Hmmm…Does the President Support the Public Option?

heckle

During President Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress last night, delivered over the din of Republican obstruction, he spent 7 paragraphs speaking about the need for a public health insurance option, and included one in the White House’s reform plan.  What did the Associated Press take away from all of this?

Analysis: Obama willing to deep-six public option

This analysis seems to spring from these two sentences:

For example — for example, some have suggested that the public option go into effect only in those markets where insurance companies are not providing affordable policies. Others have proposed a co-op or another non-profit entity to administer the plan. These are all constructive ideas worth exploring.

So, two sentences placating the GOP’s and Blue Dogs’ macaroni art constitutes a repudiation of the public option?

Read the rest at Mediaite

Americans Overwhelmingly Oppose Pubic Option

screwdriver

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.

Postlet #5: Something Besides Public Option Declared Dead

Popeye_image

Every few weeks, it seems, the media is reporting the death of the public health insurance option, so I was happy to see them move on to a new target, the Gang of Six and the idea of a bipartisan reform bill.  What’s really cute is watching seasoned pros buy into the idea that the White House, in a Popeye-esque brogue, is going “That’s alls I can stands, I can’t stands no more!”

The public option was never not going to be allowed to pass.  The fact that the Republicans are giving the White House cover now is just an awesome bonus.

Postlet #4: Longer Lives are Less Than Worthless

0322091800

Damn, do I ever get tired of double-talk on health care.  First, Section 1233 was, if not the gateway to Death Panels, then it was a cold, worrisome treatment of mortality vs. cost.  Now, when it comes to the idea of extending life through preventive medicine, that’s a bad idea because longer lives cost money:

As it turns out, there may be very little savings at all from preventive care:

Using data from long-standing clinical trials, researchers projected the cost of caring for people with Type 2 diabetes as they progress from diagnosis to various complications and death. Enrolling federally-insured patients in a simple but aggressive program to control the disease would cost the government $1,024 per person per year — money that largely would be recovered after 25 years through lower spending on dialysis, kidney transplants, amputations and other forms of treatment, the study found.

However, except for the youngest diabetics, the additional services

This is all pushback against a study that says CBO isn’t factoring in savings from preventive care.  But even if you accept the idea that longer lives mean more health care, does that mean that those longer lives will necessarily be unproductive?  And even if you accept that, isn’t rejecting preventive care something akin to a Death Panel?  In other words, won’t these people just say any fucking thing at this point?  And won’t the media, except for Jake Tapper and me, just “he said/she said” the whole deal?

Postlet #3: Tapper Doesn’t Takes Exception, I DO

Death_Panel

Update:  Jake doesn’t take exception.  I do.  I think the President should literally say “Let me be absolutely clear: The media, with the exception of Jake Tapper and Tommy Christopher, have done a lousy job of blah blah blah…”

Jake Tapper posts today about the President and his political arm, Organizing for America, taking shots at the media for not smacking down health care lies, with this pointed addendum:

For the record, HERE’s the first report we did on the erroneous claims about death panels.

I know how you feel, Jake, but in fairness to the President, not every member of the media is as awesome as me:

In the past few days, the Washington Post’s Charles Lane, then Eugene Robinson, and now The Daily Beast’s Lee Siegel have all given Palin’s death panels the “she’s crazy, but there’s a germ of a point here” treatment.

This cowardice in the face of clarity allows these lies to muddy the waters even as they are uprooted.

Americans Get President’s Message, Democrats Not So Much

briefing1At today’s White House press briefing, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs cited an NBC poll that shows that shows that only 45% of Americans currently believe in “Death Panels.” He cited this as evidence that the President has been effective in debunking myths about health care reform.

I would argue that 45% is an awfully large number to believe in a health care Sasquatch, but even granting that, the President’s effectiveness at combating myths is cold comfort if the Democrats in congress don’t get the message.  I asked Gibbs what happens to the next health care provision to become the subject of an urban legend:

TC:  On health care, you were talking about Chuck’s poll earlier, that — I mean, the good news that most Americans no longer believe in death panels. But the fact remains that Section 1233 was taken out of the House bill. So what can you do to reassure voters that the same fate won’t befall other provisions of the bill if some rumor like the death panels gets started about the public option?

MR. GIBBS: I don’t — I’m not following the thesis of your — the section that’s been pulled out.

TC:Section 1233 about the end-of-life care.

MR. GIBBS: It’s been?

TC: There was a report earlier this week that it’s been dropped.

MR. GIBBS: Well —

TC: Is that not true?

MR. GIBBS: This is in a Senate Finance Committee bill that nobody has seen? Look, what I’m saying is, I think the President is going out there and explaining what those provisions are and what they’re not — regardless of whether they’re in what section of what bill at what time, I think it’s something that the President has been focused on doing and correcting the record. I think it has more to do with a sustained dialogue in dealing with the misrepresentations as it has whether or not a provision may or may not have been dropped.

While I’m happy to credit the President with quelling some of the “death panel” nonsense, I would be more comforted if he could lend some of his, shall we say, fortitude to his panicky congressional standard-bearers.

Did Major Garrett Break the White House Email?

Is the White House overreacting to an overreaction?

