Sunday, August 30, 2009
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
Senator Kennedy believed fully in the power of government to do good. A bill devoid of a robust public option would not honor the history of his effort to advance health care reform.
Senator Kennedy cared deeply about those without voice and means. An act not extending a generous and caring hand to the poor and disenfranchised could not in good conscious carry his name.
Senator Kennedy believed that affordable health care for people with average resources was essential. Legislation that allows medical impoverishment and bankruptcy to persist would not respect his memory.
Senator Kennedy believed that health care needed to be portable. A bill not allowing Americans to carry their coverage with them or seamlessly switch to a public plan could not be a tribute to his effort to prevent health care insecurity.
Senator Kennedy believed that health care practices needed reform. Legislation that merely mandates coverage along with minor tax incentives that does not address practices, care quality, better outcomes, and payment restructuring would not reflect his vision.
Ted Kennedy’s moral commitment to health care as a right and not a privilege was exemplary; anything less at this time cannot yet be his legacy.
“…let us resolve that the state of a family's health shall never depend on the size of a family's wealth.” - Senator Edward M. Kennedy
Thursday, August 27, 2009
"If I hadn't been involved in this process as long as I have and to the depth as I have, you would already have national health care," he said.
Thanks a lot; so much for working for the common good and in good faith.
We call upon Senator Olympia Snowe to publicly reject and disavow Senator Enzi's remarks. We urge her to go far beyond the typical characterization of "unfortunate remarks", et cetera and establish a renewed commitment to consensus negotiation that considers citizen needs first and does not dismiss a robust pubic option out of hand.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Even the ideas trotted out by conservatives or temporarily conceded to generally serve the straw purpose of setting up a reasonable sounding alternative to the dire consequences of the existing most progressive offering that once defeated moves the debate to the straw reasonable alternative so it can then be undermined by another even lesser value but reasonable sounding alternative to be destroyed by…and so on and on and on. (Sorry, a run on sentence was absolutely required for this illustration!) The initial colorful rainbow of change gets gradually murky gray and dumps into a pot of no change mud.
Behind door number one is Single Payer which is vilified and rejected allowing the Public Option to step up behind door number two. Now the Public Option is getting the plug pulled and the next reasonable sounding option behind door number three is Co-ops. Now the wave of argument against Co-ops is starting to rise as noted in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal. The replacement next good sounding idea will likely be Market Exchanges that could deliver success for the right in producing no change.
Moderates, sometimes knowingly and sometimes not, are being used by the no change right as their temporary front line action in a rear guard battle they strive to win for their unfettered markets forever constituency. Citizens and their health care are merely obstacles. We must draw a clear battle line at the Public Option.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
During her nine day trip abroad, Senator Collins avoided an opportunity to connect with us and figure out how to best serve her constituents with robust health care reform. Instead, as well illustrated, at Dirigo Blue, she is now getting her information and talking points directly from the insurance industry.
Senator Collin's may be happy to be back in America but she is still absent in terms of caring for its citizens. We ought to keep up the pressure on both of our Senators but it is appearing more and more that doing so will just be an expression of dissatisfaction in the case of Senator Collins and a slim prospect for a fair consideration of our health care needs lies with Senator Snowe.
Collins has collected over $1,600,000.00 in campaign contributions ($300.00 per day) in her career to date from health, insurance, and pharmaceutical industries and has apparently decided to be their Senator, not Maine's.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
"…first step in destroying the best health care system the world has ever known."
“We are spending money like it is going out of style. We have no right to reconfigure the entire U.S. health care system”
"The fact of the matter is that in order to pay for a trillion dollar-plus bill, or even if they can get it down to just $900 billion, it's going to come from us,"
”We're for it but we also don't want to have a government takeover of the health care system, which is the foot in the door which would be led to, and second of all, we don't want any employer mandates”.
“The American people will not stand for rationed health care.. We believe that a one size fits all approach is the wrong approach."
Mel Martinez (Resigning)
"Every American ought to be insured, that ought to be done in the private sector, with private insurance, with government help."
Charlie Crist (Governor who appointed Mel Martinez’s replacement)
"What's going on in Washington is nuts. The prosperity we enjoy as a country is not because of government. It's because of free enterprise, and entrepreneurship and hard work."
