Americans Overwhelmingly Oppose Pubic Option

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The current sticking point on health insurance reform is the public health insurance option, with a majority of congressional Democrats favoring it, a handful of Blue Dogs wetting themselves over it, and the Republicans hallucinating about it.  What’s being left out of the equation in Washington is how the American people feel about it.

Polling on this issue has been misleading.  After a June poll showed 76% support for a public health insurance option, pollsters simply stopped asking that question.  Instead, they’d ask overly broad questions about the overall reform effort, and the headlines were all about “slipping support.” Nowhere was it considered that the “slipping support” might have had something to do with the regular reports of the death of the public option.

When they finally did ask again, 79% of Americans said they favor a public option.

What hasn’t really changed, and what everyone acknowledges, is that almost everyone opposes the pubic option.  That’s the one where the insurance companies have you by the short ones, able to refuse you coverage for a pre-existing condition, deny your services with their own death panels, retroactively terminate you if you get sick and made a mistake on your application, and pretty much just build their profits into whatever coverage you get, because your life depends on it.

The problem is, the public option is the only real solution to the pubic option.  There’s no way to pass regulations strong enough to ensure that you don’t end up with cheap, junk insurance that’s already putting people in the poor house (Try to remember the last time your auto insurance paid for anything).  The public option will serve as that safety net, and despite even more recent rumblings that it’s been left for dead, the President can, must, and will make sure it passes.

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Postlet #1: Really? The PhRMA Deal Sucks?

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Tonight, I introduce the postlet.  The name might indicate a short blog post, but what it really is is a post that’s short on links and polish, and long on me mouthing off because I am constantly having my time wasted, so I’m really annoyed.  I’m also including a random picture, because I like my posts to have a picture, but I don’t feel like thinking of one that goes with this post.

I’m not going to tell you who has been wasting my time today, because I want you to have the fun that comes with those “blind gossip” items, like, “Who’s the blonde starlet recently seen playing nude backgammon with that married entertainment lawyer?” or “What committee has press people who don’t, y’know, interact with the press?”

On a completely unrelated note, someone in the press is finally noticing how awful the $80 billion PhRMA deal is.  Except not really.  This Fortune article misses everything I pointed out in June, but does point out new awfulness that’s based on details that hadn’t emerged when I wrote mine.  So, add this + this.  Well, I guess now we know all we need to know about that story.

Hey, Folks, it’s the House Healthcare Bill By Request! Section 312 Subsections B and C

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(in radio-guy voice) Welcome to Tommy eh-eh-eh-X’s House Healthcare Morning Zoo! (funny sound effect)  This next request comes from the poster with the most-er, the tweep who will make you weep, Kimberly HANEYYYYY! (cue sexy sax music)

Kimberly writes in “Dear Tommy EH-EH-EH-X!!! (explosion sound effect), please decipher Pg 145 Line 15-17 – in your words, please.”

Happy to do it, Kimmie, so buckle the (BLEEEP) up, baby, ‘cus here..it..COMES! Continue reading

Pelosi and Hoyer Undercut Message With ‘Un-American’ Rhetoric

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer wrote an op-ed piece for USA Today that makes a lot of excellent points about the current healthcare debate.  Unfortunately, they lead with the kind of loaded statement that plays into the right’s “stifling dissent” meme.  The title of the piece is ‘Un-American’ attacks can’t derail health care debate.

Forget, for a moment, whether Pelosi and Hoyer actually make an effective case for the Un-Americaninity of the town hall protesters.  For the top two members of the House of Representatives to use the phrase “Un-American” bespeaks a tone-deafness beyond belief, evoking echoes of McCarthyism.  It also represents a hypocritical brandishing of the patriotism cudgel that the Democrats have just spent 8 years decrying.

The shame of it all is that the loaded phrase only appears once in the body of the article, and doesn’t really add much to the proceedings:

These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views — but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades.

The fact is, there are many things you can call the protesters, but “Un-American” isn’t one of them, especially not from a liberal standpoint.  Are they rude?  Misinformed?  In some cases, delusional?  All of these are expressions of freedom that are as American as an apple pie baked by a bald eagle at a baseball game.