Last Thursday, you may recall, Fox News’ Major Garrett got into it with Press Secretary Robert Gibbs over Garrett’s questioning of White House email procedures.  He asked Gibbs a question that there was only one way to answer, then attacked him for trying to answer it.  On the air later, Garrett admitted there was a problem with his question.

That didn’t stop Fox News from hounding the White House all weekend.  At issue were what Garrett described as “hundreds” of Fox viewers who claimed to have gotten unsolicited emails from the White House.  When Gibbs offered to check those people’s names against a list to determine the answer, Garrett acted as though the White House was trying to steal their souls.

Since then, Fox News has posted several breathless updates to the story, including a statement, yesterday, from the White House.  As I caught up on this story, I realized that I hadn’t gotten any emails from the White House since 5:25 pm yesterday.

Is it possible that the White House has frozen outgoing emails while it investigates this story?  I emailed them to find out, but I haven’t heard back!
Fox has apparently sent some examples to Gibbs to check out, after getting permission from the emailers.  If they’re anything like this guy that Garrett interviewed, it should be apparent what’s going on here:

Benjamin, who also described himself as a Republican, said he received the Axelrod health care e-mail as a pop-up ad while he was reading a blog. He said the pop-up must have been approved by his internet service provider, AOL.

“The White House wants to put out a message so they have a conduit to put the message out to people who haven’t contacted them in any way,” Benjamin said. “Therefore, they’re using AOL the same way that a spammer would be. I’m not particularly interested in hearing from David Axelrod.

So, Major Garrett is getting complaints from dialup users who still haven’t figured out that the CD-ROM drive isn’t a cupholder, and stoking the paranoia of NObama Nation in the bargain.

White House, Big Pharma, We Have a Problem

pillage1

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.

I Accept Allahpundit’s Apology in Advance

Over at Hot Air, some righty troll has posted the news that I was 100% correct in my assessment of Robert Gibbs’ comments on Iran yesterday.  Your plate of crow awaits, Mr. Pundit.

I Didn’t Think Green Avatars Were a Left/Right Phenomenon

It was a nice kum ba yah moment while it lasted.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs made a remark at today’s briefing that has even the normally reasonable right-wingers in an insane froth.  The key passage is Gibbs’ last line of this clip:

Q But does the administration recognize Ahmadinejad as the legitimate President in Iran?

MR. GIBBS: He’s the elected leader.

Now, Gibbs may or may not deserve some ire for his execution, but he was obviously trying to parse the difference between formally recognizing Ahmadinejad as President, and acknowledging the fact that he has been awarded the election.  “He was awarded the election” might have been a better word choice, but as the last in a series of follow-ups, there wasn’t opportunity for much clarification.

What it is not is this: (from Hot Air)

Instead, so desperate are these tools to get Iran to the bargaining table and show Americans some sort of dividend from Hopenchange diplomacy that Gibbs actually acknowledges Ahmadinejad as the “elected leader” — the same lie the regime’s been telling the world and the same lie Iranians have been dying in the streets to challenge. As a de facto — and entirely gratuitous — endorsement of their corruption, it’s the lowest moment of The One’s presidency so far.

However, while I find this overreaching attempt to score political points on the backs of Iran’s protesters distasteful and disappointing, I’m absolutely shocked by this presumption of bad faith:

And the only thing that’ll take the sting out of it is watching all the dumb liberals who painted their Twitter avatars green two months ago in solidarity with Mousavi’s supporters hemming and hawing now over how our lord and savior really had no choice but to kiss ass here.

This is a sickening violation of an unspoken armistice that rose up between the left and the right during the Iranian unrest.

When this whole thing started, when conservatives on Twitter took the lead in supporting protesters of the Iranian election, there was a suspicion voiced among some liberals that this was pure opportunism, that the concern was feigned as an excuse to criticize President Obama.  Indeed, this was true of some GOP politicians, but in the Twitter community, the Iranian election developed into a moment of surprising unity.

At times, liberals would, privately, evince feelings of superiority at their late-arriving conservative counterparts’ seemingly new-found concern for Iranian citizens, but I wouldn’t entertain that.  A sincere change of heart is to be welcomed, not scorned.  You would have to think pretty poorly of your fellow man to think he wasn’t moved to the core by events such as the killing of Neda.

Alas, the right seems unable to extend that same benefit of the doubt.  Now, we either agree with Allahpundit, or we’re trendspotting dilletantes who could give 2 shits about the Iranian people.  This, from the same guy who cheered when John McCain cracked wise about bombing those same Iranian people:

It’s obvious that this is less an example of Maverick’s vaunted “straight talk” than him just being playful on the spur of the moment. Even if so, joking about bombing Iran certainly won’t hurt his standing with the base, to whom he needs to feed a lot more red meat if he wants the nomination. He’s already starting to do that; the trick is to not alienate the centrists and leftists who admire him in the process.

Here’s that ruddy, meaty crowd-pleaser now:

The accomplishments of the Twitter community (right, left, up, down, and center) during the Iranian unrest were remarkable.  Here’s hoping that the desire to score cheap political points doesn’t overshadow them completely.

As for Gibbs, you could argue that he deserves some measured criticism here, but I don’t think this statement alone warrants it.