Saturday, October 10, 2009

Countering some conservative health-care spin

I just had to take Christopher Caldwell to task for his article this week in TIME magazine:

Cherish is not too strong a word for how American feel about what they get out of their health-care plans, however much they grouse about access and cost.” ~ Christopher Caldwell

Newsflash: if medical costs are not contained {EDIT: the CBO estimates only a $41 billion savings over 10 years through slashing malpractice law-suits, i.e. Tort Reform} then a good portion of those folks who so “cherish” their current health care plans now, will not have any health care plan at all within 10 years.

It would, sadly, be a bit late for those folks to then complain to the Republicans who kept telling them how great their insurance was and insisting that their insurance companies be protected at all costs. If only they had the sense and the foresight today to tell bought and paid for lobbyists and shills for insurance companies like Sen. Grassley, Sen. Kyl, Sen. Baucus and Mr. Caldwell here to stop protecting the greedy and start tending to the needy.

As for those people who currently do not have health insurance because their employer doesn’t offer it or they cannot afford the premiums or they cannot get a plan due to pre-existing conditions “cherish” is not too strong a word to describe how they would feel about having an option, any option, to get some (affordable) health care.

“Democratic reform efforts once focused on building a European-style single-payer Utopia.” ~ Christopher Caldwell

Nice usage of a loaded term there—Utopia. He must mean the “Hillarycare” of the early 90’s? Liberals may dream of single-payer, but moderates like myself, including moderate Democrats, do not. In fact, I think the majority of folks who want genuine reform are pleased with the idea of not-for-profit, consumer-owned cooperatives. This, of course, excludes most Republicans in and out of Congress who have twisted even Co-ops into “socialized medicine”, complete with “death panels”, “mandated abortions” and free “sex-changes” for illegal immigrants…

One thing though is certain. This so-called “free-market” insurance industry monstrosity that people like Mr. Caldwell seek to protect is a current dystopia for much of the American populace.

“They now focus on enlisting Republicans, if only a few, to share responsibility for a plan that Democrats, if they were sufficiently contemptuous of public sentiment, would have the votes to pass on their own.” ~ Christopher Caldwell

Wrong again… Public sentiment strongly supports legitimate health-care reform, including either a public option or cooperatives. And the currently proposed health-care reform changes are equally supported and opposed (see also Rasmussen Poll).

“The centerpiece of the current effort is the individual mandate […] modeled on systems of no-fault auto insurance that states began to enact in the 1970’s. Back then there was a moral hazard. If someone with insurance dinged your bumper, you could collect. If he didn’t have insurance, you were out of luck, unless you wanted to chase him through the courts. So states made it mandatory to insure your own car.” ~ Christopher Caldwell

Yeah, made sense, too, don’t you think? Or was that socialist too? Perhaps it was too sacrilegious for our marvelous, laissez-faire church of the “free market”?

It is a subject worth bringing up, however. Personally I didn’t support Hillary Clinton’s plan during the campaign of individual mandates and I still don’t. To me, if you make health-care affordable (which absolutely NO Republican plan will accomplish, and it is doubtful any current Democratic plan will accomplish either) then people will buy it. Yes, even the all-too-invincible young. It is a myth that young people don’t want insurance.

“The President sees parallels with health care. If you have insurance and get sick, insurance pays. If you don’t, your emergency-room bills get passed on to others in the form of higher premiums.” ~ Christopher Caldwell

Yes, and higher Medicaid costs. This is a fact. It may be an inconvenient fact for Mr. Caldwell, but it is a fact nonetheless.

“So as liberals see it, conservatives ought to like the individual mandate. It relies on personal responsibility rather than government handouts. It is tough on freeloaders, charging up to $1,900 in fines for not buying in.” ~ Christopher Caldwell

Seriously? Yes. Ideologically speaking it really makes no sense why conservatives don’t support this as they always claim to despise hidden taxes and emergency-room-as-general-health-care is effectively a hidden “tax”. It also doesn’t make sense as conservatives typically want to mandate personal responsibility and punish shirking responsibility or “freeloading” by any means they can. This could, potentially, also give insurance companies millions of new clients, and making more money off of the working poor is the standard Republican business model…

So, yes, it is on the surface stunning that Mr. Caldwell and his ilk wouldn’t support it. But then the only reason folks like him do not is because this individual mandate is part of the public option which they refuse to accept. These conservatives know that many of these new potential clients for insurance companies are more likely to sign on to the government plan, not the private one. So it wouldn’t quite be the cash-cow that insurance companies could really sink their teeth into.