George LeMieux (Appointed to the Senate to replace Mel Martinez)
"Obviously health care is going to be the big issue when the Senate comes back in session. The governor has reminded me that this country is almost $12 trillion in debt. And set to go another $1.6 trillion a year for the next 10 years. I want to focus on what government spends its money on and how we can do it more efficiently."
"If you heard me on the campaign trail or if you've been to any of my town hall meetings in the past, you've probably heard me say that I do not support a universal health care system in this country. I don't think the government should be running a health care system from a general standpoint."
“You won’t have a total single-payer health plan the first year. It’s just a matter of time until (the competition) evaporates.”
Mike Crapo (Written)
“In reality, in many countries with universal health care, you often receive access to a waiting list with a cost of much higher taxes.”
“We're at a real turning point in America regarding healthcare. I have real reservations about where we're going."
"This is not an appropriate time for our government to adopt a comprehensive, whole-scale change in the health care system of the country."
"We should not have a government program that determines if you're going to pull the plug on grandma."
"You don't need to remake the whole system. And if you do you're going to scare a whole bunch of people. And you're going to move us to a European- style system that most people in this country don't want."
“I want to put up two signs: First, ‘Do No Harm,’ and second, ‘Whoa,’”
“the last thing we want to do is destroy the quality of health care over the issue of the uninsured.”
Jim Bunning (News concentration on not running for re-election; no quote available)
Retiring Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning received two standing ovations at a speech in which he called the Democratic plan for a single-payer, government-run health-care system a disaster.
"I’ve been doing everything I can to stop this bill dead in it’s (sic) tracks. Will you help me keep up the fight against government-run health care with a quick and secure donation to my campaign?"
"Let's get off timetables and timeframes, because they certainly don't work and they haven't worked."
"I am however opposed to the bill that the House has produced, which not only wasn't bipartisan, but is enormously expensive."
“We are not a one-party ruled country. Nobody is endowed with the powers of a king in this country. If this health care bill does not pass the test of democracy, it will not go into effect.”
“We can make changes on an incremental basis. But, if we have a wholesale surrender to a British or Canadian style system, we may never be able to turn back the clock.”
"I support reform that lowers health care costs, increases access and improves quality, but I cannot embrace a budget-busting government takeover of health care that forces millions off of the health care they currently have and empowers bureaucracy instead of patients and doctors."
Mike Johanns (Written)
“Almost seven out of ten Nebraskans who have private insurance they like should plan on losing it and getting dumped onto the government plan if this passes. And even though you have coverage, keeping doctors and hospitals open in our communities will be a struggle when the profit margins turn negative.”
John Ensign (Written)
“My vision for health care is just that; reforming the system, not creating a new government-run program that will end up hurting millions of Americans and their choice in health insurance.”
"The way it gets an advantage over the private system is it controls prices, and it puts a bureaucrat between you and your doctor, and it basically leads, inevitably, to a system like they have in England."
"We're leaving to an elected official the ability at any point now, five years from now ten years from now, to write the rules on mandates in a way the private sector couldn't compete with the government option, that's just not a smart thing for the congress to do. It's ok if you want to have a government option but you've got to leave the private sector private."
“Americans are paying attention, and are asking how in the world can this government of ours - with the financial difficulties we have - continue to spend and borrow, taking on new health care responsibilities at a time when we can't handle the responsibilities we already have.”
“We can stall it. And that’s going to be a huge gain for those of us who want to turn this thing over in the 2010 election.”
You know, this debate isn’t about health care. Health care’s the symptom. The debate is an uncontrolled federal government that’s going to run--50 percent of everything we’re spending this year we’re borrowing from the next generation.
"The reason you're not going to have a government run health care pass the Senate is because it would be devastating for this country,"
"If we’re able to stop Obama on this it will be his Waterloo. It will break him."
"You have to believe the government can do a better job of running health care. I don't."
"And the second thing we thought we ought to point out the damage that a government-run program would do.... And I think we've been very successful with that.... I hope we've slowed down these unwise ideas that have come out. We haven't been as successful as I'd like us to be, so we're going to keep trying."
