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The Senate Health Reform Circus

Reading reports of the Senate debate on health care reform leaves Crabby Old Lady wondering how we elected these clowns and why we pay them because there seem to be no more than half a dozen grownups among them. Here are just a few reasons they are, to Crabby, unfit for office.

Republican Obstructionism
Last week, Republicans codified their naysaying and obstructionism to any and all Democratic proposals since President Obama was elected. Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire (he who is pursuing an outside commission to take over control of Social Security and Medicare from Congress) sent his Republican colleagues a letter [pdf] outlining arcane procedural weapons they can use to derail a health care reform bill. An example from Gregg's list [Crabby's emphases added]:

"A Senator may make a point of order at any point he or she believes that a Senate procedure is being violated, with or without cause.

“After the presiding officer rules, any Senator who disagrees with such ruling may appeal the ruling of the chair - that appeal is fully debatable. Some points of order, such as those raised on Constitutional grounds, are not ruled on by the presiding officer and the question is put to the Senate, then the point of order itself is fully debatable.

“The Senate may dispose of a point of order or an appeal by tabling it; however, delay is created by the two roll call votes in connection with each tabling motion (motion to table and motion to reconsider that vote)."

This buffoon has no interest in doing the work he was elected for. Like an obstreperous child, he would be sent to bed without dinner if Crabby had her way.

Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat from Nebraska, submitted an amendment to the Senate health care reform bill that would prohibit all federal funding of abortion. (Would someone explain to Crabby Old Lady how it is possible to arbitrarily deny funding for a legal medical procedure? Why not heart surgery then? Or a broken leg?)

Crabby has been pondering what it says about Nelson and his worldview that his amendment would, effectively, deny abortion to low- an middle-income women while affecting richer women not at all; they can always afford an abortion with or without coverage for it.

The Senate narrowly defeated the amendment on Tuesday, but in regard to another inequity it contained, Senator Barbara Boxer, bless her feminist heart, had this to say - watch and smile:

As amusing as Boxer's commentary is, the whole abortion argument is a sideshow that Crabby believes Republicans are using to stall the real work of reform so they can have the childish satisfaction of not delivering a bill to the president before the new year as he wants.

Public Option
Decisions forthcoming from the day-to-day Senate debate tend to be moving targets that can be negated almost as soon as they are announced, so Crabby doesn't bother storing this stuff in her long-term memory.

As of yesterday afternoon, when Crabby was writing this missive, the “broad agreement” on the public option Senate leader Harry Reid had announced on Tuesday, still held. Although he didn't use the word “trigger,” that's what the agreement is – there is no public option unless circumstances invoke the trigger. Here is a brief description of the senator's announcement from The New York Times:

”[A] federal agency, the Office of Personnel Management, would negotiate with insurance companies to offer national health benefit plans, similar to those offered to federal employees, including members of Congress.

“If these private plans did not meet certain goals for making affordable coverage available to all Americans, Senate Democratic aides said, then the government itself would offer a new insurance plan, somewhat like the “public option” in the bill Mr. Reid unveiled three weeks ago.”

There is no option in that. It is a sellout, plain and simple, a giveaway to the private insurance industry that contributes millions of dollars to senators' campaign chests and ignores the many polls indicating that a majority of Americans want a public option. It is also, embarrassingly, a suck up to a single senator, the tedious Independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who repeatedly threatens to not vote for any legislation with a public option.

Any of you who believes the criteria to trigger the government insurance plan would ever kick in is naïve; it is a promise that will never be kept and even a kid knows that. How stupid do these senators think we are?

Crabby Old Lady would publicly declare right now to vote against either of her senators who support this sham plan, but she is holding her fire because she sees a glimmer of hope.

Another section of the “broad agreement,” according to Harry Reid, would allow people age 55 to 64 to “buy in” to Medicare. This is a terrific idea that the smart people concerned with reform have been urging from the beginning and although this version does not cover enough people, Crabby Old Lady sees it as a wedge toward Medicare for All. Once those mid-life people get a taste of Medicare (some of them have children to insure too), there will be a uprising of public demand for expanding Medicare to everyone.

And there are reports, vague so far, that Medicare for 55- to 64-year-olds would begin soon - in 2010.

There are no details about eligibility, premium levels, possible restrictions, etc. in this agreement (what Crabby has repeated here is pretty much all that is known so far) and god knows, it could easily be amended to death or slip away entirely. But failing a strong public option, it's a decent advance toward a real single payer system.

It would also take some small amount of pressure off Medicare funding. Because 55- to 64-year-olds are, on average, healthier than 65-and-older people, the risk pool would grow and costs would be reduced overall. Perhaps the accountants and actuaries at the Congressional Budget Office, who are now scoring this "broad agreement," can take the opportunity to impress upon the senators who oppose it (read: Republicans and Lieberman) the advantage of this.

