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Posts Tagged ‘Public Option’

Republicans Aren't Bringing a Health Reform Plan to the Summit Because They Don't Want to Reform Health Care

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Yesterday, Republican leaders finally confirmed that they weren’t going to bring a health care bill to the President’s summit tomorrow. Why? Because they don’t actually want to reform health care (emphasis added):

The Senate GOP leadership is brushing off Dan Pfeiffer’s demand this morning that Republicans clarify whether they’ll produce a bill in advance of the summit, and won’t put forth a “comprehensive proposal,” aides say.

This morning on the White House blog, Pfeiffer challenged GOP leaders to say whether they’d be bringing a bill to the summit. “The Senate Republicans have yet to post any kind of plan,” Pfeiffer wrote, adding that “we continue to await word from them.”

Asked for comment, a senior Senate GOP aide emailed:

We fundamentally disagree with a comprehensive proposal to reform health care. We think a step by step approach on areas where we agree is the best path forward. We will not be posting a comprehensive alternative to commence a staring contest.

Of course, health care advocates have known this all along. Republicans have no solutions to the crisis in our health care system because they don’t view it as a system in crisis.

However, the position that health care in this country doesn’t need fundamental reform is a dangerous position to take. Never mind that every day we go without reform, 6,821 more people lose their health insurance [pdf], 2,548 more people file for bankruptcy because they got sick, and 60 more people die [pdf] because they don’t have the coverage they need. Declaring that as a party Republicans “fundamentally disagree with a comprehensive proposal to reform health care” is radically out of step with the American people.

The latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll is only the latest in a series showing the elements of health reform are popular:

Other parts of reform are really popular too, like the public option.

And majorities want comprehensive health reform passed:

And even more will be disappointed or angry if reform doesn’t pass:

If Republicans think going with nothing is going to win them broad support, they haven’t been reading their polling.

Democrats need to work to make sure the reform that passes works for everyone in America and has the popular elements in it – they must pass health care that works for us and pass it now. Today, we’re helping to put in 1 million messages to Congress to send them that message, and Melanie’s March is arriving in DC to a huge rally with Senators attending the summit, so we’ll get to tell that message to these Senators in person.

Getting health reform done right is more than good policy for the country, it’s popular, too. And it will show America that Democrats won’t accept the party of NO’s strategy.

*This post originally appeared in Health Care For America Now on February 24, 2010. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Jason Rosenbaum is a writer and musician currently residing in Washington D.C. He is interested in the intersection of politics and culture, media consolidation issues, and making sense out of our foreign policy disasters. He currently works for Health Care for America Now and he is also the webmaster for The Seminal.

Aetna Cuts 600,000 Lives for Profit

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Aetna announced that it will deliberately cut 600,000 people from its insurance rolls to raise its profits next year:

In a third-quarter earnings conference call in late October, officials at Aetna announced that in an effort to improve on a less-than-anticipated profit margin in 2009, they would be raising prices on their consumers in 2010. The insurance giant predicted that the company would subsequently lose between 300,000 and 350,000 members next year from its national account as well as another 300,000 from smaller group accounts.

Aetna’s decision to downsize the number of clients in favor of higher premiums is, as one industry analyst told American Medical News, a “pretty candid” admission. It also reflects the major concerns offered by health care reform proponents and supporters of a public option for insurance coverage, who insist that the private health insurance industry is too consumed with the bottom line. A government-run plan would operate solely off its members’ premiums.

Aetna is saying they want to make more money on each person they insure to please Wall Street, so they are raising prices. It doesn’t matter to them if this action causes them to lose some less profitable customers, customers that actually use their health care benefits. In fact, they welcome it. They are more than happy to let these people be priced out of the market, go uninsured, go bankrupt, or lose their lives. These people are not bringing in enough money for Aetna, so Aetna would rather not have them as a customer.

Aetna is following the insurance company playbook as articulated last year by Wellpoint CEO Angela Braly when she said, “We will not sacrifice profitability for membership.” In other words, the insurance companies won’t sell health coverage to more people if it means they will make less money on each person.

They don’t care about coverage, they just care about profits. This is exactly why we must have a public health insurance option.

Health reform without a public option will not not work. The insurance industry playbook would still be on the table, and they would still find ways to cut people for more profit. Even with laws against insurance companies denying care, they would still find ways to do it.