Again, for the record, I don’t support this individual mandate, 1) it’s unnecessary if we actually bring the cost of health-care down, 2) because frankly I do find it too draconian, 3) the people that will be hit the most with this are middle-class folks who really can’t afford and shouldn’t be expected to shell-out for expensive insurance or pay these fines as a cheaper alternative. And no, the government subsidies suggested to help people buy this insurance doesn’t address this problem because it will cost too much in government funds and won’t be adequate to cover the burden of people living paycheck to paycheck.

“Is it fair to call a requirement that we all buy insurance a tax?” ~ Christopher Caldwell

That depends on whether it is fair to call no-fault auto-insurance a tax…

“A larger question is whether it is constitutional for the Federal Government to order citizens to engage in private business transactions. It’s hard to say. Few governments have had the effrontery to try it.” ~ Christopher Caldwell

What was that he was saying about the requirement to buy no-fault auto insurance earlier? Oh, but that’s just (all) state governments so that doesn’t really count, right? It is fascinating how conservatives can contort themselves to find unconstitutionality in federal laws that would, in their opinion, be perfectly legal, constitutional, fair, just, moral and righteous before the eyes of God at the state level.

“A person who flat-out refuses to insure his car can be deprived of the right to drive it. What do you do with someone who flat-out refuses to insure his body?” ~ Christopher Caldwell

(I’d still like to know if Mr. Caldwell thinks it is fair for laws all across our country to demand those who own/drive cars take out insurance on those vehicles…) Apparently Sen. Max Baucus thinks some fines would suffice. What would Mr. Caldwell suggest? Oh, right, do nothing. Just continue to pass emergency-room health-care onto the larger health-care system.

“So what does it mean to promise, as the President does, that illegal immigrants won’t participate in our new health-care system?” ~ Christopher Caldwell

It means just that. The bills proposed currently forbid government-run health-care for undocumented persons. They also forbid illegal immigrants from buying into government-run health-care. In fact, amendments which codify this were added to those bills to appease Republicans. And despise these efforts to appease them (which I support) I see they are still claiming that health-care reform will consist of free health-care for illegal immigrants.

I also note that disingenuous folks like Mr. Caldwell neglect to remind the public that illegal immigrants can and do buy private insurance all the time. Now why don’t they throw hissy fits about that?

And I have another newsflash for Mr. Caldwell, under current federal law, individuals regardless of citizenship CANNOT be deprived of emergency treatment. That’s the law as it stands right now. It has been that way since Reagan if I’m not mistaken. This will not change with a new health-care system. In other words, Mr. Caldwell’s implication that illegal immigrants will have access to medical treatment under any new health-care system is a red-herring.

“The Baucus plan would pay for [coverage of the indigent] by taxing top-end insurance plans. Since many of these plans were won by hard union bargaining, the tax will hit Joe Lunchpail as hard as Gordon Gekko.” ~Christopher Caldwell

Actually, no, it would hit some of these Joe Lunchpails much harder than it would the Gordon Gekkos! These executive types can easily afford shelling-out substantially higher taxes or insurance premiums or gas hikes. Folks who work real jobs and get paid even prevailing wages generally can’t. I find it revealing that Mr. Caldwell would suggest such an equation here. It is conservative-minded elitists like him who have a genuine disconnect between their own lives and those of middle-class folks who are just getting by.

He is correct though, that the tax increases proposed for so-called “Cadillac” insurance plans will hurt a lot of middle-class folks who have modest jobs but high-premium insurance plans through their generous employer. Unlike Mr. Caldwell, however, I have no qualms about Wall Street execs paying significantly more for their top-of-the-line insurance plans because they can easily, easily afford it. But I find it unacceptable that the Baucus plan will also be sticking it to middle-class folks who happen to have higher-end plans.

{EDIT: see LA Times article on insignificant savings in Tort Reform and my comment at The Daily Beast}

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