“The Federal government is trying to off-load a big part of the burden to the states. Governor (Phil) Bredesen calls it the mother of all unfunded mandates. And a huge surtax would be put on small businesses and that is a third concern. The greatest health care system in the world today exists in America.”
Kay Bailey Hutchison
“Any reforms must reduce costs and increase access - this will not be accomplished through a government takeover of our health care system."
"…while 'there’s a lot of middle ground where we can meet, I don’t see how we can make much headway' unless the public insurance option is off the table entirely."
“…they want to have some sort of a version of an employer mandate. It's a job-killing part -- approach to the bill. If they do that, then guess who gets hurt the worst? It'll be the -- it'll be the low-income workers. They'll either lose their jobs or be cut in pay or the business will go overseas. I mean, let's be honest about it. It's going to kill jobs.”
Robert Foster Bennett
“Right now, nearly 1.8 million Britons are waiting for hospital or outpatient treatments at any given time. Let's realize that the American voter will never stand for the kind of rationing by delay that seems to have crept into every other government-run health care system."
Mike Enzi (Written)
“For millions of Americans, the government-run plan would turn into a bureaucratic nightmare, with the efficiency and customer service of the Department of Motor Vehicles or the IRS. Washington bureaucrats would literally decide whether patients would live or die by rationing newer, more expensive therapies.”
"A government plan though isn’t competition. A government is never a competitor, it is a predator."
Friday, August 21, 2009
"The economic downturn and rising gas prices have added a new word to our national vocabulary. 'Staycation' combines the fun of the traditional summer vacation with the affordability and convenience of exploring your own backyard."
"We Mainers are fortunate to have a truly amazing backyard to explore. From our spectacular scenery, history, and art to our great food, festivals, shopping, and amusement parks, Maine has something for everyone. For Mom and Dad, perhaps the best thing about vacationing close to home is that by the time the kids in the backseat start to chant, “Are we there yet?” -- you’re already there!"
Here's the rest of it.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
"U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, currently on a nine-day trip to the Middle East, has scheduled a number of community celebrations and a public forum when she returns, deputy press secretary Ian Swanberg said."
Collins should have stayed home. The priority should have been, without doubt, was to work hard on health care for Maine citizens at this crucial time. Collins recognized the need in the past in this video featured on Collins Watch.
Senator Collins talked about her desire for Congress to set aside two or three months to work on "virtually nothing but health care." I guess August in Augusta just is not one of those months.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
The American people want substantive health care reform in overwhelming numbers. Even among registered Republicans there has been a desire for government involvement in health care. Without doubt, lies not facts, are effective in misleading and confusing voters and eroding reform support. Action now is appropriate to counter ongoing Republican deception.
President Obama has patiently, beyond expectations, and very generously extended the hand of bi-partisanship to Republicans in Congress. It has been repeated slapped away and defeat of health care reform is seen by many Republicans as the means to “break” the President. Their have not contributed to reforming health care at all.
Republican partisan activity assisted in delaying reform action. Instead of using the slow down they urged to “get it right” on legislation, they used it to spread blatant falsehoods about death panels, socialism, taxes, et cetera to sow discord into public debate to derail reform.
Republican partisans incited disrespectful activity to shut down productive citizen dialogue with elected representatives. They stood aside when the fringe labeled President Obama a Nazi or Communist and took a pass on strongly condemning the gun toting intimidation occurring near public forums.
The 2008 election was an endorsement for the President and Congress to substantively reform health care with robust government involvement. It was one important contributing factor to why Barack Obama won in an electoral blowout, why Democrats have a 60 seat majority in the Senate, and why there is a 78 seat Democratic advantage in the House of Representatives.
It is now evident that it is an illusion that any but a tiny group of Republicans will join us. The Republicans have been the party of “no” at every turn and have exaggerated their minority clout in every part of the health care debate to kill reform. They requested inclusion but never compromised and promise to vote against reform. They have bargained in bad faith.
It is time for all Democrats to unite and lead. Let’s craft the definitive Democratic bill that will fulfill public aspirations. Despite media chatter, our “blue dog” caucus shares Democratic core values and we can successfully work together. We will be supported by a large majority of voters. The Republicans will unfortunately be “going it alone” on their continual hyper-partisan course.
