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Down to the Wire on Health Care Reform


Americans used to be winners. Now we are losers. The current crop of middle-aged Americans are so far from reality that it almost makes a grown man…of which there are fewer and fewer…cry. We started out a year ago electing a man as President who said that he would initiate the process of creating a health care plan for everyone. Everyone, for example, including the literally forty or fifty million people, whom the health insurance industry has just announced that it will hit with a 20% increase in rates as punishment for trying to get a reasonable health care plan through Congress. 

Why will health insurnace costs go up by at least 20%? One reasons is certainly the fact taht the health insurance lobby is spending over half a billion dollars this year just to keep control of your life. They have you right where they want you because they own every single Republican Senator and House member. If you don’t write and call and scream out your window that you hate these people and that you want to see them, at the very least be kicked out of Congress, then you deserve to be bankrupted by the health insurance industry. Because you’re a loser. We will all be losers if we do not reform health care.

We’ve certainly learned that much about winning  from the television set. The wide, wide world of sports has told us what happens when you come in second to Lance Armstrong. Lance gets the home on the side of the mountain in Aspen and the runner up gets a house in Passaic. In politics, the winners pass the legislation and the losers take the money. The winners won’t get rich but they will get what they know is right for Americans. The losers will get the monetary prizes, but will never be known for what they did for their fellow citizens. The losers are the ones who don’t get the legislation.

Of the losers on the Democratic side, the biggest is actually a former Democrat. Joe Lieberman, is a man so despicable, so devious, that he should probably not be allowed in public let alone be a public figure. A turncoat American, a traitor to the middle class Americans of Connecticut and holding up health care for the rest of America. How can this man even muster up a smile? Oh, he’ll get a lot of money.  But he has lost everything else.

There is no more Senator Joseph Lieberman, only an “Independent,” an empty suit pinned all over with dollar bills. This is a man so pathetically greedy, that it is stomach-turning simply to look at him. His phony contention that a public health care system would destroy the private health care industry and therefore possibly cause those who now have private health care to lose it…is not only false, it is disingenuous in the extreme. Joe Lieberman is quite likely the most informed of all Senators on these matters and thus knows for certain that what he is saying is a lie. The only conclusion possible is that Lieberman is being paid off or possibly blackmailed by the health insurance lobby to shoot down health care reform.

Another reprehensible human being is Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas. Apparently she feels that she has no possibility of being re-elected by doing what is right, enabling Arkansans to have an opportunity to purchase private health care at reasonable rates. She obviously knows, if we know, that we can pin down the health insurance companies with a public option. For example, they could never have raised prices by 20% as they are doing all over the country this year if there were a public option. Once it began, people would look for options and if other insurance companies also raised their rates, a reasonably priced public option would be available to all Americans as a last resort. An industry that pays its CEOs in the tens of millions or more each year, and some as much as a hundred million, every year, can afford–in a serious recession–to hold the line on its rates.

We can only speculate at this point why Senator Lincoln would adopt the outright lie of the Right Wing that a public option would cost Americans more, when we know from the CBO report that it would, in fact, actually save money. In addition, she knows what economists tell us…that health care reform will cut health care costs by half over ten years. Why would she vote against the poor people of Arkansas and in favor of the rich insurance companies that are falling over themselves to donate tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars to Congress? Maybe we just answered that question. Whether it is a legitimate campaign contribution from one of her long-time health insurance supporters, or whether it is pressure from the Right Wing in Arkansas, it is working. Blanche Lincoln has sold out her Arkansas neighbors to the big health care interests of this country.

Blanche Lincoln, if she votes against a public option in health care reform, will cause thousands of Arkansans to lose their health care. She will cause others to go bankrupt. If she votes against meaningful health care reform that will force health insurance companies to bring down rates and enable people in Arkansas to afford health insurance, as a direct result of her vote, some people will die.

