There’s 300,000,000 people living in this country, more or less. How is a system that consumes more resources to keep that number from going down good for the country?

  3. Well, if the Republicans don’t want to play ball anymore, there’s no real reason to involve them in the process at all, is there? Maybe the White House should simply lay down what they want introduced, and such Democratic opposition as there may be can choose between playing along or go down in history as the people who shot down one of their President’s most important policy proposals.

    I fear that Obama may be too tied up by his consensus-building community organizer past to play that kind of game, though.

    1. You’re forgetting the politics. Without GOP support the Left has no bipartisan cover when/if this blows up in their faces.

      1. I think if they don’t hurry up and get their act together and back on-message – or for that matter, find a message to get on in the first place – things look pretty bleak for this reform anyway. Seems like a question of the lesser evil, really.

  4. In reply to Mike’s comment above: Okay. If you’d turn to p. 22 in this 2007 US Census report, you’ll find some actual numbers.

    I’m looking forward to seeing how the majority of these 45 million people – US citizens below the age of 65 with a household income above $25,000 – either magically get turned into illegal aliens or are proven to be “voluntarily uninsured”.

    1. I’m looking at this section here:

      Household Income
      A) Less than $25,000.
      B) $25,000 to $49,999
      C) $50,000 to $74,999
      D) $75,000 or more

      Number Uninsured
      A) 55,856,000
      B) 72,582,000
      C) 58,555,000
      D) 109,831,000

      I see almost twice as many people in the $75,000+ bracket uninsured. Why do you think they are insured? Or what about the two other brackets above $25,000 which also have more people. Why are they uninsured? Are all of those people uninsured by no fault of their own?

      1. Those are the total number of people in the brackets. The 2007 number of uninsured are:

        A) 13,539,000
        B) 14,515,000
        C) 8,488,000
        D) 9,115,000

        Or, as a %-age of the total in each:

        A) 24.5%
        B) 21.06%
        C) 14.55%
        D) 7.81%

        In other words, a comparatively larger number of the poorer parts of society are uninsured. And before you start talking about Medicaid and such again, I’m sure you know at least as well as I do that the eligibility requirements for those programs are quite strict, and a low income in itself is rarely sufficient to qualify.

        Now, I don’t doubt that some of these uninsured may have “chosen” to be so, but there are two problems with that: Firstly, I’m not sure how you’d even measure something like that reliably, so that seems like guesswork at best. But if you have them, I’d love to see some numbers, of course.

        And secondly, all else being equal, there must be reasons why otherwise eligible choose not to be insured, so you can’t just handwave that away as “personal choice” and assume everything is working just fine – that in itself could be a symptom of significant systemic flaws, such as obscure rules and processes, or excessive levels of bureaucracy.

        1. So there’s over 17 million Americans making $50,000+ and they have no insurance. I’m really curious why they can’t afford COBRA or something similar. I’ve been working for 19 years now. I’ve never been without health insurance. And that was when I was younger and working very, very unskilled jobs. I still had health insurance. The couple of times i was between jobs, I used COBRA. It was affordable and took care of things.

          So to be honest, i’m not even going to look at people in those brackets because they can afford coverage.

          So then you look at the rest of them. All the kids are covered, so that reduces the numbers considerably. Then you have a certain % that are foreign residents and not citizens. Throw those out too. Then you have those who qualify for Medicaid or Medicare. So you throw them out. What are we left with? Not a huge number. So here’s what I propose: Expand Medicaid to cover anyone who is unemployed for 12 months. Link it to unemployment benifits. So how many people are we left with then? An even smaller number.

          I don’t deny that there is a problem with some Americans not having health insurance through no fault of their own. What I DO dispute is that the number is anywhere near the huge number liberals throw around.

          1. My experience with COBRA was that it can be very expensive.


            I do like the idea of expanding medicaid to be part of unemployment benefits, as that would cover the fears a lot of Americans have.

            Really, I don’t believe a Public Option is absolutely essential – what we need is to get more people covered with more affordable care for everyone and reform so that those people who need it most – sick people, even those with pre-existing conditions – don’t lose their coverage or get locked out. I think a Public Option is one of the ways to achieve that, and a good way.

            Honestly, I see no reason why health insurance should be a for-profit venture, and so I am not sympathetic to the concerns of the industry.

            1. It’s for-profit in the same way home insurance and car insurance is. I mean, what if I said that if my house burned down I have Right to get new housing? That’s the sort of slippery slope we end up on.

              I think a LOT of concerns could be alleviated if we had insurance co-ops.

