Add Tom Daschle to the list of people who think that serious healthcare reform is simply not possible, and so instead we should all reach for the consolation prize of substanceless bipartisanship:
In an attempt at bipartisanship, three former majority leaders of the U.S. Senate, Tom Daschle, Howard Baker, and Bob Dole, offered their solution today to the biggest obstacle to achieving health care reform -- a public option.
"While I feel very strongly that consumers should have the choice of a national, Medicare-like plan, my colleagues do not. . . But we were concerned that the ongoing health reform debate is beginning to show signs of fracture on the public plan issue, so in order to advance the process of developing bipartisan legislation and to move it forward, it's time to find consensus here," Daschle said.
"We've come too far and gained too much momentum for our efforts to fail over disagreements on one single issue," he said.
If there's no public option, what the hell is there to legislate?
I'm not being facetious, I'm really asking. What other "reforms" are they seriously thinking will make a bit of difference? I find the whole thing to be a farce -- if you're not talking about a public option, you're not seriously "reforming" squat, you're just picking out new color schemes for your already burned-down house.
Case in point: California has a law saying you can't raise health insurance premiums more than a certain percentage each year. So our insurance company, every year, "discontinues" our previous insurance plan, forcing us to choose a "new" one that's almost exactly the same, but with a higher premium. Since it's a new plan, after all, it doesn't count as raising rates on the old plan! A scam, yes, but one of the countless ways that health insurance companies skirt laws wherever possible in order to squeeze every ounce of profit from your relative levels of health or illness.
In the NBC poll, 76% of Americans wanted a public option to be made available. That's a mandate. For small business and the self employed, finding insurance is a nightmarish experience, and finding affordable insurance is simply impossible, for some. For large businesses, healthcare adds massive costs, representing a huge not-very-well-hidden tax on every aspect of labor.
The only major sources of opposition to a public option are the insurance companies, because they believe -- rightly -- that such an option would cut into their profits, and "free market" ideologues who simply believe that the government can't possibly do anything right if it doesn't involve paving roads or shooting guns.
Without a public option, I'd rather we stop the absurd talk of "reform" and recognize that any bill passed would mainly be for show, but if we were to seriously consider a bill without such an option, I think the one healthcare reform that would make a difference is to cancel govt health insurance for all senators, representatives, cabinet members, etc.
It's been proposed many times, but I do think it's long past time. Have the very senators and representatives who are against public health insurance spend the next few years trying to get healthcare on their own like the rest of us -- waiting months to see doctors, having to comb through lists of doctors too see which specialists you are "allowed" to see, spending countless hours on the phone with insurance companies fighting over individual bills -- I absolutely believe you'll have them socializing all of healthcare, no matter how much the goddamn lobbyists spend to woo them. For most of us in the ranks of the self-employed or -- heaven forfend -- the wrong age bracket, it's that infuriating.
Again, I point out -- 76% of Americans want this "public option." That's a mandate, as close as you can possibly get in red-blue-purple-whatever America. The fact that we're struggling to find 51 senators willing to do what the public demands, rather than what the insurance companies want, demonstrates how badly even three-quarters of America can be outnumbered by the interests of a single industry.
Of course the Republicans aren't going to go along. They have refused to go along with anything, ever, period, and consider that a badge of honor. Of course it's going to be difficult to get Democrats who are beholden to the insurance industry to buck their lobbyists -- but that doesn't mean they should easily be able to block what 76% of the public is demanding.
Nobody said this was going to be easy. So quit whining about "bipartisanship", quit wringing your hands over how dreadfully difficult it's going to be, and get on with it. Solving America's very large and very real health insurance crisis is more important, and even prominent Democrats are shrugging their shoulders in defeat before the first real shots have been fired.