While they are correct in denouncing things like effigies of specific members of congress, they are clearly referring to the disruptive protesters as a whole, and the language of McCarthy is inappropriate and unhelpful.

The American response to these protesters is not to call them “Un-American,” but to shine the light of truth on them.  When they chant, invite them up on stage and see what facts they’ve brought with them.  The balance of Pelosi’s and Hoyer’s piece contain some facts that are pretty tough to argue with:

The first fact is that health insurance reform will mean more patient choice. It will allow every American who likes his or her current plan to keep it. And it will free doctors and patients to make the health decisions that make the most sense, not the most profits for insurance companies.

Reform will mean stability and peace of mind for the middle class. Never again will medical bills drive Americans into bankruptcy; never again will Americans be in danger of losing coverage if they lose their jobs or if they become sick; never again will insurance companies be allowed to deny patients coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

Lower costs, better care

Reform will mean affordable coverage for all Americans. Our plan’s cost-lowering measures include a public health insurance option to bring competitive pressure to bear on rapidly consolidating private insurers, research on health outcomes to better inform the decisions of patients and doctors, and electronic medical records to help doctors save money by working together. For seniors, the plan closes the notorious Medicare Part D “doughnut hole” that denies drug coverage to those with between $2,700 and $6,100 per year in prescriptions.

Reform will also mean higher-quality care by promoting preventive care so health problems can be addressed before they become crises. This, too, will save money. We’ll be a much healthier country if all patients can receive regular checkups and tests, such as mammograms and diabetes exams, without paying a dime out-of-pocket.

Scary Obama OFA Edict:”Visit Rep. Adler’s office in Toms River”

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What kind of sorcery is this?  Organizing for America sent me an email (a technology that I’m still not convinced won’t at least “borrow without asking” my soul) urging me to visit my local Democratic congressman.  Eerily so: (via email)

According to our records, you live near Rep. John Adler’s office in Toms River, NJ.

We’re through the looking glass, here, people. They know where I live! Continue reading

White House, Big Pharma, We Have a Problem

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In June, I wrote a story that raised big questions about the value of the government’s $80 billion deal with Big Pharma, and wondered if the deal came with the trade-off of killing legislation that would enable the government to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical compannies for lower prices.  Such a trade-off would be indefensible.

That week, I took extraordinary steps to determine if this was the case.  I spoke personally with a White House Deputy Press Secretary twice, followed by multiple emails.  I also spoke, personally, to the press official for the Senate Finance Committee, followed by multiple emails.  There was no doubt as to what I was asking.  I never got a response from either of them.

That Thursday, I asked Gibbs about it at a daily briefing:

Q Thank you, Robert. I have two quick ones on health care. The first one, in the speeches about the $80 billion deal with the pharmaceutical companies, I haven’t heard anything about negotiating price — Medicare negotiating price with the pharmaceutical industry. I wanted to know if that was one of the tradeoffs for getting this $80 billion was that we’re not going to pursue that now.

MR. GIBBS: Well, look, again, the structure of part of that agreement was to use a portion of that $80 billion to pay up to — for the pharmaceutical industry to pay up to 50 percent of the cost for a name brand drug for a senior that falls between the point at which Medicare Part D stops providing help, and when catastrophic coverage — I think it is $6,500, a little bit more than $6,500 — level kicks in. So filling in that — what’s commonly known as — ironically, in health care — the doughnut hole, about — that up to 50 percent of the name brand — the price for that name brand drug would be paid for, and I think that provides a hefty discount that will bear appreciable benefits for seniors all over the country.

Q Has there been an agreement not to pursue a Medicare –

MR. GIBBS: I don’t know the answer.

Q I’m talking about S. 330.

MR. GIBBS: What was that?

Q Senate bill 330?

MR. GIBBS: You’re 330 bills ahead of me on that. (Laughter.) I will check on it.

Of course, now, the New York Times reports that the White House confirms that the deal did include an agreement to kill price negotiation laws:

In response, the industry successfully demanded that the White House explicitly acknowledge for the first time that it had committed to protect drug makers from bearing further costs in the overhaul. The Obama administration had never spelled out the details of the agreement….A deputy White House chief of staff, Jim Messina, confirmed Mr. Tauzin’s account of the deal in an e-mail message on Wednesday night.

