Monday, November 23, 2009

Reform Rx – Shoot to Kill

An August Reform Rx piece entitled Unreal, Unhealthy, Un-American covered a subject that one would never think of being part of the health care debate: guns. The column piece was written in reaction to the carrying of guns to town hall meetings or near Presidential speaking events by right-wing fanatics to inject intimidation into the health care debate.

Imagine how my ears perked up this morning when I heard NPR’s Cokie Roberts reporting on health care reform bills saying:

And add to that, Renee, we have these continuing fights over abortion and immigration. And now we're discovering there are going to be new fights over guns in the insurance bill. And so, the work just gets harder and harder to get it passed. (Emphasis mine.)

The full NPR report can be listened to here and the passage above is at about 2:40:

How are guns and the intrusion of this divisive issue being scatter shot into the debate? A tour around the internet yielded these insights of attempts to poison health care reform:

The Examiner

The day before the Senate passed the $848 billion health bill on a party-line vote, the Virginia-based Gun Owners of America sent out a mass alert to its 300,000 members, warning them that the legislation "will most likely dump your gun-related health data into a government database. ... This includes any firearms-related information your doctor has gleaned or any determination of post traumatic stress disorder or something similar, that can preclude you from owning firearms."

The Freedom Medium

They will attempt to make their case by presenting statistics showing that gun violence causes health care resources to be spent in ways that could be better utilized in other areas.
Of course, many of the American public will fall for this gibberish, not realizing that it is simply another ploy by the Obama administration to drum up support for an increasingly unpopular health care reform bill, while having the added bonus of being an assault on Second Amendment rights as well.

Buckeye Firearms Association

Don't forget the new taxes on guns and ammo to help provide insurance for those poor Crips, Bloods, Triad, Mongols and Mexican Mafia members who find themselves suffering from uninsured gunshot wounds incurred during a drug deal gone wrong. The anti-gun possibilities are limited only by the imagination.
Please don't delude yourself into thinking that this would only be part of any "public option" insurance plan. The private insurance companies are going to be in direct competition with any of the pre-existing or new government insurance plans, so if the public plans get an "upcharge" for gun ownership you know the private ones are going to demand this extra money, too.
All right-wing forces are allied against health care reform and every conceivable issue group’s attack will need to be countered. In this case, the fact is that there is absolutely nothing in the two health care bills that addresses or has any intended consequence regarding guns. Period. Rinse and repeat: period. Apparently there is no honor on the right; if a bill cannot be legitimately defeated, just assassinate it.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Reform Rx – The 2011 and 2013 Amendments

During the last couple of weeks, gaining perspective on the two health care reform acts working their way through Congress has been a priority over commentary. Observing whether or not the public option is being so weakened as to make it ineffective has been a constant concern. Watching the developing and predicted force feeding of abortion issue politics as a poison pill within the debate has been disquieting…more doses unfortunately will be forthcoming.

On balance, not everything in these bills is as progressive as one might desire but with liberal Representatives and Senators we can trust staying with the process and compromises, it continues to be reasonable to be supportive of both bills prior to conference committee work at some time in the future. Perfect is always the enemy of the imperfect. If the outcome is a marked step forward toward regulating insurance company discriminatory practices, will increase access to quality and affordable care, and develops a public option, we will have a framework on which to build, modify, and expand further substantive health care reforms in the near future.

One perspective to view health care reform from is the historical development of Social Security. The original legislation in 1935 had many coverage gaps and was a far weaker program than it is today. Significant amendments to the act in 1939 and 1950 (when it became much more universal) along with the constant attention to improving the program’s effectiveness to the present day are a result of expanding on Franklin Roosevelt’s vision. Republicans do also recognize that health reform today will open the door to additional reforms tomorrow. It is no wonder that right-wing efforts to engage in revisionist history and to vilify FDR and the New Deal are at a fever pitch on scream radio and conservative blabsites.

In Maine, once again our efforts must be focused on preventing our Senators from derailing or damaging the initial legislation.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Reform Rx – GOP Healthy Insurance Companies Bill

Republicans are finally getting to work and producing a GOP alternative health care bill that offers the public the option to evaluate their commitment to reform. Of course it does not have the diabolical public option. The GOP says it is all about costs and obviously concludes it is not about care.

Here are key emerging features:

- Insurance companies can continue refusing to cover pre-existing conditions so that the industry’s financial health does not deteriorate.
- The bill will allow the purchasing of health insurance policies across state lines so that insurance companies will be able to cherry pick where to sell based on lack of regulation and other requirements that suppress healthy profits for insurance companies. As a bonus, insurance companies could decide to charter in weak regulatory states to build low benefit–high profit plans to sell in other states to help the bottom line.
- The government does not get diabolically involved in health care except to encourage expansion of expensive state based high risk pools to help ensure that insurance companies avoid costly individuals so that insurance companies do not have any risks of low profits.
- Small businesses will be permitted to band together to buy health care so that after satisfying insurance company risk elimination and eliminating pre-existing conditions risks another market opens up to insurance companies bolstering their overall income. The pools themselves or insurance company determinations will reject businesses with high risk individuals to keep costs low and profits high.
- Medical malpractice awards for pain and suffering will be capped at $250,000 so that insurance companies will not have to endure the pain and suffering of paying out of profits for things like an individual’s loss of income for life or decades of misery.

Republicans do get velvet glove tough with the insurance industry in one area. There will not be a mandate that everyone must be covered which does not deliver another new market to insurance companies. Since the Republican plan also does not include tax credits for the poor that would make sense under such a mandate, a conclusion that insurance companies only need to have a giant profit protection guarantee rather than a mammoth one must have been reached.

Finally don’t worry, illegal aliens and abortions are not covered to keep the base fired up on social issues while shoveling the cash into health insurance company coffers.

GOP: Guaranteeing Outlandish Profits!