Ben Nelson of Nebraska, the former insurance company lawyer, the former insurance commissioner, the man who knows better even than we do…and we know with absolute certainty…that a public option will bring down health insurance costs….has said that he will vote against it. A super-hick among hicks, Nelson has persuaded all the farmers and Nixonian-Reagan Republicans in this most Republican of states, that he is actually a Republican in Democratic attire. He is a phony, one of those in that long tradition of incompetent Nebraska Senators like Carl Curtis and Roman Hruska, who championed mediocrity but could not quite attain it. With the notable exception of the legendary George W. Norris and perhaps Bob Kerrey and Chuck Hagel, Nebraska has voted for mediocrity and often almost attained it. In this case they fell short. And literally hundreds of thousands of Nebraskans will suffer 20% increases in rates, no health care at all, and the impossibility of obtaining health care because of this despicable little man with his balloon hairdo.

Now we have the possibility that Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas may not vote for the public option. He may however, vote to stop a filibuster against the vote on it. But why? Mark Pryor is a true conservative. Pryor is also a potential populist. The thing we need to know is why is such a populist ready to vote against a public option that will actually help the people of his state, even if they do not realize it. He knows it. But he is wavering. He is wavering, in our opinion, because he does not want to be seen as voting for something that will not pass. Then he would be blamed for voting for a program that can be called bad, but can not be proved good, because it was never enacted. He would, therefore, be left in the worst both situations. If Lincoln were to change her vote and vote for stopping the filibuster, Pryor’s vote would be irrelevant and he would vote with the progressive Democrats. If everyone else is there, Pryor will be in the lineup at the goal line. Pryor is a team player.

Senator Evan Bayh, whose wife is in health care up to her ears, has now come on board for the time being. He says that his concerns have been met by the CBO report on costs to the government of new health care. (he doesn’t seem to share the same concerns about the $500 billion we spend–annually–on military, much of which is spent on Bush and Cheney’s military-contractor pals, for weapons, many of which we are now going to leave behind in Iraq.) We’ll never know whether Bayh’s wife is sympathetic but is making too much money to resign or whether Bayh has more trouble at home than Tiger Woods. But, for now, his domestic tranquility notwithstanding, Evan Bayh is on the side of the angels. The people of Indiana will have affordable health care if he stays strong and the rest of the Democratic senate also.

Senator Mary Landrieu is probably one of the hardest Senators to figure out when it comes to health care. Katrina shone a light on the miserable economy Louisiana had before New Orleans was flooded and it is worse today. Hundreds of thousands of people in Louisiana need health care. Yes, many of them are the hardest-core racists and the hardest-core welfare cases. But we don’t legislate for one tribe or one clan or another. We legislate on the principle of what is right for Americans. We legislate on the basis of what we consider American citizens should have, consistent with what revenues we have chosen to provide government. The simplest form of logic would dictate that Senator Mary Landrieu should be voting for a public option in health care but she is not. Why not?

Well, first of all, she’s no dummy. She used her leverage to get another $100 million in Medicaid funds for Louisiana. That’s pretty revealing. Why would they need another $100 million in Medicaid, and why would someone who says that “I believe in private health insurance…” spend another $100 million on Medicaid. The reason is pretty simple. Mary Landrieu is in a tough situation. She comes from a state where despite the fact that they need an additional $100 million in Medicaid, many of the people have been persuaded by Right Wing groups that a public health care option is a “government takeover” of health care.

At the same time, when the health care lobby looks at Senators that they might break off from the Democratic majority, Landrieu, in the heart of the deep south, one of the remaining old-line-racist places in the country, is vulnerable to attacks, though she should be able to prevail. Her fellow Senator, the prostitute-visiting Senator Vitter, is a Right Wing Republican. The health care lobby, you can safely bet, is all over her with contributions and enticements. Remember that her one-time fellow Congressman from Louisiana, Billy Tauzin, rammed through the prescription drug bill under President Bush. Under that bill in a Republican Congress pharmaceutical companies got a $36 billion windfall in guaranteed business, without having to negotiate prices. Tauzin got a $2 million a year job as President of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing and Research Association. Louisiana politics is as pragmatic as it gets.

The final drive for health care reform is on. The health insurance industry has pulled out all the stops. Whatever you still would like to see in the health reform program that you do not see there now…go to the phone. Call your Senator and Congress person and let them know that you want it now. Because health care reform of some kind is about to become law. If you want a public option you’d better scream that into the phone or into the Senator’s ear.

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