The CBO confirms this with their analysis. Even with laws making it illegal for insurance companies to deny care, the CBO found that while the public option would keep down insurance premiums overall, it would attract less-profitable customers that the insurance companies don’t want and would refuse to insure.

There is no substitute for a public health insurance option that’s national and available everywhere on day one – no triggers. And indeed, the bill on the table in the Senate gets us there.

To those moderates who are holding out, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. There may be some things in the Senate bill you don’t agree with, but that’s no reason to deny this country the reform it needs and wants. It’s time to allow this bill to come up for a fair, majority vote in the Senate.

*This post originally appeared in SEIU Blog on December 9, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

About the Author: Jason Rosenbaum is a writer and musician currently residing in Washington D.C. He is interested in the intersection of politics and culture, media consolidation issues, and making sense out of our foreign policy disasters. He currently works for Health Care for America Now and he is also the webmaster for The Seminal.

The Senate Has a Health Care Bill. What's in It?

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Last night, the Senate unveiled their health care bill. You can read the full bill here [pdf], or the summery documents here.

On the whole, the Senate bill looks very much like the House health care bill. It ends insurance company abuses like denying care for those with pre-existing conditions and it sets benefit standards to make sure the coverage people receive – both on their own and through their employer – actually covers the care they need. It gives people the choice of a public health insurance option like the one in the HELP bill, though states would be able to opt-out of the public option if they passed a law saying so. And it sets up a health insurance “Exchange” that would provide tax credits (subsidies) to make health care affordable, as well as helping business afford health care for their employees.

On the budgetary front, the Senate bill would cost $849 billion over 10 years, and reduce the deficit by $127 billion over the same period. You can read the CBO’s projections on the bill here [pdf].

Of course, there are major differences. Igor Volsky at the Wonk Room has a handy comparison chart:

Senate Bill ($849 billion/10 years) House Bill ($894 billion/10 years)
Individual Mandate Yes, penalty of $750 by 2016 for those don’t purchase coverage. ($95 penalty in first year) Yes, penalty of 2.5% of income for those who remain uninsured
Employer Mandate Free rider provision. Employers would have to pay whichever is lower: $3,000 per every employee who receives a subsidy in the Exchange, or $750 for every employee (not just the subsidized worker). Yes, employers who don’t’ offer coverage would pay a fee equal to 8% of their payroll
Medicaid Expansion Up to 133% FPL. 100% federal funding for the first 3 years, then revert to Senate Finance language. Up to 150% FPL
Subsidies Between 133 – 400% FPL on sliding scale; spend 2%-9.8% of income on premiums Between 133 – 400% FPL on sliding scale; spend 2%-12% of income on premiums
Public Option National public plan, states can opt-out by 2014. Co-ops are also available. Yes, HHS secretary negotiates rates
Financing Excise tax on policies above $8,500 (individuals) and $23,000 (families), increases the payroll tax by .5% (increases to 1.95%) on individuals who earn more than $200,000 and families earning more than $250,000 a year, tax on insurers, pharmaceuticals, and medicare devices; Medicare savings 5.4% surtax on individuals earning > $500,000, couples earning more than $1 million; Medicare savings

The New York Times also has a great comparison.

Overall, the fact that Majority Leader Harry Reid did the right thing and listened to the American people by including things like a public health insurance option and a tax credit level that goes a long way towards making health care affordable means that this bill deserves a debate and a fair, majority up-or-down vote.

Republicans and the insurance companies will try to block this bill any way they can, even going so far as to recommend the Senate not even talk about this bill, let alone vote on it. These tactics only preserve the status quo. The American people deserve health care reform – reform that delivers affordable coverage, a choice of a public health insurance option, and fair financing – and this bill deserves a fair vote by the full Senate so it can meet the House bill in conference.

*This post originally appeared in Health Care for America Now on November 19, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

About the Author: Jason Rosenbaum is a writer and musician currently residing in Washington D.C. He is interested in the intersection of politics and culture, media consolidation issues, and making sense out of our foreign policy disasters. He currently works for Health Care for America Now and he is also the webmaster for The Seminal.

Big Unions Hail Healthcare Bill Passage, as Senate Challenge Begins

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Image: Art LevineUnion leaders joined President Obama in hailing the historic, if narrow, passage of major health reform legislation in the House this weekend.

