A Shout-Out to Evergreen and Union-Negotiated Health Insurance

Wednesday was fun.  About half an hour into my shift, the mild discomfort I’d been feeling announced itself as a full-blown kidney stone.  I’m prone to the bastards, and apparently the one that had announced its existence a few months ago didn’t so much pass as await a better opportunity.  Anyone who’s had these before knows it’s an exquisite form of agony.  Sometimes, it’s only moderate torture, and you can ride it out with the proper swear words.  But since I can’t scream profanities at work, I decided a trip to the ER for some nice happy drugs was in order.

Now, I’ve been to a lot of hospitals for these stupid things.  I’ve had to wait in the waiting room for hours before getting a doctor, and been put through the excitement of having to register before being seen.  The last thing you want to do while your kidney feels like it’s simultaneously imploding and exploding after being blowtorched is answer questions about your insurance.  I wasn’t looking forward to it.

But when I got to Evergreen Hospital‘s ER, a gentleman zipped out to meet me, whisked me back for a blood pressure and temp check, slapped the plastic bracelet on, and said they’d call me right back.  I don’t think the whole thing took more than five minutes.  I had time to call my intrepid companion and alert him to the fact I’d need a ride home, and then they were ushering me right to an exam room.  I’d barely gotten the gown on before a nurse was there – with bad news.  They had to check for blood in ye olde urine before they’d start the good drugs.  This, I thought, would take ages.  But no – about fifteen minutes after producing a sample, she was back with the great good news that I did, indeed, have a stone, and it was time for the blessed relief.  Wasn’t her fault that just as she was putting the IV in, the damned thing passed.  All that drama for naught.

The ER doc, who is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met, decided we’d best ensure the little bugger wasn’t just playing possum, so we waited a bit.  He sent me home a little over an hour later with a prescription for the good stuff and an apology for taking so long with the discharge papers – they were horribly busy.

You never would have guessed it from the speed with which they handled my case, start to finish.  That place is amazing.  I wish every hospital could have an ER that functioned so smoothly.  And it’s one of the only hospitals I know of that sends someone in to get you registered only after you’re no longer in agony.

In fact, they left me feeling so good (even without drugs, hee hee) that I went back to work for the rest of the evening.

They did a fantastic job, they’ve got a wonderful hospital with an exceptional staff, and they deserve recognition for the tremendous work they do.  So, my dear Evergreen: thank you from the bottom of my heart (and my kidney)!

And there’s another reason I’m telling you about my ridiculous little medical woes: it points up the value of good health insurance.  Everyone in this country should be able to have the experience I had.  When the pain hit, I didn’t have to suffer.  My union-negotiated health care’s got me covered (theoretically, anyway).  So well, in fact, that when I checked out, there wasn’t even a copay. 

Now, single-payer would be a fuck of a lot better – I wouldn’t have had to do that frantic little do-I-or-don’t-I-have-my-insurance-card-on-me check.  But having good insurance is certainly the next-best thing.  We’re on our way to that with the Affordable Care Act.  No, it’s not going to be perfect at first.  Yes, insurers will kick up a fuss and try to wriggle out of their obligations and in general make this as miserable as possible.  Cons will try to tear the law down rather than building it up, and too many “moderate” Dems will be more than happy to help them with the wrecking ball.  But if we, the sick and those who could get sick without prior notice, keep the pressure for a better health care system on, it won’t just be the union members and other suck lucky folk who have good coverage.  We can take this Act and build on it.

So, thanks to my union for ensuring I’m well-insured.  And thanks to those who had the courage to vote for the first steps to ensuring the whole country’s well-insured.  That’s the first skirmish won – keep fighting for more!

Finally, huge thanks to my intrepid companion, who stood by ready to drive my loopy self home if they’d had to pump me full of painkillers, and who even cleaned out his car, and let me ruin his afternoon plans, just so he could be told his services weren’t necessary.  Friends like that are solid gold.  I can’t ever express in words how much he means to me, and I suck at performance art, so a simple “Thanks, man” will just have to symbolize the whole.

Health Care in America: “They Were Being Treated In Animal Stalls”

I applaud Stan Brock and Remote Area Medical for bringing health care to those who can’t afford it. I’m appalled a program originally intended for isolated populations in third-world areas is necessary in America:

President Obama, I hope you’ll go see this for yourself – and drag the inhumane Blue Dogs along with you:

AMY GOODMAN: As debate continues in Washington over healthcare reform, thousands of Americans in neighboring Virginia are preparing to line up this weekend to receive free healthcare provided by a group called Remote Area Medical.