Of the 31 day Senate "August" Recess, Senator Collins has managed to avoid Maine with this particular trip for 6 days so far. I'll attempt to tally the total absence if possible but the main issue is that this trip was not essential at this time and engaging in the critical and timely health care debate was essential for Maine citizens.
The "ignore Maine" strategy is likely born out of the belief that her re-election this past year gives her a pass for several years and that memories will be short on her avoidance of working substantively on health care reform. I recall the Susan Collins touting her perfect voting record in the campaign. Those votes are a perfect recording of attendance only; we need her at recess time to connect with her constituency to understand and act upon our concerns so that she can serve us with a better voting record on issues.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
She issued a statement about the terrible repression of women in that country. I agree with her statement.
She decided to make this trip a priority over working during this recess on the critical need for health care reform and listening to Maine citizens concerns on this vital life or death matter. I disagree with her priorities.
Senator Collins could have just as easily condemned Afghan repression of women by holding a news conference in Portland followed by a substantive listening session on the effect that non-resolution of the health care crisis is having on Maine women.
"If the oldest and sickest are on Medicare, and the poorest are on Medicaid, and the young and the healthy are required to purchase private insurance without the option of a competing government-run plan — well, that’s reform the insurance companies can believe in."
In my wildest imagination I could not have dreamed up that a blog on reforming health care in American might need to address the role of guns in the debate. But it is a sad day in the history of political discourse.
Guns are being carried around events featuring President Obama; weapons are appearing at town hall meetings that are laced with emotional outrage and hate speech. And there are even some apparently insane members of Congress who appear to be inciting continuance of this spectacle.
There is only one reason to carry a gun openly to a political event other than to attempt an assassination; it is to intimidate those with opposing views. It is the essence of bullying, getting in your face, encouraging and hoping others to do possible violence, and disrespecting dialog. The mantra about just exercising one’s second amendment rights is a thin sham of a non-explanation.
Civics 101, Civility 102
First Amendment – Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
No right implied to shout “fire” in crowded theater.
Second Amendment – A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a
No right implied to be ready to “fire” in a crowded town hall meeting.
Consider the First Amendment clause about “the right of the people peaceably to assemble”. Are guns at these events respecting others or suppressing assembly? The extreme right has shown through delay, distortion and deception to date that it will go to any extent necessary to defeat health care reform. Will they also accept violence and threats of violence to kill reform? Passions are extremely high on all sides and we are only one shot away from utter ugliness; police take notice.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Even without it, health care would be the greatest piece of liberal legislation in years.
I’m not buying this and Mr. Yglesias even admits in his closing paragraph that a public option “…a good idea, that holds some promise for improving quality and reducing costs.” And that’s the point, the public option is the ultimate cost reduction tool and powerful enforcement mechanism that both progressive and blue dog Democrats ought to be united in supporting. Doing otherwise is conceding ground to industry cost manipulation, big corporate salaries and bonuses, investment dividends and no-medical services delivered profits, paper-pushing waste, reducing competition, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
A robust public option is a strong foundation for all other reform components.
The following key factors come from a piece written by Andre Orr of the Economic Policy Institute:
"-Competition American health care today has limited or no competition. A public plan would force private insurers to compete on the basis of efficiency as well as quality, rather than how they often compete today, which is on their ability to select the healthiest individuals and companies or pass costs to employers and workers. If the cost or the coverage of a private plan became unsatisfactory, there would be a large-scale shift to the public plan, and vice versa.
-Reduced costs Since a public health insurance plan would have much lower administrative expenses and could take advantage of its size for negotiating more efficient prices and building economies of scale, it would have significantly lower operating costs, resulting in windfall savings.
-Quality A public insurance plan would be able to introduce quality enhancements and innovations that profit-seeking private plans currently do not have the incentive to adopt, given the short-term commitments to their enrollees.
-Access While the majority of Americans have employer-sponsored health insurance, this coverage has eroded in recent years and it still leaves tens of millions with no insurance, underscoring the need for a system that can provide more comprehensive coverage. Even among full-time workers, 17% do not have insurance. Many more lose coverage each year, at least temporarily, when they leave their jobs - a problem that becomes more widespread in times of high unemployment.
