Monday, December 28, 2009

Words And Goals, Words And Goals

ABC News' Jake Tapper with one of the most irrelevant (least relevant?) "gets" of the year:

In the Senate version, the language on abortion funding would allow women who receive government subsidies to purchase insurance policies that cover abortion, but they would have to write separate checks.

But the House language is tougher. It prohibits women who receive government subsidies from taking out plans that provide abortion coverage.

I asked President Obama about that last month.

"There needs to be some more work before we get to the point where we're not changing the status quo. And that's the goal," Obama told me in November.

So, does the Senate language come closer to what the president wants than the House language?

Gibbs told me this morning: "Yes."

Perhaps "not changing the status quo" is the goal of the President of the United States. You know- like the goal of Mr. Obama was to help the nation achieve single payer health care (video below) achievable, he assured us, once Democrats "take over" the House, the Senate, and the White House.

Or of overturning the prohibition in the Medicare prescription drug program prohibiting the federal government from negotiating drug prices directly with the pharmaceutical companies, an aim of an Illinois Senator who in 2007 said

Congress exempted Medicare from being able to negotiate for the cheapest available price. And that was a profound mistake.

Or of the presidential nominee who promised (video way below)

The pharmaceutical industry wrote into the prescription drug plan that Medicare could not negotiate with drug companies. And you know what the chairman of the committee, who pushed the law through went to work for the pharmaceutical industry making 2 million dollars a year.

Imagine that.

That's an example of the same old game playing in Washington. You know I don't want to learn how to play the game better, I want to put an end to the game playing.

Whose campaign website suggested the federal government:

Allow Medicare to negotiate for cheaper drug prices. The 2003 Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act bans the government from negotiating down the prices of prescription drugs, even though the Department of Veterans Affairs' negotiation of prescription drug prices with drug companies has garnered significant savings for taxpayers. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will repeal the ban on direct negotiation with drug companies and use the resulting savings, which could be as high as $310 billion, to further invest in improving health care coverage and quality.

We know what happened to that "goal" (at an eventual cost to the taxpayers of hundreds of billions of dollars):

A memo obtained by the Huffington Post confirms that the White House and the pharmaceutical lobby secretly agreed to precisely the sort of wide-ranging deal that both parties have been denying over the past week....

It says the White House agreed to oppose any congressional efforts to use the government's leverage to bargain for lower drug prices or import drugs from Canada -- and also agreed not to pursue Medicare rebates or shift some drugs from Medicare Part B to Medicare Part D, which would cost Big Pharma billions in reduced reimbursements.

In exchange, the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers Association (PhRMA) agreed to cut $80 billion in projected costs to taxpayers and senior citizens over ten years. Or, as the memo says: "Commitment of up to $80 billion, but not more than $80 billion."

And let's not forget this "yes, we can" goal:

We’ll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies.

And this golden oldie from the campaign:

Under the plan, if you like your current health insurance, nothing changes, except your costs will go down by as much as $2,500 per year. If you don’t have health insurance, you will have a choice of new, affordable health insurance options.

Aside from the rhetoric "of new, affordable health insurance options," which probably will not include any public option, in relatively few cases will one's health insurance go down anywhere near $2500 per year- and in most cases probably will go up. And as for the prediction "under the plan.... nothing changes," the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, anticipating the possibility of enactment of the Senate's excise tax, explains

In reaction to the tax, many employers would reduce the scope of their health benefits. The resulting reductions in covered services and/or increases in employee cost-sharing requirements would induce workers to use fewer services. Because plan benefit values would generally increase faster than the threshold amounts for defining high-cost plans (which are indexed by the CPI plus 1 percent), over time additional plans would become subject to the excise tax, prompting those employers to scale back coverage.

Jon Walker of Firedoglake has evaluated proposed health care reform in light of Barack Obama's campaign promises, an exercise which begs the question: should we take at face value everything said by Barack Obama?

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