The charity was originally set up to provide doctors and medicine to isolated communities in the developing world, places like the Amazon jungle, where medical treatment is hard to come by. But the group quickly found itself having to set up in communities across the United States, where medical care is a right millions of Americans cannot afford.

Founded in 1985, Remote Area Medical is a non-profit, volunteer relief corps that provides healthcare free, dental care, eye care, veterinary services, and technical and educational assistance. It’s based in Knoxville, Tennessee, but the group frequently travels to set up relief centers, what’s called “expeditions,” across the country. This weekend they’ll be once again back in Wise County, Virginia.

Stan Brock is the founder of Remote Area Medical, joining us on the phone from Knoxville, Tennessee.

Stan, welcome to Democracy Now! Now, you are the Stan Brock of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, that show that was on Sunday nights for I don’t know how many years?

STAN BROCK: Yes, Sunday evenings, 7:00 p.m., as I recall, on NBC.

AMY GOODMAN: And what brought you from that, and what were you doing there, to founding Remote Area Medical?

STAN BROCK: Well, Remote Area Medical history goes back to many years when I lived in the Upper Amazon, and this is before Wild Kingdom. And I was living with a tribe of Native Americans called the Wapishana Indians, and we were—well, it was a very remote area on the northern border of Brazil in what used to be British Guiana. I had a nasty accident there with a wild horse. And while I was being pulled out from underneath the horse, one of the Wapishana said, “Well, the nearest doctor is twenty-six days on foot from here.”

It was about that time that I got the idea of bringing those doctors just a little bit closer. And that’s what we did many, many years later when I formed Remote Area Medical, but subsequently found that there were a lot of people like those Wapishanas here in the United States that didn’t have access to healthcare. And so, 64 percent of everything we do is now right here in America.

But, of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with our current system, right, Cons? You don’t see any problem with the fact that Americans are as cut off from proper health care as people living deep in the Amazonian jungle. You don’t feel one iota of shame that people have to be packed into animal stalls on a fair ground to get the medical attention they need:

WENDELL POTTER: I was very isolated, along with most insurance company executives who deal with numbers all the time—profit margins and medical loss ratios and earnings per share and how many millions of members you have, or things like that. It’s just—they’re just numbers. And I didn’t really associate that with real people as much as I should and as much as most insurance company executives should, until I went to visit my relatives in Tennessee.

And while I was there, I happened to learn about a healthcare expedition that was being held at a nearby town across the state line in Virginia. And I was intrigued, borrowed my dad’s car and drove up to Wise County to see what was going on there. And this expedition was being held at the Wise County fairgrounds, and it was being put on by this group called Remote Area Medical that got its start several years ago taking volunteer doctors from this country to remote villages in South America, where people really don’t have any access to medical care. The founder realized pretty soon, though, that the need in this country is very, very great, and he started holding similar expeditions in rural communities throughout the country. And this one was nearby. I decided to check it out.

I didn’t have any idea what to expect, but when I walked through the fairground gates, it was just absolutely overwhelming. What I saw were people who were lined up. It was raining that day. They were lined up in the rain by the hundreds, waiting to get care that was being donated by doctors and nurses and dentists and other caregivers, and they were being treated in animal stalls. Volunteers had come to disinfect the animal stalls. They also had set up tents. It looked like a MASH unit. It looked like this could have been something that was happening in a war-torn country, and war refugees were there to get their care. It was just unbelievable, and it just drove it home to me, maybe for the first time, that we were talking about real human beings and not just numbers.

Virginia’s not far from DC. Maybe Congress should take a field trip. I’d dearly love to see Cons defending the status quo on camera in front of those stalls. Maybe they can talk to us about rationing and the horrors of socialized medicine while they point out that everybody in America has access to health care – as long as they have a bus ticket and don’t mind waiting in line in the rain so doctors can treat them in livestock stalls. While they’re standing in the midst of something that looks like a war zone, they can boast about America having the best health care system in the world.

Somehow, though, I don’t think they’ll show up for that photo op. I can’t imagine why not.

