The elderblogger giveth and she taketh away. No sooner had I posted what I believed - with reservations - is a compelling reason to be generally hopeful about the Senate health care reform bill than Senate Leader Harry Reid caved to the perennial flip-flopper, Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut who demanded removal of the Medicare buy-in for uninsured people age 55 to 64.
After leaving a meeting in Reid's office, Lieberman told reporters Monday evening:
“Harry said, ‘We will do what we can do to secure this.' “He said, ‘I have got some work to do with other members of the caucus.’ But he said, ‘My own feeling is we need you to get to 60 and so I am going to do my best.’”
I'm disgusted with them all, but am particularly incensed today at Senator Lieberman who has never had a political philosophy to call his own, only whatever will allow him to maintain his power along with the spotlight he so nakedly craves. Listen to him in an interview from September this year claiming credit for devising the Medicare buy-in idea:
What changed since then? Lieberman represents the third wealthiest state in the nation, measured by median income, which is also home to a large portion of the insurance industry. Who do we suppose got to Lieberman in the past three months??? As The New York Times notes:
”During his 2006 re-election campaign, Mr. Lieberman ranked second in the Senate in insurance industry contributions. Connecticut is a hub of the insurance business, with about 22,000 jobs specifically in health insurance, according to an industry trade group.”
To make Lieberman's reversal on the Medicare buy-in provision taste even worse, White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is said to have personally urged Reid to cut a deal with Lieberman and “get it done. Just get it done.” Later, a White House spokesperson denied the report although two sources confirm it.
Even good guy senators have caved.
"'How could I not vote for the bill?' [West Virginia Senator Jay] Rockefeller said. 'I have to consider who is looking to me for results and what can I give to them. This makes it easy for me to vote for it.'
“Sen. Paul Kirk, D-Mass., also seemed ready to accept the compromise. In the closed-door meeting, he called for everyone else to go along too, invoking the name of his predecessor, the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, and his desire to pass health care reform.”
This is not compromise, it is capitulation to the corporate forces that desperately want to maintain the health care status quo. The White House has been so weak on promoting reform that would make a real difference in the lives of citizens that it is apparent they just want a bill, any bill, by the end of the year and they will crow about reform whether it is or not.
Without a public option and without the Medicare buy-in, there will be, just like now, no choice but private coverage. And get this: No one knows who, but someone snuck a nasty little surprise into the Senate bill that hasn't got nearly the news coverage it should:
”As currently written, the Senate Democratic health care bill would permit insurance companies to place annual limits on the dollar value of medical care, as long as those limits are not 'unreasonable.' The bill does not define what level of limits would be allowable, delegating that task to administration officials.
“Adding to the puzzle, the new language was quietly tucked away in a clause in the bill still captioned 'No lifetime or annual limits'...
"'We don't know who put it in, or why it was put in,'" said Stephen Finan, a policy expert with the [American Cancer Society's] advocacy affiliate...
“Finan said the change in the Senate bill essentially invalidates the legislation's ban on lifetime limits. 'If you can have annual limits, saying there's no lifetime limits becomes meaningless,' he said. A patient battling aggressive disease in its later stages could conceivably exhaust insurance benefits in the course of a year.”
So now, without a public option or Medicare buy-in, there is no reason to believe insurance will be any less expensive under the reform package, patients will still face a cutoff of coverage in the middle of treatment for catastrophic illnesses and any American who refuses to buy corporate coverage will be fined by the IRS. I'm taking bets on how soon the clause eliminating pre-existing conditions as a reason to refuse coverage will be gone from the bill.
But, hey, that's okay. As President Bush pointed out, there is no health care problem in the United States; people can just go to emergency rooms.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Brenton “Sandy” Dickson: Searching For Answers