-Good health Besides being the ultimate objective of a health care system, keeping people healthy is far more cost-effective than treating them once they become ill. However, people with spotty insurance coverage or no coverage at all are more likely to forego needed medical attention and preventive care, resulting in poorer health outcomes, which also drive up health care costs."
Please also see Robert Reich's blog for further critical political insight. He is correct that winning a public option is our test and we need to act.
And finally, who is served by killing the public option? Check out this Reuters story:
HMO stocks up on signs public health plan fading
UnitedHealth Group Inc shares rose 3.6 percent at mid-afternoon, WellPoint Inc climbed 3.3 percent, Aetna Inc increased 5.2 percent, and Coventry Health Care jumped 5.2 percent.
Health care reform's last most essential ingredient, a robust public option, is under immediate threat precisely because Senators like Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe did everything possible to delay decisions and support the insurance industry thereby allowing the grave to be dug to bury the hope of substantive reform.
The very least our Senators could have done is to listen to our voices and be available to Mainers during the August recess.
Senator Susan Collins has run away and is on tour in the
Sunday, August 16, 2009
The co-op approach is really just another means to dilute the effectiveness of a public option, which was a compromise to single-payer, to benefit the insurance industry. It is a case of divide or multiply and conquer.
Senator Jay Rockfeller has the right instincts on this Trojan horse reform killer.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Senator Collins, we need you in Maine to discuss substantive health care reform before another week and another Mainer passes.
There is positive and rational end of life planning counseling in the house proposed plan and in no plan are there any euthanasia clauses. The bill language, which may likely and unfortunately be withdrawn now, actually aims to do the opposite of what the fear mongers exhort with whispers to screams. It seeks to clarify individual wishes and protect individual choices with the effect of not to passing on such matters to government decision making. It is a classic conservative/libertarian individual freedom protection. That is why when one looks at the initial placement of this concept in the bill it actually has Republican origins!
Experience by others with health care review and “Medical Councils” in other industrialized countries do the exact opposite of what the fear mongers purport. Real experiences show better access to services result from medical reviews and that access to care rights are recognized and protected.
Once again unrecognized in this faux Fox generated debate is the fact that we already have death deciders in this country. They are indeed faceless, bureaucratic, and rule arbitrarily without emotion or compassion. They are organized around your wallet in the form of what insurance card you are or are not fortunate to carry and the amount of medical care you can afford. Look at the real evidence noted in a key Commonwealth Fund report:
Preventable mortality: The U.S. fell to last place among 19 industrialized nations on mortality amenable to health care—deaths that might have been prevented with timely and effective care. Although the U.S. rate improved by 4 percent between 1997–1998 and 2002–2003 (from 115 to 110 deaths per 100,000), rates improved by 16 percent on average in other nations, leaving the U.S. further behind.
Our existing death deciders do exactly what the fear mongers seem to be screaming about. Helpless people without fair consideration are being denied care and allowed to die. Now the right wing wants you to believe this will be your mother or even in wilder erroneous examples, Physicist Stephen Hawking or Senator Edward Kennedy who must have been writing legislation for years of a suicidal nature! In reality it the poor, homeless, and pre-existing condition victims of modest income that get death sentences imposed by affordability of care, denial of access, and health insurance transgressions.
It is unfortunate that the rational truths that answer the lies being generated by the right wing receive little attention. Even more regrettable is that these boastful chest thumpers proclaiming that we have the best care in the world do not believe in this country’s creative ability to design an affordable and fair superior health care system free of the tyranny of private health care profits.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Now, according to Susan Collins' blog:
"I am on Senate Armed Services Committee business with my colleagues, John McCain, Joe Lieberman, and Lindsey Graham." Oh, great, she's in Libya at the moment checking on Libyan military health care I can only assume.
I did try to post this comment to her blog:
When will you be back in Maine to discuss heath care reform directly with voters? Can we expect to have you available to hear from Maine citizens directly in several open public forums with accommodation for a large number of attendees?
But I cannot do so because I'm not a "team" member, just a Maine voter. Please try other means to communicate with her and urge her to meet with Maine voters.