Hunter’s Health Care Letter – Plus the Long-Awaited Con 10-Point Plan!

Hunter at Daily Kos writes a heart-felt letter to President Obama, begging him not to “fix” a perfectly good system:

Dear Mr. President: I am writing you today because I am outraged at the notion of involving government in healthcare decisions like they do in other countries. I believe healthcare decisions should be between myself and my doctor.

Well, that is not strictly true. I believe healthcare decisions should be between myself, my doctor, and my insurance company, which provides me a list of which doctors I can see, which specialists I can see, and has a strict policy outlining when I can and can’t see those specialists, for what symptoms, and what tests my doctors can or cannot perform for a given set of symptoms. That seems fair, because the insurance company needs to make a profit; they’re not in the business of just keeping people alive for free.

Oh, and also my employer. My employer decides what health insurance company and plans will be available to me in the first place. If I quit that job and find another, my heath insurance will be different, and I may or may not be able to see the same doctor as I had been seeing before, or receive the same treatments, or obtain the same medicines. So I believe my healthcare decisions should be between myself, the company I work for, my insurance company, and my doctor. Assuming I’m employed, which is a tough go in the current economy.

Read on as Hunter discovers yet more layers between patient and doctor that the government just shouldn’t mess with.

Meanwhile, Crooks and Liars’ Jon Perr has finally obtained the Cons’ health reform plan:

In a nutshell, the GOP is proposing to extend the status quo for a nation gripped by a collapsing health care system.

Here, then, is the Republican 10-Point Plan for Health Care:

  1. 50 Million Uninsured in America
  2. Another 25 Million Underinsured
  3. Employer-Based Coverage Plummets Below 60%
  4. Employer Health Costs to Jump by 9% in 2010
  5. One in Five Americans Forced to Postpone Care
  6. 62% of U.S. Bankruptcies Involve Medical Bills
  7. Current Health Care Costs Already Fueling Job Losses
  8. 94% of Health Insurance Markets in U.S Now “Highly Concentrated”
  9. Dramatic Decline in Emergency Room Capacity
  10. Perpetuating Red State Health Care Failure

For the details and data behind each, continue reading.

With a system like ours, who needs reform, right? Aside from, y’know, the uninsured, the under-insured, and small businesses crushed by skyrocketing benefit costs. Oh, and those families that will get hit with a $25,000 annual insurance bill if things don’t change:

Another new study, conducted by the progressive Center for American Progress looks at the potential costs for American families if the system isn’t reformed.

Health care costs are expected to grow 71 percent over the next decade, which will in turn drive premium increases for health insurance. Unless we take serious steps now to reform our health care system—in particular to reduce the rate of growth in health care costs—health insurance coverage will slip out of reach for even more individuals than the 52 million Americans who today are uninsured.

This analysis shows that without health reform, average family premiums will grow to more than $22,000 by 2019, up from $13,100 today. In some states with higher-than-average premiums, family premiums will exceed $25,000 in 10 years. Of course, a family’s total health care costs will be even higher once co-payments and other out-of-pocket expenses are calculated into the total.

But, y’know, aside from all that, we have a perfect system. All of the people rich enough to afford good health care assure us it’s the best in the world.

The Next Time Some Dumbshit Scaremongers About Canada…

…show them this:

Our friends at Sadly, No! take a look at the actual outcomes between the US and Canada. I don’t think it will surprise you to see that the U.S. system doesn’t measure up so well:

Circulatory disease deaths per 100,000:

  • Canada: 219
  • United States: 265

    Child maltreatment deaths per 100,000:

  • Canada: 0.7
  • United States: 2.2

    Digestive disease deaths per 100,000:

  • Canada: 17.4
  • United States: 20.5

    Infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births

  • Canada: 5.08
  • United States: 6.3

    Intestinal diseases death rate

  • Canada: 0.3%
  • United States: 7.3%

    Proability of not reaching age 60:

  • Canada: 9.5%
  • United States: 12.8%
  • Read more at Sadly, No!

    Then entertain yourselves by asking them how a country with such a no good, very bad, horrible health care system ends up creaming the United States in every single metric.