The bill “is a fiscally responsible bill that will cover 96 percent of Americans, end insurance company discrimination and denials of care and equip health care providers with the tools they need to lower costs for families and the country as a whole,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said. “The bill…does not attempt to finance reform on the backs of the working middle class... But we still have a long way to go.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other House Democrats gather for a press conference after the House of Representatives passed the healthcare reform bill 220 to 215 late Saturday night.   (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other House Democrats gather for a press conference after the House of Representatives passed the healthcare reform bill 220 to 215 late Saturday night. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

Indeed, as this blog and other observers point out, the real sticking point in the Senate probably won’t be the public option or even the extreme anti-abortion language passed in the House, but the critical issue of how to pay for the legislation. Will it be by taxing the rich, as the House does, or burdening the middle-class with new taxes and costs? That’s what union advocates and the Congerssional Joint Committee on Taxation say will happen as a result of the Senate’s tax on insurers that offer high-cost plans.

The conventional wisdom in Washington is, as the AP put it Sunday, that the “millionaire’s tax is a non-starter” in the Senate, but grassroots activism by unions, public opinion and the strong backing of the AARP and AMA for the House version all add political clout to the drive to keep the House payment approach alive.

Over at the Daily Beast, Matt Yglesias points out the hurdles to reconciling two starkly different versions of paying for the legislation:

The merits of the two approaches aside, the work of a political compromise will be extremely difficult. The House’s approach seems to have almost no support in the Senate, and wasn’t even seriously considered by members of the Senate Finance Committee. Conversely, the Senate’s approach is opposed by labor unions, and over 150 House Democrats have signed a letter saying they also oppose it. The party leadership, simply put, has very little margin for error when it comes to trying to sort this issue out. A handful of defections from the 219 Democrats who voted in favor of reform last night could probably be made up, but not much more than a handful. And in the Senate, it essentially required Democratic unanimity to pass bills in the face of routine filibustering and solid GOP opposition.

There hasn’t been much rancor around this issue, simply because it hasn’t been in the public view. But it will be soon. How can health-care reform pass if it’s financed by a mechanism that key moderate senators have dubbed a “non-starter?” Alternatively, how can you imagine a universal health-care bill passing with no Republican support over the opposition of the AFL-CIO? Comprehensive health-care reform is closer than ever to happening, but it’s still far from obvious that it will happen.

On top of that important issue, the five-vote majority was pulled together in part by securing the votes of some of the 64 ConservaDems in support of an amendment barring any tax dollars even indirectly subsidizing abortion. It’s the biggest rollback of a woman’s right to choose in decades, and one that could hit low-income women the hardest.

It’s a poison pill that Democrats in individual, GOP-leaning districts had to swallow, but not one that most Democratic Senators can easily accept if they want to avoid primary challenges or low turnout from disaffected Democratic voters in state-wide races. The assumption in Washington is that somehow the hard-line stance in the House bill will be finessed in the Senate, and either defanged or removed in conference.

But some journalists and bloggers say, the hard-line abortion amendment could have been significantly weakened, at least, if pro-choice groups had lobbied harder and more effectively—and if House leadership had taken more seriously  the concerns of pro-life Democrats and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as a roadblock to reform. 

Now millions of low-income women who might seek to buy insurance with a taxpayer subsidy could find themselves denied the right to access medical care and legally terminate a pregnancy. Pro-life forces were justifiably cheering at this news. But it’s clearly at odds with the spirit and intent of health reform, let alone the Democratic Party platform.

Equally troubling to reform advocates is the slow-down in the Senate and the ominous signals that Sen. Reid sent last week hinting that a final vote in the Senate might not take place until early next year. The Senate bill has been in a form of limbo over the last two weeks; activists believe this impasse needs to be challenged with more grass-roots pressure.

Nor surprisingly, the inside-the-Beltway mentality that declared the public option dead a month ago is still contending that you need 60 votes to pass a bill with a public option. In fact, progressive strategists say, you just need 60 votes to stop a filibuster, and 51 votes using budget reconciliation to pass a bill if cloture can’t be reached. Here’s how the center-right AP’s news analysis frames the issue:

If a government plan is part of the deal, “as a matter of conscience, I will not allow this bill to come to a final vote,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut independent whose vote Democrats need to overcome GOP filibusters.

“The House bill is dead on arrival in the Senate,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said dismissively.