        2. Honestly speaking, Mike, I can’t be bothered to take your vague claims seriously until you provide some sources to back them up.

          (Conservatives often make statements motivated more by ideology than fact.)

          However, I must admit I was intrigued by this little part: “Then you have a certain % that are foreign residents and not citizens. Throw those out too.”

          Um, why? You think foreigners don’t get sick? Or do you just think they don’t deserve health care? I’ll be sure to keep that in mind if I ever think about getting a job in the US.

          1. Foreign-born, non-citizen…why do they need US government-provided healthcare? If they are here on a work visa, then the employer should provided the coverage. If they are here on vacation from a country with socailized medicine, American hospitals should be able to petition their governments for reimbursement of expenses. If they are here illegally…tough shit. (And to be clear – I’m not talking about denying them emergency care. But if Jose has the flu and he’s here illegally, he can head back across the Rio Grande for his doctor’s visit.)

            1. Mike, why aren’t you talking about denying them emergency health care? Life isn’t a right, so by extension health care isn’t a right, and why should we care what happens to any individual who’s a stranger?

            2. Not all employers offer health care coverage. And permanent residents get unemployed or develop pre-existing conditions just like everyone else. So do their families. Why should they be treated differently?

              We’re not just talking about José the Stereotypical Illegal Alien, but also Mr Chandratre the IT professional from Mumbai, Mr Krawiec the plumber from Warszawa, Mr Wong the laundry owner from Guangzhou, or for that matter Mr Featherstonhaugh the landscape architect from Nether Poppleton-upon-Blyth, all of them fine and upstanding gentlemen (if also somewhat stereotypical) with their Green Cards in order and a long history of contributions to American society. What should they do if they find themselves without coverage? Is it just to be “Thanks very much, now get out”?

          2. I don’t know which facts you need, but isn’t that just it? When statistics are compiled about the uninsured, they don’t drill down into the Why, which is an important question. For someone to make $50,000 /year or more and not have health insurance…don’t you think it’s important to find out why they don’t? Liberals just don’t seem to care as to the reasons. They think if someone lacks it must be because they were a victim of circumstance and the government should offer them redress.

          3. Actually, I’m very interested in finding out why these people don’t have insurance (unlike conservatives who stick their heads in the sand and just write everything off as “personal choice”), because as I said just above, “…that in itself could be a symptom of significant systemic flaws…” – debts, or uninsurability due to pre-existing conditions, for instance.

            Anyway, I’d like you to support these statements a little better, preferably by reference to studies or other sources?

            “So to be honest, i’m not even going to look at people in those brackets because they can afford coverage.”

            “All the kids are covered” (Every single kid? I understand that even programs such as SCHIP have eligibility requirements and caps, which vary from state to state.)

            “Then you have those who qualify for Medicaid or Medicare.” (There are only 686,000 uninsured above 65, or a negligible 1.5%, so that’s not really relevant. But as far as Medicaid is concerned, more precisely how many do you think would be eligible?)

            “What are we left with? Not a huge number.” (I’m not sure, but I’m looking forward to getting a precise figure. I mean, obviously you must have one, since I wouldn’t think you’re just doing the usual conservative thing of pulling assumptions out of the air.)

            “So how many people are we left with then? An even smaller number.” (I’m still not really sure here.)

            1. You already have the numbers. I laid out the math. Take out the groups I mentioned and you’ve got a much more accurate picture of the uninsured.

              SCHIP covered 6.6 million children and 670,000 adults at some point during fiscal year 2006. In February of 2009 a new law was signed which expanded SCHIP to cover an additional 4 million children. When you factor in that probably another 400,000 parents will be included that brings the total to 11 million covered by SCHIP alone.

              1. It appears the President has also downgraded the number of uninsured, using basically the same math I outlined above.

                From Megan McArdle:

                “Byron York notes that Obama started talking about 30 million uninsured citizens tonight, rather than 47 million “people in this country”. The question is, why? Politicians don’t usually underplay their most dramatic statistic.

                I can explain most of it with this table. There were 45,657,000 people without insurance in the 2007 Census estimate. 12,388,000 of those were foreign born, and 9,737,000 were not citizens, leaving 33,269,000. I assume Obama is leaving room to ensure that no one can claim that he is going to cover illegal immigrants (or for that matter, legal ones). But that still leaves 3 million people unaccounted for.”

  5. Speaking of agreement on health care, can I just say, this video alone makes me glad Franken got elected:

    Franken talks an anti-healthcare-reform protesters down

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