I just read an article that I thought was very well done. The article discusses the tactics the Obama administration has used to try to get the current House version of the healthcare bill passed. As you read through them, it becomes more and more apparent, at least to me, that if there was actual value - actual beneficial substance to THIS bill, these tactics would be unnecessary.
A separate article claims that the latest tactic came this weekend as Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius floated the idea that the public option could be off the table. The administration says she misspoke. This second article claims that this move falls under tactic #8 - take a controversial topic that never existed off the table to give the appearance of compromise. I'm not completely on board with that, though. That seems to apply directly to the removal from the bill of the so-called "death panels." I've stated before, I don't think these end of life counseling sessions were a bad thing and, if completely voluntary, could have been beneficial to our elderly in making sure they understood options available to them. People criticizing this section, who say doctors would coerce the elderly into assisted suicide, or what have you, are the same people who are up in arms that the President dare question a doctor's integrity by saying he or she would cut out tonsils or amputate a foot when it was unnecessary, simply to make a few bucks. I am critical of Obama's assertions there, but I also trust the integrity of doctors to not pressure seniors into assisted suicide. You can't have it both ways.
Now, if there was a provision that could lead to government rationing of health care based on a person's age or health (and I did hear from a Congressman that Obama had sent a separate bill to Congress that attempted to place a dollar value on a set period of quality life, though I have not located it...anybody knowing of it, please send me a link), I would strongly oppose that, but I don't think these end of life counseling sessions did that or were intended to do that.
I think this weekend's claim by Sebelius (and personally, I question anything Sebelius does at this point, since we've barely heard her name in this debate, but rather have heard only from Congress and Obama's healthcare czar) was more a trial balloon. Float something out there, see how it goes. I believe this happened a few weeks ago when two high-level members of the Obama administration floated the idea of raising taxes on the middle class, only to have the administration come back and say, no way. This gave the administration a sense of how the American people would react and, at the same time, gave Obama a chance to look like a hero. This weekend gave the administration the chance to see how much pushback they'd get from Democrats on a co-op program rather than a government option, then gave Obama a chance to look like a hero to his left-wing supporters. For now, win-win.
Here's my problem with this idea, and don't get me wrong, done properly I think the co-op can be a viable option, but here's what I see happening:
1) If they drop the government option, no matter what they try to do, they will face fierce opposition from the left. If this is the case, without a total reimagining of the bill, healthcare reform is doomed to fail altogether.
2) A co-op can be a trojan horse. If the government has any money involved in, or any control over the co-op, then it is nothing more than a government option with another name. It's like putting a fake nose, mustache, and glasses on the bill and thinking nobody will notice.
3) If the left tries to disguise the government option as a co-op, the right will oppose. The left will then vilify the right, saying we're not happy with anything, that we're paranoid and want nothing more than to defeat Obama, and don't care about reform or the American people who need help.
4) IF the left does oust the government option and does make a good faith effort to have a non-government entity provide the option and the right still opposes, they will lose a lot of credibility and a lot of momentum in their movement. The right continues to claim they want reform, just not THIS reform. Since Government control is one of the largest issues (along with cost), if we get this concession - truly get this concession - we need to be able to begin working with the left toward a final bill.
5) Regardless, THIS bill cannot pass. Maybe the one coming out of the Senate will be the one, but this current House bill is too broad, too vague, has too many placeholders for things to be added later, that it cannot be the one approved. Somebody needs to come out with an intelligent, CLEAR bill that Congress will read, that has no pork, and that recognizes the concerns on both sides of the aisle.
6) In my eyes, the final bill SHOULD include two things: Tort Reform and Congress participation. The only reason tort reform would not be included, as pretty much everyone acknowledges it is a problem ($500 billion a year spent on defensive medicine - unnecessary tests and procedures performed out of fear of lawsuits), is for political reasons - trial lawyers in Congress or friends of Congress whose business would be hurt. As for Congress participation, the only reason Congress would opt out of the program is if it is not a good program. Don't expect me to use it for my family, if you won't use it for yours. Not sure either of these will happen, though.
Overall, I still think the way to go is to fix the problems that exist: Pre-existing conditions a problem? Regulate it so that insurance companies can't exclude based on them (but then, how many people will opt out of buying insurance until they actually get sick - many more than do now, I'd be willing to bet, so do you mandate that everyone have insurance?). Create avenues for portability from job to job or state to state. Lower costs through tort reform, as mentioned above..it is succeeding in Texas. Continue to allow Health Savings Accounts (I believe these get scrapped in the current version of the bill). If fixing inefficincies in Medicare can pay for 2/3 of the new program, fix them anyway.
There are ways to fix things without overhauling the entire system - an overhaul, by the way, wouldn't even begin working until 2013. Remember when Democrats opposed drilling to help lower gas prices because the gas wouldn't even get to the pump for a few years (even though speculative markets do react to what's being done to fix the situation for the future)? The argument is apparently good for either side, when it suits them.
The question is, can either side prove that what they are doing is for the good of the American people and not just political gain? I obviously agree with the conservative ideas on this, but we'll see the true colors of both groups if the Democrats decide - or don't decide - to give any real concessions AND if they do, if the Republicans agree to any compromise.
For now, we continue to wait and watch.
ATTENTION: In honor of the upcoming anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, for the month of August, rather than 10% of profit, I will donate $1 per copy of Paranoia sold to the Twin Towers Orphan Fund (www.ttof.org). For more information, visit www.jebraun.com and click on the Purchase tab. Please spread the word.
J.E. Braun is the author of Paranoia, a 9/11 survivor's tale. Jim survived 9/11, but his life did not. Follow one man's journey through post-traumatic stress as he attempts to rediscover what once made life worth living.