    Spines Developing Among Dems

    I don’t know about you, but this comes as an absolute fucking shock to me: Harry Reid’s apparently located his spine somewhere deep in the detritus of his garage, and he’s gingerly trying it on:

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has “ordered Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) to drop a proposal to tax health benefits and stop chasing Republican votes on a massive health care reform bill.” Roll Call reports:

    According to Democratic sources, Reid told Baucus that taxing health benefits and failing to include a strong government-run insurance option of some sort in his bill would cost 10 to 15 Democratic votes; Reid told Baucus it wasn’t worth securing the support of Grassley and at best a few additional Republicans. …

    Good on yer, Harry. Keep that spine on – it becomes you.

    Meanwhile, Arizona’s got at least one pol it can be proud of:

    Update: And the progressives in the House weigh in:

    The Honorable Barack Obama
    President of the United States
    1600 Pennsylvania Aye, N.W.
    Washington, D.C. 20500

    Dear Mr. President,

    I read with alarm and dismay the article in the July 7th edition of the Wall Street Journal, “WhiteHouse Open to Deal on Public Health Plan”. In particular, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel stated in the article that one of several ways to meet your health care reform goals is a mechanism under which a public plan is introduced only if the marketplace fails to provide sufficient competition on its own.

    I want to be crystal clear that any such trigger for a strong public plan option is a non-starter with a majority of the Members of the Progressive Caucus (CPC). As the CPC has repeatedly stated, its Members cannot support final passage of any health care reform bill that does not include a robust public plan option, akin to Medicare, operating alongside the private plans.

    Public opinion polls show that 76° o of Americans want a robust public plan option and I will stand in solidarity with them. Moreover, I consider it unacceptable for any of the cost savings that you are negotiating with hospitals and other sectors of the health care industry to be madecontingent upon a robust public plan option not being included in the final legislation.

    Thank you for your thoughtful consideration.

    Sincerely,

    Raul Grijalva

    And Raul has Rahmbo running for the hills:

    After initially indicating his support for a public plan “trigger,” White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel reassured House Democrats tonight that he strongly backs a public plan. Progressive Caucus Co-Chairwoman Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) said she told Emanuel that support for a “trigger” would cause health reform to lose Democratic votes:

    “We have compromised enough, and we are not going to compromise on any kind of trigger game,” Woolsey said she told Emanuel. “People clapped all over the place. We mean it, and not just progressives.”

    Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) said Emanuel reassured him that he “doesn’t stand by that trigger.”

    Nice shooting, Rep. Grijalva and fellow progressives. Nice work, AZ’s 7th. Keep that fellow around, would you?

    Attention, Women’s Rights Supporters: the Senate Needs a Kickin’

    It’s not enough for Dems to be so in love with bipartisanship that they’re trying to neuter healthcare reform for a few pitiful Con votes they don’t even need. Now they’re talking insanity:

    As Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) prepares to unveil the Senate Finance Committee’s bipartisan health care reform legislation later this week, several blogs are reporting that Republicans on the Committee are pushing legislation that would require insurers operating within the new Exchange to to deny coverage for abortion services. From Raising Women’s Voices:

    The Senate Finance Committee has been writing a health care reform bill and struggling to create legislation that will have bipartisan support. Chairman Max Baucus (pictured left) considered several compromises to win Republican support, so they can claim it is bipartisan legislation. One of these potential compromises comes in the form of an abortion exclusion, which would prevent abortion services from being covered by some or all insurance plans in the Health Insurance Exchange. We fear that members of the Senate Finance Committee are considering such a compromise.

    Should it pass, the Senate Finance version would be the only bill that specifically prohibits a medical service.

    These fucktards can’t overturn Roe vs. Wade, so they’re just trying to make that law a dead letter. I say we don’t let ‘em.

    Raising Women’s Voices raises some good points:

    This is potentially very dangerous, and poses a great risk for the health and lives of women all over this country. There is no excuse for excluding health benefits from health insurance plans based on politics and ideology. We don’t want politicians deciding what health care services we have and do not have. We need to look out for the women with the least access to resources and capital and ensure that their needs are represented.

    Please contact your members of congress, encourage them to oppose this amendment or any language about restricting women’s access to reproductive health care services. We most strongly encourage women and men from states represented on the Senate Finance Committee to contact their representatives: Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Alaska, Oregon, New York, Michigan, Washington, Florida, New Jersey, Delaware, Iowa, Utah, Maine, Arizona, Kentucky, Idaho, Kansas, Nevada, and Texas. Make your voice heard and make sure this possibility doesn’t become a reality.

