The Healthcare Summit, 25 February 2010. I didn’t want to watch. A solid year of fighting over Healthcare Reform, and I am sick sick sick of it. Aren’t you? But we can’t quit. So, I muscled thru an hour’s worth, from 10:30 to 11:30am. Here is my translation with commentary, for your enjoyment and enlightenment.
Lamar Alexander was having his turn at 10:30, and making some sense. He said that the country’s healthcare industry is too big, too complicated, and too decentralized to be run from the capitol. Then he reiterated the Republican ideas of allowing insurance companies to compete between states, limiting junk lawsuits, and expanding Health Savings Accounts, among other things I didn’t quite catch. Do you know how important HSAs are? And that the current bills will eliminate them?
Then Sen. Alexander said if you took all profits away from all insurance companies (presumably a year’s worth?), the resulting pile of money would only pay for U.S. healthcare costs for two days.
Finally he wrapped up by suggesting that, if the Dems really want to be bipartisan, then they must renounce the idea of ramming their healthcare reform thru via the reconciliation process.
Next it was Nancy Pelosi’s turn. She just oozes insincerity. Allow me to paraphrase Speaker Pelosi concisely, while still maintaining accuracy:
“People are crying!! People are starving!!!”
Really. I’m not kidding here. Next, some priceless humor. Pelosi claimed that healthcare reform will not only stop Americans from crying and/or starving, but it will also free the American entrepeneurial spirit.
Really. Still not kidding. It works like this: people are locked into their current jobs by health insurance today, with the way it is tied to employment. So you see, Speaker Pelosi is pro-free market. She’s going to free the job market by controlling the market for medical care.
Bwa ha ha ha ha! Ah, if only the humor weren’t tinged with the bitterness of knowing that many people buy arguments like these.
I like this next part. She refers to the American people being around a kitchen table. How homey and quaint. As if she really identifies with us little people, in our homes, at our kitchen tables, crying, starving, and waiting for healthcare reform to free our entrepeneurial spirits.
Where was I? Oh yeah, so we are at our tables, and we are saying, “we don’t want to hear this process,” we want to hear results. Huh. Which implies we must be one or more of the following: 1) so trusting of the process in DC that we don’t feel the need to follow it, 2) too dumb to follow it, and/or 3) too disinterested.
It sure ain’t 1) trust. Rather, Congress has been relying on a combination of 2) and 3) for a long time. While I reckon some folks remain dumb or fooled enough, 3) is a problem because we are not so disinterested anymore. You know, all the townhalls, phone calls, letters, blogging, tea parties, special election participating, and what-not.
Next Speaker Pelosi marches out the tired FDR line: healthcare is a right, not a privilege. Sounds nice, until confronted with that harsh ole RW (Real World), where ultimately, you have to remain responsible for yourself. No one else is gonna have your personal best interests at heart, ‘cept maybe your momma. In the RW, this includes financial responsibility. Medical care costs money.
If someone else (say . . . the federal gov’t for example) is financially responsible for your healthcare, then your health becomes their business. Everything relating to your health becomes their business. What you eat, what medicine you take, whether you exercise, whether you get pregnant or not . . .
Let me put it this way. Do you really really trust the government like your own momma?
Next to speak was Senator Harry Reid. Blind to the irony, he chastised Lamar Alexander with admonitions like, “You are entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts, so let’s make sure we stick to the facts,” and, “It’s as if there is a different set of facts than the reality.”
Then Reid tries to weasel around the reconciliation issue with an adamant, yet empty assertion: “We have not said reconciliation is the only way out.” What the heck is that supposed to mean? The inverse of that statement provides the unspoken truth: we have said that reconciliation is one way to handle healthcare reform.
Next, Sen. Reid says that the healthcare bill already has input from the Republicans. Hey. I thought the Repubs were just obstructionists, the party of “no,” refusing to bring proposals to the table. And hey. If there is already Repub input, then why have the summit?
Wait a minute. Could it be? This summit isn’t really a bipartisan attempt to fix healthcare costs the best way possible? Could it be all for show? Shocker.
Okay, at this point Sen. Reid brings up some Harvard study, which I refuse to look up and link because what he says makes no sense. He says the study shows that 45,000 Americans die each year–that’s 1,000 per week, he points out, and they die because they have no insurance.
He doesn’t say they die because they were refused medical care. I’m betting it’s because they weren’t denied medical care. Perhaps they postponed medical appointments for fear of the cost, or perhaps they opted for no care at all rather than going broke on treatment. I don’t know, I don’t want to know, because I am sure there are terrible stories out there.
But the existence of terrible stories does not mean the government has to fix it. It doesn’t mean the gov’t can fix it. As a middle man, insurance has done enough damage to the doctor-patient relationship, but it sure doesn’t get better when the government jumps in the middle too.
For Sen. Reid’s finale is the fact that 70% of bankruptcies are caused by catastrophic healthcare costs. Listen, I haven’t checked the accuracy of this or any of the Senators’ assertions at this summit. But, to quote a fine movie, “I’m not arguing that with you!” Conservatives like me agree that costs are spiraling out of control. It is how we solve the cost problem that is at issue. Also, I wish that only catastrophic costs were the subject of the healthcare bills. But all costs of all healthcare are covered by the bills.
After Sen. Reid finished, Pres. Obama spoke again. He argued a bit with Sen. Alexander over what the CBO says about premium costs under the Senate healthcare bill. (Why didn’t they include someone from the CBO office at the summit, to field disagreements like this?) About 11am, the President remarked about how the Repubs “usual critique” of the healthcare bills involves “painting with a broad brush,” and he didn’t want to hear that.
Here’s my translation of the that bit: “I am not taking anything out of the 2,409 pages in the Senate bill, and I am not taking anything out of the 2,454 pages in the House bill. We’ll add some of your cost-saving bits if we must. But that will have to be good enough for you.” Missing, of course, the whole point that we don’t want all the bureaucratic, unconstitutional, liberty-killing junk that goes along with those 4,863 pages of legislative poop.
Next up was Sen. Tom Coburn. He made the point that Congress could simply focus on 1) reducing the fraud already occurring in goverment-run Medicaid and -care, and 2) reducing frivilous lawsuits, thus reducing unnecessary medical testing. His suggestion went like this: why don’t we just start with those areas, see what happens, and go from there? A specific fraud identifier Sen. Coburn wants is “undercover patients.”
I finished off my viewing with Rep. Steny Hoyer, from Maryland. He had another sob story, which again, is terrible if true. But he doesn’t really explain how the 4,863 pages of legislative text will prevent more travesty in the RW. Why does the mere acknowledgment of hardship make conservatives evil, and lefties good? Who buys the idea that they can solve all human hardship? Oh, perhaps those 4,863 pages will prevent the insurance companies from causing alot of bad mean unfair things. But only because a gov’t bureaucrat will be causing them instead. Why is that better?
Anyhoo, I’m getting off track again. I’ll wrap up with the best part of Rep. Hoyer’s bit: “We’ve tried to create an open and transparent market.”
Bwaa ha ha ha ha! If you are reading this, and you disagree with my skepticism, by all means follow the links to the House and Senate bills, and find the open transparency in them. Then sell me a nice bridge. I gotta stop writing before I have an aneurism.