And on August 25th Senator Collins will be a well "protected" and limited panel discussion of 1.5 hours sponsored by the Concord Coalition on a panel talking about fiscal responsibility with the likes of the Heritage Foundation.
The Senate reconvenes on September 8th leaving just very few days available to the people of Maine to meet their Senator if she is willing to do so.
Senator Collins: The health reform issue is vital to us; don't wage a cold war with Maine voters; this is no time to "duck and cover".
Where's the disconnect to real citizen needs in Congress?
- Six lobbyists per lawmaker are at work on health overhaul now.
- Health-insurer and managed-care stocks have gained this year.
- $263.4 million spent on health care lobbying during the first 6 months of this year
- The health-care industry has contributed $20.5 million to federal candidates and political parties during the first 6 months of this year.
Making any connections yet? Story at Bloomberg.
Check out Senator Snowe's Federal latest Federal Election Commission quarterly reports to look up donor individual contribution (mostly out of DC, VA & MD) and PAC funding.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
The answer is very simple. Civil discourse, public debate, and fact based discussions are all useful in solving problems and developing solution agendas to critical issues. These types of conversations are rooted in recognizing challenges and moving toward resolution of matters for the common good. The aim of health care reform opponents is to first stifle and then kill debate.
It is the politics of selfishness.
One cannot say there is a problem and refuse to seek a solution in good faith, better to scream about euthanasia. One cannot fully hear the case for reform and not understand the suffering and inequality that the current system engenders, better to mislead with a rabid argument about evil socialism. One cannot consider the critical facts about health care insurance manipulation, lack of access, unfair denial of care, and medical bankruptcy without realizing the justifiable necessity for reform, better to shout down a Representative.
Yet the health care problem has been recognized and escalating for decades, the facts have been compiled and visible for years, and various positive outcome solutions have been evident to all throughout an entire presidential campaign. We also had reasonable due diligence debate in that campaign and appropriate legislative time in the immediate past Congressional session. The lobbyist bill delaying tactics in Congress were orchestrated by those who did not really want time to “get it right” but rather to “make it wrong”. That delay was instrumental in spawning this summer of destruction. The present shotgun approach to blasting away at reform is in full swing courtesy of talk radio, FOX “news”, and the national Republican Party.
Destroying all reform efforts is the aim now of the selfish. The extreme right may eventually condescend to clothe a tiny bit of health care in a weak non-reform bill if appearances prove politically useful to them beyond heroically defeating socialism, protecting the eternal good of market capital forces that always seeks the most efficient use of resources, preventing Canadian-European-every other developed nation style scary rationing in favor of our always superior because-we-say-so American health care system that ferrets out the shiftless lazy welfare and illegal immigrant parasites, and preserves choice that is great for hard workers who always magically will get ahead somehow even in our present economic disaster in which irresponsible victims are always personally culpable for their own demise.
What should supporters of substantive health care reform do? We must push extremely hard to the bitter end. Senators Snowe and Collins need to be continually pressured by our fact based and solution oriented arguments without any let up. We will not drown out the raging right and we can let them risk drowning themselves in their fanaticism. Our reasoned message continually directed at our representatives and through public forums is strategically better than wasting too much energy on answering the promoters of selfishness. They unmask themselves. They could even aid in driving our representatives toward us. The steady consistent stream of our message needs to keep flowing.
On a Yosemite National Park bus weaving around mountain curves I wondered what would happen if we rolled off the road and everyone simply broke a leg. My wife and I would be fine with our insurance though surely there would be away from home coverage communications complications to plow through and perhaps a few hidden costs. But would the woman sitting next to my wife with the cane and obvious disability have some sort of curious pre-existing clause to deal with if a complication arose? Would the large Hispanic family in the back of the bus have the same outcomes medically and financially as the obviously middle class family of four in the front of the bus? Is the older gentleman driving the bus a part time or seasonal employee without insurance or is he fortunately old enough to qualify for single payer Medicare? Will the couple next to me, him sporting the Rolex and her bedecked with jewels, be treated differently than the other occupants? The answers to these misgivings are within a moral message that trumps selfishness.