    Darlings, grab your Smack-o-Matics and get whackin’.

    But No, Really, Private’s Better than Public!

    Because, you know, private insurers take such better care of us than the government ever could!

    The health insurance industry maximizes their profits by delivering as little care as they can legally get away with, or for that matter, illegally.
    Health insurers have forced consumers to pay billions of dollars in medical bills that the insurers themselves should have paid, according to a report released yesterday by the staff of the Senate Commerce Committee.

    The report was part of a multi-pronged assault on the credibility of private insurers by Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.). It came at a time when Rockefeller, President Obama and others are seeking to offer a public alternative to private health plans as part of broad health-care reform legislation. Health insurers are doing everything they can to block the public option.

    At a committee hearing yesterday, three health-care specialists testified that insurers go to great lengths to avoid responsibility for sick people, use deliberately incomprehensible documents to mislead consumers about their benefits, and sell “junk” policies that do not cover needed care. Rockefeller said he was exploring “why consumers get such a raw deal from their insurance companies.”

    The star witness at the hearing was a former public relations executive for major health insurers whose testimony boiled down to this: Don’t trust the insurers.

    Wendell Potter is the name of the star witness, a former VP for corporate communications at insurance giant Cigna. His testimony was devastating, as he offered a step-by-step tour into how the insurance industry works to increase their profits. This is the system that Republicans and conservative Democrats want to hold a monopoly over your health care, in a forced market where you have to sign up with them.

    What drove Potter from the health insurance business was, well, the health insurance business. The industry, Potter says, is driven by “two key figures: earnings per share and the medical-loss ratio, or medical-benefit ratio, as the industry now terms it. That is the ratio between what the company actually pays out in claims and what it has left over to cover sales, marketing, underwriting and other administrative expenses and, of course, profits.”

    Think about that term for a moment: The industry literally has a term for how much money it “loses” paying for health care.

    The best way to drive down “medical-loss,” explains Potter, is to stop insuring unhealthy people. You won’t, after all, have to spend very much of a healthy person’s dollar on medical care because he or she won’t need much medical care. And the insurance industry accomplishes this through two main policies. “One is policy rescission,” says Potter. “They look carefully to see if a sick policyholder may have omitted a minor illness, a pre-existing condition, when applying for coverage, and then they use that as justification to cancel the policy, even if the enrollee has never missed a premium payment.” […]

    Potter also emphasized the practice known as “purging.” This is where insurers rid themselves of unprofitable accounts by slapping them with “intentionally unrealistic rate increases.” One famous example came when Cigna decided to drive the Entertainment Industry Group Insurance Trust in California and New Jersey off of its books. It hit them with a rate increase that would have left some family plans costing more than $44,000 a year, and it gave them three months to come up with the cash.

    The insurers simply follow the profit motive. Under the current system, there is no profit in offering people care, only denying them it. And so competition in the marketplace, or more to the point competition on Wall Street to increase share price (because most insurance markets in this country are limited), depends on coming up with new and exciting ways to either deny care or off-load costs onto customers.

    Tell you what, Cons and Con-like Dems. We’ll be happy to leave a public option off the table – as long as health care reform includes a lawyer, prosecutor and prison provided gratis for every American. I wouldn’t mind private insurance a bit as long as I could submit their bullshit paperwork to my lawyer, have him refer them for prosecution when they fuck me over, and see them stuffed in prison afterward.

    No? Public option it is, then.

    Someone tell me again why our infinitely intelligent overlords took single-payer off the table…

    Our Vulcan President

    Ladies and gentlemen, the evidence that Barak Obama is, in fact, a Vulcan, despite his penchant for flashing beaming grins.

    Exhibit A, which is evident in his every speech and appearance, and thus needs no link: his preternatural calm.

    Exhibit B: His ability to flash a Vulcan salute.

    And Exhibit C: His response to inane questions about public plans driving private plans out of business:

    I believe it was David Jackson, from USA Today, who suggested to the president this afternoon that a public health care option would “drive private insurance out of business.” I thoroughly enjoyed the Obama’s response.

    “Why would it drive private insurance out of business? If private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality health care; if they tell us that they’re offering a good deal, then why is it that the government — which they say can’t run anything — suddenly is going to drive them out of business? That’s not logical…”

    Pure Spock, that is. And you know something? It’s fantastic to have a Vulcan in charge, especially after the last eight years of Tweedledum and Tweedlevil.

