Monday, August 17, 2009

The end of reform?

It was only yesterday that I was talking about the number of “drafts” I’ve squirrelled away, things that may have been adapted for a post—or not. One such draft I was working on over the weekend was designed to call out the folks in Congress who are standing in the way of real healthcare reform in the US, especially Chuck Grassley and Max Baucus. I was going to point out how much money they received from the healthcare and insurance industries.

In that draft, I said, “The bill can never be amended or changed enough to get Republican votes In Congress, so why the pursuit of something that’s impossible?” The answer came today with news that the White House is apparently getting ready to drop the public option from the bill—the one thing I thought, based on the president’s previous statements, was sacrosanct.

To say the news hit me by surprise is a bit of an understatement— blindsided, might be a better word. Like a lot of liberal Democrats, I feel the public option is non-negotiable, the one thing that will make or break reform. But now it appears the administration is getting ready to chuck it aside, with the president declaring that it’s “just one sliver” of his reform agenda.

We were fighting tooth and nail over a sliver?!

The Republicans were absolutely, intractably and completely opposed to any form of public option—no negotiation, no accommodation, no Holy Bipartisanship. That was a given. But also opposed to it, apparently, were the Blue Dog Democrats, an actual caucus of conservative Democrats in the US House, a less formal grouping in the US Senate. Blue Dog Democrats in the House, not surprisingly, have the dishonour of being funded primarily by the healthcare and insurance industries.

So maybe the fix was in long before the bill was even introduced, in which case the left and right alike were at war over nothing. But if that’s true, is there anything left in the bill worth enacting?

Maybe. For example, if insurance companies are forbidden to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, that’s a teeny, tiny step (but you know that without regulation they’ll charge through the nose for that coverage). Compelling employers to provide basic insurance would be another small step, but one that Republicans and, one assumes, Blue Dogs will never agree to.

So, at the moment it looks like the US will get a slight tweaking of the system, a little tinkering around the edges. It’s tempting to say it’s rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, because real reform will be left to a future, hopefully wiser, and less bought-and-paid-for, Congress.

And that’s just sick.


Roger Owen Green said...

there will NEVER be a "less bought and paid-for" Congress. Why SHOULD there be? The monied interests won, as usual. If he really does bail on the public option, it so weakens him on environmental and other issues, it may be the defining moment in a one-term Obama Presidency.

Arthur Schenck said...

I'm still hoping that the "better angels of their natures" will save the day…