Healthcare Update

Healthcare Update March 18, 2010

As we go down to the wire…some bits and pieces…

The CBO has costed the final bill. It’s looking good. Here’s Ezra Klein: “The bill will cost $940 billion over the first 10 years and reduce the deficit by $130 billion during that period. In the second 10 years — so, 2020 to 2029 — it will reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion. The legislation will cover 32 million Americans, or 95 percent of the legal population. To put this in context, that’s more deficit reduction than either the House or Senate bill, and more coverage than the Senate bill.”

Lest we are in any doubt about the necessity of this bill, consider this story of an insurance company who cancelled a man’s policy after he was diagnosed with HIV. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which granted him $10 million, noting that “…Fortis’ conduct was reprehensible. Fortis demonstrated an indifference to Mitchell’s life and a reckless disregard to his health and safety.” It turns out that insurance companies take a savage approach to HIV patients because “We are talking a lifetime of therapy, a lifetime of care … a lot of bills. Nowadays someone with HIV can live a normal life for decades. This was about money.” And this is no isolated case. It happens all the time.

Meanwhile, the true motives of all those who oppose reform can be seen in this disgusting video. At one point, a man with a sign saying he had Parkinsons was attacked by the foaming-at-the-mouth tea partiers. One yelled at him telling him he’d get no handouts, and another through some money over him saying “here you go, start a pot”. Although this is an extremist element, it does highlight the true motives of those who oppose this reform so vigorously. Here’s a hint: it’s not abortion. As Jonathan Chait puts it “it… captures the heart of what animates the staunchest opposition to health care reform — a principled opposition to the idea the fortunate should be forced to subsidize the unfortunate.” He notes Republicans constantly invoke “personal responsibility” in this debate. Or as I would put it – it’s the Calvinism, stupid.

Meanwhile, 60 religious orders, representing over 59,000 nuns came out in support of the healthcare reform bill. Like Sr. Carol Keehan and the Catholic Health Association, these women work in the trenches of healthcare every day, They know the problems. They understand the urgency. As they state: “We have witnessed firsthand the impact of our national health care crisis, particularly its impact on women, children and people who are poor. We see the toll on families who have delayed seeking care due to a lack of health insurance coverage or lack of funds with which to pay high deductibles and co-pays. We have counseled and prayed with men, women and children who have been denied health care coverage by insurance companies. We have witnessed early and avoidable deaths because of delayed medical treatment.”

On the abortion issue, they note: “despite false claims to the contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions. It will uphold longstanding conscience protections and it will make historic new investments – $250 million – in support of pregnant women.” Michael Sean Winters links to the blog of Bishop Robert Lynch of Miami, who notes that Sr. Keehan had contacted him to say that “We believe that the Senate bill as written now, meets the test of no federal funding for abortion”. Bishop Lynch gives a thoughtful response: “very reliable sources have said the same thing as Sister Carol..The position of the bishops, which I embrace until I have some certainty that we are wrong, is being refuted by usually reliable source and last night, Congressman Thomas Perriello, a conservative pro-life Catholic, said that he was convinced that the Senate version would guarantee that no federal funds would find their way to abortion services. If he moves to accept the Senate version, that will be a major moment for the pro-life movement given his past perfect record.”

Finally, Peter Nixon from dotCommonweal, with real life experience in the healthcare industry, lays it on the line:

“I worked in Washington DC for ten years and am familiar with… “worst case scenarioism,” where opponents of legislation come up with increasingly bizzare predictions of how a particular bill could lead to disastrous unintended consequences. The idea that the Senate bill will enable CHCs [community health centers] to perform abortions falls into this category. It comes across as a desperate ploy rather than reasoned legislative analysis.

Jost’s analysis is accurate and compelling. As I and others have argued at length, the Senate language, while different from the House, provides sufficient protection of current abortion policy to meet the USCCB’s stated test that health care reform be “neutral” with respect to current law. What deficiencies remain are not of the magnitude to justify defeating a measure that will extend health insurance to tens of millions of low-income families.

It seems to me, though, that many of the bishops and their lobbyists are increasingly closed to any dialogue on this. Stupak and only Stupak will do. It’s bad enough that the USSCB–for all its protestations to the contrary–is perilously close to becoming a single issue lobby. But its degeneration into a single amendment lobby would be comic if the consequences for the nation’s millions of uninsured were not so serious.”

I can’t think of a better way to put it than this.

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