Apart from that small bright light, Crabby is furious at the grandstanding, time wasting, posturing and delays from the Senate. She is pretty sure we could send a hundred 6th grade student government leaders – two from each state - to the Senate and they could do a better job.

Early Thursday Morning Update
According to a New York Times editorial this morning, the buy-in premium to Medicare for 55- to-64-year-olds would be $7,600 a year for single coverage which reduces Crabby's tentative enthusiasm by a number of degrees.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: What's Your Choice? A Second Installment About Cars


I thought I couldn't be more depressed than I was after our 'dumb and dumber' citizens elected Bush a second time, but I feel the 'blues' coming on with each twist and turn of the sham reform surgery being performed on the health care reform bill now. I wonder what kind of a country I am living in.

I am so disgusted and depressed by this whol process. I am feeling betrayed by our President and by Congress.

Unfortunately, the cost of Medicare is probably correct, the way it is now. Part B must cost around $425 a month, because most beneficiaries pay about $100 or about 25% of the cost. And Part A would, apparently, cost until a person is 65, when there is no cost, and that premium is about $450 a month. So maybe it's even a bargain at $600 a month?

If you're uninsured or underinsured because of health issues, or paying $500 a month for a $10,000 deductible, as some people I know are, $600 a month is pricey but still coverage.

I was hopeful with the Medicare idea too, until I read the cost. We are now paying 680.00 a month for a policy with a 10,000 deductible but there are two of us in our fifties.
I agree with Crabby about our senator. And the idea that the insurance companies will get millions of new customers is making me furious. To say the least.

Like you, I am damn crabby! I go through alternating periods of internal rage and then a certain numbness as I view this spectacle. These people (the Senate) really need a dose of reality and yet I have this feeling that it will never happen. They will go back to their state and be reelected by the 30+ percent of the eligible voters that bother to vote. What has happened to America? Why do we hate our fellow citizens so much? How can the other civilized nations have health care that works for ALL of their citizens and we can't have that simple thing? I have to quit writing now, if I don't I would keep on writing about the 'sickness' of our nation all day and I have better things to do.
Thanks for this post, Crabby! You're the best!

I feel the same as Darlene and could not say it any better.

For the record, I was paying $620 a month a year ago for my own insurance, before I went on Medicare. That was discounted from who-knows-what, since I bought it through a group plan. So, $600 a month isn't bad.
Second, if we're going to refuse to pay for abortions, I would insist that we also refuse to pay for Viagra or any office visits related to erectile dysfunction, which is not a medical necessity. The two "conditions" are not equal in weight, of course, but the latter might be closer to the hearts of many in Congress. Since we have a relative who nearly died during pregnancy and childbirth this year, the abortion issue is close to mine.

The so-called health reform certainly brings out the Crabby in most of us. Just one more aspect of that: what are these idiot Democrats thinking? Do they want to be driven from office by citizens they got all riled up over health care and to whom they delivered next to nothing? Dumb and dumber.

Meanwhile, there does seem to be good news, at least for the moment, on Senator Gregg's pet commission to make Social Security recipients eat cat food. I've written that up here.

The Democrats need to be more like Supernanny and put an effective stop to the Republican tantrum obstructing health care reform. The Dems have the power and the votes and the mandate, but they are not using it effectively. We are going to end up once again with health care of the insurance industry, by the insurance industry, and for the insurance industry. Money defeats the common good one more time.

The Public Option is officially died. See

This puts me in cranky old broad mode -- although Sen. Boxer's video elicited a heartfelt cackle. I'm an sooo very disappointed (gross understatement) with the obstruction and the growing pile of bullchit from our so-called leaders. You can bet those old farts use viagra and wouldn't want us to know about it because their wives could find out, too.

We've been sold down the river and as each day passes and I read the papers, I feel that the chances of our getting decent healthcare are rapidly becoming nil.


I've been following this too closely for my own mental health. What happens to people after they get elected to public office that they forget why they were voted in? And how can a constitutional scholar, law review president, bla bla like Obama be so inept IRL?

Did I ever mention how I felt about politics?

Paula hit the nail on the head. I've thought for some time that any policy or law that restricted access to birth control, including abortion, should be required to place equivalent restrictions on erectile dysfunction "health care" appointments/prescriptions/surgeries/counseling.

Shall we start a march?

Busted! Ronni, ever so gently, let me know that I shoulda watched the Barbara Boxer video prior to commenting (above). My apologies to all.

I was having a bad day before I read this and now it's even worst, can't we exert some pressure from our blogs this is bull crape...and there is no better word how can any of these guys and girls (when appropriate) sleep at night...

Because I was born in 46 I have to wait until I'm 66 and being 63 now seems so far away...death and taxes is all we really know for sure.

Dorothy from grammology

Thanks so much for reporting on this, Ronni. I pay $822/month now, so this new tentative plan really wouldn't help much. I must admit to tuning out because the whole "democratic" process is so distressing ...

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