Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Noble Idea

Digby noted yesterday that Representative Alan Grayson (D-Fl) has introuduced a bill which would enable everyone in the country to buy into Medicare. Grayson (video below) cautions It "is not a plan for subsidies. Everyone will have to pay their own costs."

Grayson explains

It takes this enormously valuable public resource called the Medicare provider network and makes it available to all Americans..... yet only one-eighth of the public can use it. The most expensive part (of a health care plan) is to set up a provider network.

This is a good effort, so far, and bolder than President Obama's vision (eventually dropped) of a public option in which no more than ten million individuals were expected to enroll. However, it is not a single-payer program, which would not be "at cost" and fails to establish health care as a right. (Contrary to what Rush Limbaugh pretends to believe, "Obamacare" does not create a right to health care. Not even close.) But the plan would build on an existing framework- Medicare- on which, as Grayson points out, the federal government already has spent an enormous sum in establishing a provider network "from Nome, Alaska to Key West, Florida."

Digby maintains "I'm there. I think every progressive in the land should sign on."

(A)Good and (B)so what?

On July 31, 2009 the Progressive Caucus released the text of a letter addressed to House Democratic leadership in which its 60 signatories pledged

Any bill that does not provide, at a minimum, for a public option with reimbursement rates based on Medicare rates – not negotiated rates – is unacceptable.... We simply cannot vote for such a proposal.

Obviously, their resolve waned, evaporated, dissolved, and eventually disappeared. The House bill contained a weak public option, the Senate bill contained none, and the Senate bill is the one currently in play. If Speaker Pelosi can round up enough votes, the bill passed by the United States Senate will be approved by the House and President Obama will promptly sign it and declare an awesome victory.

Today, Firedoglake's Jane Hamsher provides the statements of 15 House Democrats who had pledged to vote for only a bill which included a public option. Frustrated, she observes

Whatever Barack Obama wants to do will be the farthest left any piece of legislation gets, and if anyone should try to challenge from the left, the unions and the liberal organizations and party blogs would rise up to condemn them and whip them into line — even if it means completely reversing themselves and devolving into total incoherence. And they’ll be rewarded with carve-outs and corporate money and expensive advertising and personal sinecures for playing their role in facilitating the corporate cash pipeline. Because that’s the job of the ever-expanding veal pen: cover Obama’s left flank and shut down progressive opposition.

And it's hardly likely that the White House would actively support such a progressive action. As a blogger on DailyKos (how did something even questioning Barack Obama get past Moulitsas?) noted today in referring to a New York Times piece (partial link here; subscription may be necessary for full article) of last August

Hospital industry lobbyists, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of alienating the White House, say they negotiated their $155 billion in concessions with Mr. Baucus and the administration in tandem. House staff members were present, including for at least one White House meeting, but their role was peripheral, the lobbyists said.

Several hospital lobbyists involved in the White House deals said it was understood as a condition of their support that the final legislation would not include a government-run health plan paying Medicare rates — generally 80 percent of private sector rates — or controlled by the secretary of health and human services.

"We have an agreement with the White House that I’m very confident will be seen all the way through conference," one of the industry lobbyists, Chip Kahn, director of the Federation of American Hospitals, told a Capitol Hill newsletter.

So let's support Mr. Grayson's bill- but understand that it's simply not going to happen.

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