No floor debate scheduled

Democrats did not line up to challenge him. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has yet to schedule floor debate and hinted last week that senators may not be able to finish health care this year.

Nonetheless, the House vote provided an important lesson in how to succeed with less-than-perfect party unity, and one that Senate Democrats may be able to adapt. House Democrats overcame their own divisions and broke an impasse that threatened the bill after liberals grudgingly accepted tougher restrictions on abortion funding, as abortion opponents demanded.

The lesson drawn from the House action by the AP’s analyst is: do what’s needed to compromise with your party’s right wing. On the Senate side, that would mean abandoning the public option in practice, and perhaps keeping it in name only with a “trigger” provision that could take years to put in place as 45,000 people die annually because of a lack of health insurance.

SEIU President Andy Stern drew a different lesson from the House victory, as a statement from the union said:

“Real leadership does not govern out of fear but looks at the obstacles facing our country and pushes for bold solutions that live up to our country’s promise. Like the creation of Medicare and Social Security, today’s historic passage of the Affordable Health Choices Act by the House of Representatives will be remembered as a pinnacle moment when Congress showed the courage necessary to live up to our American ideals,” Stern said.

SEIU’s members have been on the front lines for more than a decade in the fight to reach this historic moment. Its two point one million members – nurses, doctors, janitors, nursing home workers, child care providers – spent these years knocking on doors, making tens of thousands of phone calls, and donating their time and money to make sure Congress delivered meaningful reform.

Stern continued, “The Affordable Health Choices Act guarantees quality health insurance is affordable and that the insurance industry can no longer stand in the way of people getting the care they need at a price they can afford…

“We heard enough of ‘No We Can’t’ from the insurance industry, special interests and Republicans today and we will not let them stand in the way of a healthcare system that Americans have fought for nearly a century to realize.”

Stern emphasized that it is “now up to the Senate to lead with the same audacity to guarantee that meaningful health insurance reform does in fact happen this year.”

This article originally appeared in Working In These Times on November 9, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

About the Author: Art Levine, a contributing editor of The Washington Monthly, has written for Mother Jones, The American Prospect, The New Republic, The Atlantic, Slate.com, Salon.com and numerous other publications. He wrote the October 2007 In These Times cover story, “Unionbusting Confidential.” Levine is also the co-host of the “D’Antoni and Levine” show on BlogTalk Radio, every Thursday at 5:30 p.m. EST.

A Closer Look at the House Bill: Taking on the Insurance Industry

Friday, October 30th, 2009

Over the next few days, I’ll be taking a closer look at the provisions on the House health care bill – H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act. As was the case when the original tri-committee bill was released, the House committees have a ton of fact sheets on the bill that are required reading for folks looking to learn more.

Overall, the House bill is a bill that takes on the insurance industry. Here’s how:

A Public Health Insurance Option

First and foremost, the House bill creates a public health insurance option, available in the new health care marketplace called the “Exchange,” that would compete directly with private insurance. The public option won’t have to worry about profits or stockholders, and because it is run by HHS, it will have huge bargaining clout to get good rates from providers. Overall, while the public option in the House bill won’t save taxpayers as much money as a public option based on Medicare rates, it will still save money according to the CBO.

Because of all that savings, and because the public option will have a mandate to provide health care to people, not maximize profit, it will be a strong competitor to private insurance, keeping prices down and attracting customers. Private insurance will be forced to compete or face losing their most profitable customer base – the individuals and small group customers who are in the Exchange from the start.

Insurance Industry Regulations

The House bill puts new regulations on the insurance industry to curb their bad practices.

The practice of rescission – terminating someone’s insurance plan because they get sick – would be outlawed immediately. Similarly, as soon as this bill is signed, lifetime caps on insurance coverage would be outlawed.

After the Exchange is set up in 2013, all insurers, not just the ones in the Exchange, will be barred from denying care for pre-existing conditions, charging more if your are a woman or sick, or employing annual benefits caps. They will have to cap out-of-pocket expenses at a standard level, keep administrative costs down to below 15%, and publicly disclose and justify their rate increases.

Medicare beneficiaries and the unemployed will benefit as well, with overpayment to private companies through Medicare eliminated and COBRA coverage extended until the Exchange is set up.

Finally, the House bill will eliminate the anti-trust exemption on health insurance companies, making it possible to finally prosecute them for their monopolistic practices.