    Others have compared Obama’s remarks to Spock, but none of them created a clip. This means that instead of filching one, I had to create my own:

    Live long and prosper, Mr. Sp – er, President.

    (Tip o’ the shot glass to WavCentral.com and the unwitting fools at MediaResearch.org, who respectively supplied sound and image.)

    Dems Start to Ask, “What Fucking Bipartisanship?”

    This is good:

    Something fairly interesting happened today. It doesn’t mean we will get a public health insurance option to compete with the insurance industry, but it doesn’t exactly hurt. Apparently some Democrats thought that if they only watered down such a public option to nothing, they would get that vaunted bipartisan support, and everybody could go back to their districts and claim they did something when they in fact would have done nothing. But as those of us who have been observing this have known for some time, these aren’t your father’s Republicans, or your grandfather’s, or any other relative. They are the rump conservative party, openly hostile to using government for any means other than profit-taking, and preferring to tell their constituents “good luck” instead of making any tangible difference to their struggles. And somehow, Democrats just discovered this.

    Some Senate Democrats have considered nixing the public option proposal in order to win Republican support for the bill.

    Schumer’s role is important because he had been acting as an intermediary between liberal Democrats and moderates who are trying to strike a deal on the issue with Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee. Of the five House and Senate committees working on health care, Finance is the only one that appears to have a chance at reaching a bipartisan agreement.

    Schumer said Finance Republicans had rejected several proposals designed to beef up the suggested nonprofit insurance co-ops. These included setting up a national structure for the co-ops, $10 billion in government seed money, power to negotiate payment rates to medical providers nationwide and creation of a presidentially appointed board of directors.

    The Democrats tried to basically bury the public option as long as they could get any manner of support for the weak substitute. And the Republicans wouldn’t budge. Like in 1993, their mission is to kill health care reform, period. Why anyone would think that any alternative would be true is beyond me, but Senate Democrats obviously needed to play Tic-Tac-Toe with the computer endlessly until they realized what a strange game it all is, and that “the only winning move is not to play.” Ezra Klein comes to the same conclusion.

    Republicans, (Schumer) suggests, are standing lockstep even against efforts to create a private co-op system that could offer an alternative to for-profit insurance. Their concern with the co-op plan is not that the government would be taking over the health-care system. It’s that the current insurance providers would face unexpectedly aggressive competition in the marketplace. Which raises an interesting, and potentially clarifying, question: Are Republicans in this to preserve the healthy functioning of a competitive private market or preserve the profits of the currently dominant insurance companies?

    Wonderful to see what they actually mean by “free market,” innit? It’s never been about the supposedly free market: it’s all about letting their business buddies rake in the big bucks, free of the fear that either the government or co-ops will provide actual *gasp* competition. Add to that a heaping helping of Con determination to force Obama to fail no matter how badly that fucks the country, and you can clearly see just how bipartisan Cons are willing to be.


    This teachable moment has a value for those outside the system who want to push for a real public option that can use bargaining power to force competition from insurers. Because now, as Matt Yglesias says, there’s no excuse for Democrats to water down their bills in order to “seek bipartisanship” and make them durable. Republicans have revealed themselves. And given budget reconciliation and the imminent fact of 60 votes in the US Senate, Democrats have nobody else to blame. They can talk about political realities but those have essentially been voted out of existence, with respect to Republicans. Whether it’s because of health industry campaign contributions or a desire to limit competition in small, rural states, a desire to get the glory for saving policy from the brink or just an ideological disinclination, individual Senate Democrats will have the collapse of any health care reform on their hands.
    And yes, I mean Democratic senators. The Republicans, with a few possible exceptions, have decided to do all they can to make the Obama administration a failure. Their role in the health care debate is purely that of spoilers who keep shouting the old slogans — Government-run health care! Socialism! Europe! — hoping that someone still cares […]

    The real risk is that health care reform will be undermined by “centrist” Democratic senators who either prevent the passage of a bill or insist on watering down key elements of reform. I use scare quotes around “centrist,” by the way, because if the center means the position held by most Americans, the self-proclaimed centrists are in fact way out in right field.