“The president encouraged this approach,” Mr. Messina wrote. “He wanted to bring all the parties to the table to discuss health insurance reform.”

This is deeply disturbing on many levels.  If Gibbs didn’t know about this provision after the deal was made, then it stands to reason that the President didn’t know, either.  With the Senate Finance Committe stonewalling me about it, one could conclude that they kept the President in the dark about it until it was already a fait accompli.

The other possibility is that Robert Gibbs was left in the dark, a frightening prospect for a White House reporter, and for any American.

Beneath it all is the fact that the government dealt away our right to negotiate lower drug prices (just like any other large customer), and they did it for peanuts.  This is a disgrace.

I emailed Gibbs and his deputy for an explanation, and am awaiting a reply.

Update: Jake Tapper asked Gibbs about the discrepancy at today’s White House Press Briefing.

TAPPER:  Can I just ask a quick follow up?  In June you were asked about the deal and whether or not the deal with PhRMA implied that the White House signed off on no other legislation, such as allowing Medicare to renegotiate with PhRMA.  And you said you didn’t know the answer to that. Was it because you personally didn’t know or because the Senate Finance Committee hadn’t informed the White House of that aspect of the deal?

GIBBS:  You’re asking me to recall why I didn’t remember something in June.  I — I — that I don’t know the answer to. Obviously, the agreement that we have is — is in the confines of health insurance reform that’s being worked on right now.

DNC “Angry Mob” Ad Spurs Online Uproar, Questions About Accuracy

The Democratic National Committee released a web ad Tuesday that seems to have hit a “Marathon Man”-style nerve town_hall_birtherwith conservatives online.  Entitled “Enough of the Mob,” the ad features clips of recent disruptions at health care town hall meetings, including a “Birther” with what looks like a large wonton wrapper in a Ziploc bag.

The ad has sparked a wave of anger and defiance from conservatives online, who collected their grievances under the hashtag “I am the mob.” The common refrain is that the ad amounts to demonization of dissent, similar to 2007’s “Moveon.org Resolution”, and fearmongering, similar to conservative attempts to convince people that the reform bill mandates euthanasia.

The media, meanwhile, continues to debate the authenticity of these protests as grassroots movement vs. special interest-funded astroturf.

Mary Katherine Ham, however, has broken one of the spokes in the DNC’s ad.  She reports at The Weekly Standard that the Right Principlesplaybook” featured in the ad doesn’t actually spring from “high-level Republican political operatives” at all:

Right Principles has a Facebook group with 23 members and a Twitter account with five followers. MacGuffie describes himself as an “opponent of leftist thinking in America,” and told me he’s “never pulled a lever” for a Republican or Democrat on a federal level. Yet this Connecticut libertarian’s influence over a national, orchestrated Republican health-care push-back is strong, indeed, if you listen to liberal pundits and the Democratic National Committee, who have crafted a nefarious web out of refutable evidence.

It would be hard to characterize these folks as high-level, even in today’s Republican Party.

Ham goes on to deconstruct the route between Think Progress’ story, MSNBC’s reporting of it, and the DNC ad.

This is a great example of the pitfalls of taking shortcuts.  The DNC would have been better served by laying out the funding sources of healthcare reform opposition, a difficult concept to fit into a 2-second graphic.

As for attacking the protesters themselves, the wisdom is questionable.  The White House has avoided this so far, drawing a line between the protesters and the special interests behind them.  The risk is that ordinary Americans will identify with the protesters, and see this as bullying.

On the other hand, the anger of the right at this ad might play right into the DNC’s hands, making opposition to healthcare reform seem unattractive.

A less risky, but tough to fit into 60 seconds, strategy might be to engage the protesters.  Keith Olbermann reported last night on just such an example, a town hall meeting by Texas Democrat Gene Green that seemed to go pretty well.  Given a fair hearing, it’s tough to relate to the fact that almost all of them have adequate healthcare, yet they oppose extending it to those who don’t.

In any case, it’s obvious that what the healthcare debate needs is less fearmongering, and more factmongering.