Immediate Relief

The House bill also provides immediate relief for people at the mercy of the insurance industry by setting up an interim high risk pool open to people who have been uninsured for at least a few months or who have been denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions.

Though clearly not a long term solution, the high-risk pool, combined with the COBRA extensions mentioned above, would get people out from the trap the insurance industry has put them in until full reforms kick in.

Taking on Drug Companies

The House bill also gives us significant savings from drug companies, which according to the Washington Post would amount to between $125 and $150 billion in cuts to their profits.

It does this by eliminating the donut hole which forces seniors to pay unaffordable prices for prescription drugs, starting immediately and completely closing the hole by 2019. It also requires the Secretary of HHS to negotiate for better drug prices for Medicare and Medicaid, and makes it easier for Medicare Part D to offer free generic prescription drugs to enrollees.

Of course, some issues, like biologics (new drugs exempted from generic competition), are still unresolved.

————————

There’s a lot to talk about in the House bill – employer responsibility, fair financing, a whole host of other reforms that take effect immediately. Over the next few days I’ll talk about those. However, the overall thrust of the bill is clear – it takes on the insurance industry for consumers, strengthening care for folks without insurance, on the individual market, in small and large businesses, and on Medicare and Medicaid.

About the Author: Jason Rosenbaum is a writer and musician currently residing in Washington D.C. He is interested in the intersection of politics and culture, media consolidation issues, and making sense out of our foreign policy disasters. He currently works for Health Care for America Now and he is also the webmaster for The Seminal.

This article originally appeared in Health Care for America Now on October 29, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

Reid: Public Option Will Be in Health Care Bill

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced in a Capitol Hill press conference today that he will send a health care reform bill to the Senate floor that includes a public option. States will have until 2014 to decide if they want to participate in the public plan.

Reid said he was optimistic that health care reform will pass:

“I feel good about progress we have made within our caucus and with the White House, and we are all optimistic about reform because of the unprecedented momentum that exists.

“I believe that a public option can achieve the goal of bringing meaningful reform to our broken system. It will protect consumers, keep insurers honest and ensure competition. And that’s why we intend to include it on the bill that will be submitted to the Senate for consideration.”

In a telephone press conference this morning, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said any real health care reform bill must include a robust public option that helps lower premiums and keeps insurance companies honest by guaranteeing competition.

Real reform also must require employers to pay their fair share by providing health coverage or contributing to help pay for subsidies, Trumka said. Real reform should ensure that working families who already are struggling to pay for health care insurance are not asked to pay even more in the form of a new  excise tax on their coverage, he added.

There are still things that still need to be fixed in the Senate bill, according to the Health Care for America Now (HCAN) coalition, but Reid deserves thanks for including a public option. Click here to add your name to an HCAN the petition thanking Reid for fighting for America.

This post originally appeared in AFL-CIO blog on October 26, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

About the Author: James Parks had his first encounter with unions at Gannett’s newspaper in Cincinnati when his colleagues in the newsroom tried to organize a unit of The Newspaper Guild. He saw firsthand how companies pull out all the stops to prevent workers from forming a union. He is a journalist by trade, and worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. He has also been a seminary student, drug counselor, community organizer, event planner, adjunct college professor and county bureaucrat. His proudest career moment, though, was when he served, along with other union members and staff, as an official observer for South Africa’s first multiracial elections.

Maine Union Members Tell Snowe to Support a Public Option, and More Health Care News

Friday, October 23rd, 2009
Image: Seth Michals

Photo by Joe Kekeris/AFL-CIO

When Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) suggested she would block health care reform if it included a public option, Maine workers took action: The Maine AFL-CIO put its convention on hold so attendees could call her and tell her that a public option is essential to make reform work. (Recent polls in Maine suggest Mainers strongly support a public option.)

Here are some of the latest developments in the fight for real health care reform:

  • Momentum is building for a public option in final bills being crafted in the U.S. Senate and the House. This is a critical time to contact your senators and representatives.
  • Big companies like Wal-Mart are lobbying hard to exempt the coverage they provide from health care reform. That would leave tens of millions of workers stuck in the same high-cost, no-guarantee system we have today.

    Union members in Arkansas and across the country are telling their senators to support real health care reform.