    If you care to paddle some “centrists,” you can go buy some Smack-o-Matic time for cheap here:

    Blue America are lining up a similar pressure Campaign for Health Care Choice on Blanche Lincoln, and you can contribute to that cause at this link.

    Almost as much fun as the dunking tank at the fair, innit?

    As for the Con base, we saw earlier today how the one or two Latinos left in it have gotten alienated by Con hysteria. Digby points out another demographic at risk:

    Meanwhile, we have other Republicans declaring war on the seniors. Evidently, they are
    all a bunch of whiners who refuse to give up their precious entertainment to pay for their medication. Here’s Mark Steyn filling in for Limbaugh today:

    STEYN: We’ve still got to do something to plug this little hole in the donut for the prescription drug plans for seniors. Because, heaven forbid, heaven forbid that these seniors, these seniors should have to choose between prescription drugs and Tony Danza doing South Pacific in dinner theater.

    I guess they think this is a big electoral winner, but these gasbags had better watch out or they are going to lose the over 50 demographic just like they lost the under 30 demographic.

    A dunking tank and a demolition derby. All we need now is some cotton candy, and we’re set.

    Hilzoy Cuts to the Heart of CER

    You’re going to hear quite a bit of insane frothing blather over “Comparative Effectiveness Research” from Cons. Y’see, they don’t want objective folks making scientific determinations of whether insanely expensive medical treatments, devices and drugs are effective compared to cheaper treatments, etc. That would mean that corporations couldn’t make insane profits, and we can’t have that.

    So they’ll pull out all the usual stops. They’ll bring out the Big Gubmint Boogeyman:

    On January 23, Representative Tom Price (R-GA), a physician, sent out an “alert” through the Republican Study Committee, falsely warning that the CER legislation would create “a permanent government rationing board prescribing care instead of doctors and patients.” The true intent of the CER provision, Price warned, was “to enable the government to ration care” (emphases in original). “Every policy and standard will be decided by this board and would be the law of the land for every doctor, drug company, hospital, and health insurance plan.”

    Make shit up:

    Parallel arguments appeared in a letter sent January 26 to several influential members of Congress, cosigned by more than 60 advocacy groups, and again in a January 29 editorial in the Wall Street Journal. In an op-ed by columnist George Will that appeared in the Washington Post the same day, CER had morphed from a form of research into an imaginary new federal body with broad powers. Will named the agency “the CER” and claimed that with such a system, “Congress could restrict the tax exclusion for private health insurance to ‘insurance that complies with the Board’s recommendation.’…”

    And go for a Godwin:

    But the Heritage Foundation is a marvel of sanity and good sense compared to John Griffing in the American Thinker, who describes the language providing for CER as “a line that would sentence millions of people to death”, and adds, by way of explanation: “If you are picturing Germany circa 1930, you’re right on. With the passing of this bill, government, not doctors, will decide who receives care and who doesn’t, in essence, who lives and who dies.” Deacon for Life, for his part, calls it “Mengele-esque”. The idea that Hitler and Mengele’s great sin was conducting research into the comparative effectiveness of various medical treatments is, shall we say, peculiar.

    Hilzoy notes all of the above, and then cuts to the heart of the matter:

    More seriously, there is something about the arguments against CER that I have never understood. The opponents of CER claim that it will inevitably be used to make decisions about care. Insurers will not want to pay for care that is not effective, and so people will be deprived of the care they need. But notice what “deprived of care” means here. No one is seriously proposing to make it illegal to purchase whatever medical care you want on your own.

    This means that even if your insurance company decides that it will not pay for some treatment that has been shown to be ineffective, you will, under any proposal being seriously considered, still be able to get that care; you just won’t be able to get someone else to pay for it. If not having someone else pay for your medical care counts as being “deprived of care”, then 46 million people are being deprived of care even as we speak — and that’s just the uninsured; it doesn’t include people who have insurance that doesn’t cover the treatments they need. And yet, strange to say, the opponents of CER generally do not see this as a problem.

    Nope. Cuz, y’know, if private insurance companies deny treatment, that’s like totally okay. And who wants poor people to have medical care, right?

    What the hysteria really comes down to is the Cons’ belief that private industry should have free rein to lie, cheat, and steal. They’re terrified of government-backed scientific research because that would put an end to all the fun.

    Remember that when they try to spin CER as some kind of socialist Nazi government takeover of what little healthcare you currently enjoy.