Monday, February 1, 2010

Message from Massachusetts: healthcare bill not liberal enough

It's true that the Massachussets senate election was about more than healthcare even though Coakley tried to frame it that way. Voters showed Obama's influence in Massachusetts,, as in the rest of the country has waned (which shouldnt be surprising -- Obama was crushed by a landslide in Massashusetts by Clinton in the Democratic primary despite endoresements from both Kennedy and Kerry).

But many Republicans and conservatives have engaged in wishful thinking if they believe that the result indicates a move to the right. Coakley was a terrible candidate, and unemployment and the economy are big issues. But on healthcare reform,the real message from Massachusetts voters was not a rejection of healthcare reform as Joe Lieberman and some others tried to suggest. It was that the health care bill that came out of the senate was not liberal enough.

The senate bill was a vastly watered down version of what Massachusetts voters already have. And many voters interviewed before and after the election said as much and expressed a fear that the national bill that came out of the senate, if it was adopted, would give them less than they had now. And they didnt want to lose what they had. Which gave Scott Brown an ironic coalition of liberal voters as well as independents who didnt like the senate bill and were happy for him to pledge to shoot it down.

To underscore the point, Scott Brown, as a member of the state senate voted for the Massachusetts healthcare plan, the most liberal healthcare system in the country, a system than covers all but 3% of Massachusetts residents. So much for the Massachussets result being a referendum on liberalism versus conservatism. Or a rejection of healthcare reform.

The Democratic healthcare bill gave Brown a good case to make to the voters of Massachusetts that he would be the 41st vote against the senate bill, not as a vote against healthcare reform, but a vote to preserve the liberal coverage they already had in Massachussets.

And it wasnt just Massachusetts voters who didnt like the senate bill.Most liberal Democrats in the House never liked the senate version and even its supporters in the senate said "it was better than nothing". But to not for the people of Massachusetts.

And most of the country feels the same way. When polling is done on the current senate version of the healthcare bill, only 35% support it. But when the public option is included,support skyrockets to well over 50%. The most recent polls show 57-58% support a public option. The fact that Obama had buckled on the public option and dropped it is just one reason his approval ratings plummeted. And one big reason Coakley lost.

Opponents of health care reform like Lieberman choose to interpret polls showing a majority of people disapproving of Obama's handling of health care as a rejection of reform itself. It wasn't it. It was a rejection of Obama's knee buckling on the policies they wanted, the most important of which is the public option.

The question now is will Democrats get the real message on health care -- that dropping the public option is not an option and that what the country wants is a healthcare reform bill far more liberal than the senate version, something equal to if not better than the Massashussets system.

The Democrats still have options. Either kill the bill as Howard Dean suggested awhile ago and expand Medicare to cover all, or come back with another bill that has the public option and ram it through with reconciliation.

Its going to be up to congress to deliver on healthcare not Obama since he has already shown he can't handle it. Sharrod Brown, Senator from Ohio was on MSNBC saying that the healthcare bill floundered in congress for only one reason -- lack of leadership. He said it over and over, how the lack of leadership on healthcare was the problem. And he wasnt talking about Harry Reid. He meant Obama.

The real message from the Massachusetts election is that dropping the public option was not an option. Polls since the election showed that most people who voted for Brown supported the public option.

So now it's up to the Democrats in congress, especially the liberals, to take control, and understand what the bluest of blue states was saying and do something before its too late.


commoncents said...

We have the entire Sarah Palin at the Nashville Tea Party Convention posted on Common Cents:

BARB BF said...

Another article from Forbes:

MAss Disaster

Sally C. Pipes, 07.29.09,


So how's health in Massachusetts? People are not pleased, according to a recent poll. Only one in four considers the reform a success. Just one in five thinks it has made health care more affordable.


The big lie in Massachusetts was that costs and taxes would not increase. "Health insurance for all our citizens does not require new taxes," declared Romney on the eve of the bill's passage in 2006.


At the federal level, it's a foregone conclusion that new taxes will fund the expansion. The lies are in just how many new taxes will have to be imposed, existing ones increased or trillions of dollars in federal debt issued.

It could be the bait-and-switches that have Massachusetts residents cranky. They were promised affordable coverage. The plans were so expensive that 20% of the uninsured were exempted from having to purchase them.

They were told the plan would provide near universal coverage. But not everyone is insured. Even the most optimistic estimates put the uninsured at nearly 3%. To cut costs, the legislature cut thousands of legal immigrants from the program and will quit automatically enrolling all eligible people.

Bay Staters were told they wouldn't have their current arrangements disrupted. Yet thousands of residents have had to purchase more expensive coverage after the new bureaucracy deemed their existing plans inadequate.

Much was made of the young "invincibles," the free riders on the system who transferred costs to the privately insured and clogged up emergency rooms for non-urgent care. It was money that had been spent on them, so Romney and others claimed, that would fund new, more efficient insurance. Yet three years in, the successor uncompensated care pool is still spending hundreds of millions of dollars. Emergency rooms are more crowded than ever.

This was predictable and predicted, as the largest users of emergency rooms are Medicaid patients. The largest categories of spending from the old uncompensated care pool were for mentally ill substance abusers--not exactly the folks that rush out to purchase insurance on threat of a fine.


Indeed, Jon Kingsdale, the person in charge of the Health Insurance Connector, recently wrote that it is a better strategy to expand access first, let costs run and only then worry about containing spending.

This lesson too is being applied at the national level. Peter Orszag, who spent years fretting about budgetary expansions while at the Congressional Budget Office, is more flexible in his new role as President Obama's budget director. "I think it's important for those of us wearing the green eyeshades to take them off," he told Slate.

In the end, the only way to control costs inside a bureaucratic structure is to cut doctors' pay, transfer patients into managed care, impose government global budgets and introduce price controls.

And that's exactly what Bay State leaders have announced they'll do. Last week, a state commission recommended that the government stop paying health care providers for each procedure and instead compensate provider networks with a flat fee per patient. Of course, such a system of global payments, or "capitation," encourages provider groups to skimp on care, as they get to keep as profit any money not spent treating patients.

If congressional Democrats get their way, every American can look forward to a similar system of capitation in the future. This would upset the care of 85% of Americans who are currently insured and greatly increase government control. Exactly the results Democratic leaders assure can't possibly happen.


Sounds like a lot of voters in MA want LESS government control of their HealthCare, not more!


"The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the
oppressed." --Steve Biko

DancingOpossum said...

As usual, Barb, you get it wrong. People don't want "less" government, they want "better" government. And the Massachusetts is a particularly bad example because that's not even government healthcare, so it doesn't even support your ostensible point.

Every one who complains about "government control of healthcare," I have two questions for you:

1. Is control of healthcare by rapacious insurance companies better?
2. What about Medicare, Medicaid, and the VA system, ALL of which are single-payer govt.-run systems that most Americans love and do not want touched?

Government-run healthcare has worked in every single country where it's been tried, in every variation, and it saves gobs of money--not to mention lives. But I guess screaming some teabagger slogans is more fun than thinking about that.

marry said...

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Magnus said...


Living in Sweden, I can tell you the backside of government run health care. A couple of years ago, 4 out of 10 people were not treated in time. If you go to the hospital, it is customary for you to wait more than three hours to get any assistance whatsoever. People never get check ups on their health except when they believe something is wrong.
At the same time, you in America are paying OUR equipment and medicines.