  • 55 members of Congress who oppose giving America the choice of a public option are actually getting government-administered health care through Medicare.
  • Becky Moeller, president of the Texas AFL-CIO, writes in today’s San Antonio Express-News that the insurance companies are trying to stay in charge of our health care, but working families can’t afford the status quo.
  • Mark Froemke, president of Minnesota’s Northern Valley Labor Council, has a great op-ed today in the Grand Forks Herald that lays out the stakes on health care:

If Congress fails to enact reform, things won’t just stay the same-they’ll get worse…unless we enact changes now, those who manage to keep their coverage will pay an even heftier price over the next 10 years.

As it stands, insurance companies have a stranglehold on our health care system, driving up costs and coming between middle-class Americans and the care they need.

  • Minnesota union members rallied for heath care this week in Duluth, St. Cloud and Rochester.
  • Union members in Louisiana and Arkansas also are rallying and reaching out to their Senators to demand health care reform that works.
  • Yet another insurance company is playing with numbers, seeking to scare people about health care reform. This time it’s WellPoint fudging the facts and leaving out critical information. Check out this great chart from Think Progress that shows how the insurance companies are fighting reform.
  • The Center for American Progress Action Fund has a great new report out today detailing insurance company’s tactics to hide vital information about denying coverage.

This post originally appeared in AFL-CIO blog on October 23, 2009. Re-printed with permission from the author.

About the Author: Seth Michaels is the online campaign coordinator for the AFL-CIO, focusing on the Employee Free Choice campaign. Prior to arriving at the AFL-CIO, he’s worked on online mobilization for Moveon.org, Blue State Digital and the National Jewish Democratic Council. He also spent two years touring the country as a member of the Late Night Players, a sketch comedy troupe.

Baucus Bill Is Far Short of Real Health Care Reform

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

The Senate Finance Committee’s health care reform proposal released this morning falls far short of the comprehensive reform that would provide working families with the quality and affordable health they desperately need, say health care advocates.

In a statement this morning, outgoing AFL-CIO President John Sweeney says the bill

“fails to meet the most basic health care needs of working families and it fails to meet the expectations we have set for our nation.”

The labor leaders say the Finance Committee bill’s reliance on so-called health care co-ops as an alternative to a public option

fails to put pressure on private insurers to control health care costs. There is no history or logic behind the claim that health care co-ops would provide real competition for the giant private insurers that have a stranglehold on health coverage today.

While the bill’s main author, committee chairman Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), spent weeks trying to win some moderate Republican backing for the plan, not a single GOP senator has endorsed it. One key Finance Committee Democrat has already announced he will oppose the Baucus bill unless significant changes are made.

Along with dropping the public health insurance option-which is part of the House bill (H.R. 3200) and the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pension (HELP) committee bill-the Baucus bill also taxes some health plans and individuals who fail to buy private insurance, while providing no penalties to irresponsible employers who do not provide coverage.

While taxing group plans that may have higher costs because the plans cover older workers, workers with worse than average health histories or who simply live in higher cost areas, it imposes no taxes high cost individual plans.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), a long-time advocate of health care reform, says because the bill abandons the public health insurance option-among other objections–

there is no way in present form I will vote for it. Therefore, I will not vote for it unless it changes during the amendment process by vast amounts… I am putting down a marker, which I think others should put down, too, who might feel the same way I do.

There are, some provisions in the bill that do provide important insurance industry reforms and improvements in how health care is delivered and paid for with a focus on quality over quantity. But say the AFL-CIO leaders

But the proposal’s strong points are nowhere near sufficient to outweigh its problems. However well intentioned the attempts at bipartisanship, the final product reflects the bankrupt policies of the past more than the forward-looking policies needed to drive meaningful health care reform.

We are counting on finance committee Democrats to fix the bill and side with working families, not insurance companies.

The Finance Committee is scheduled to begin mark-up of the bill-when improving amendments can added-next week. The Senate HELP committee has approved its version and action on the House legislation is expected later this month.

About the Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL-CIO in 1989 and has written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety. He carried union cards from the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers, American Flint Glass Workers and Teamsters for jobs in a chemical plant, a mining equipment manufacturing plant and a warehouse. He’s also worked as roadie for a small-time country-rock band, sold blood plasma, and played an occasional game of poker to help pay the rent. You may have seen him at one of several hundred Grateful Dead shows. He was the one with longhair and the tie-dye. Still has the shirts, lost the hair.

This article was originally published in AFL-CIO blog on September 16, 2009. Re-printed with permission from the author.

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Government run health-care, SIGN ME UP!

Monday, August 10th, 2009

“The government can’t run Cash for Clunkers, how can we trust them with health care.” That line was repeated over and over during recent town meetings with Congress-people and Senators.

First, the Cash for Clunkers program was an unqualified success. When was the last time you remember hearing about a government program that was so popular and so successful?

Cash for Clunkers was designed to get gas-guzzlers off the road and to sell new cars. Check and double-check. People loved the program and raced to the dealerships to cash in. Sure the program ran through a lot of money, because people loved it and it more than achieved its goals. Give me more of this kind of government program!

And speaking of government programs, sign me up for a government run health care program. As skeptical as I am of government, I am a thousand times more skeptical of health insurance companies.

I’m writing this not only as a consumer, but as a person who spent time working for two different health insurance companies. I’ve seen the lies and profiteering from the inside and I want another option. We deserve another option.

I wish Congress-people and Senators could see how frustrated we are with pre-existing conditions, treatments being considered experimental and all the other crap that we’ve all been handed by health insurance companies. Crap that we’ve had thrown in our faces even though we paid our dues and were promised the very care we’re having withheld from us.

I’m not suggesting a single-payer model. No, my suggestion is much simpler. Let the government compete with health insurance companies. I’m tired of them having a monopoly in health care. Let’s give them a real run for their money by making them compete.

They hate this idea because they know that far from fearing their government there are millions of people who would rather put their lives in the hands of government bureaucrats than profiteering private companies.

So please keep the public option on the table. Give us real choice.

Funny how corporations talk about the free market but then do everything to keep it very expensive and not free at all.

Based on your experience do you prefer the existing monopoly or would you like to join me in a government run program?

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com .

Finding Common Ground Between Public Option Advocates and Single Payer Advocates

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

A heated argument is going on about the right health insurance model between those those who believe in a public option and those who believe in single payer.

Or perhaps I should say between those who are willing to take what they can get: public option; vs. those who want to hold out for what they consider the best option: single payer.

By way of reconciling what differences can be reconciled, let me ask a question of each side.

A Question for Public Option Advocates

Do you want to eventually have a single payer or a comprehensive system like the French have?  If not, why not?

A Question for Single Payer Advocates

Are you willing to fight for a public option which could eventually lead to single payer or a comprehensive system like the French one? If not, why not?

At this point what I'm seeing is both sides retreating into moralistic screaming.

The public option folks are saying: “It is better to save some lives than none, and if you single payer purists don't support a public option which will save even a few lives, you're responsible for those deaths.”

The single payer people are saying: “The public option is so watered down that all it will do is discredit real public reform, aka single payer.  You public option folks are settling for so little that the few lives you might save are outweighed by all the lives you won't save and the damage to the chance at real comprehensive health care reform.”

Both sides are assuming the other side is operating in bad faith.  The public option folks assume the single payer folks just want to be pure rather than saving lives, the single payer that the public option folks are just sell-outs shilling for a bad bill.

But what I'm seeing, as someone with a foot in each camp, is that both sides are (mostly) sincere.

Now there is one group that can't be reconciled.  People who want a public option so weak it either won't survive, or can't be used as the basis for a comprehensive system.  The usual suspects like Insurance company executives, for example.  But also some people in the Obama administration, such as Health Secretary Katherine Sibelius, the health secretary, who said that the plan would be drafted specifically so that it could never become single payer.

But for everyone else, for those acting in good faith, there should be some common ground from which we can work together. Let's start by recognizing that the battle over public option vs single payer is a distraction away from what we could accomplish if we worked together.

United we stand a chance.  Divided, we will lose our chance at health care reform.

(Minor edits made 3 am July 26th for clarity and style)

Ian Welsh: Ian Welsh has been blogging since 2003. He was the Managing Editor of FireDogLake and the Agonist. His work has also appeared at Huffington Post, Alternet, and Truthout, as well as the now defunct Blogging of the President (BOPNews). In Canada his work has appeared in Pogge.ca and BlogsCanada. He is a social media strategy consultant and currently lives in Toronto.

This article was originally posted at Open Left on July 27, 2009 and is reprinted here with permission from the author.

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