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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Health Care Battlefield Takes Shape

Contending forces are streaming on to the field for what is certain to be the fiercest battle over health care reform ever fought. The health and economic security of millions of Americans are at stake, along with the fate of a huge industry and many billions of dollars. One important change over the last great battle, over “Hillarycare”: Thanks primarily to the blogosphere, this time around there will be a surfeit of good information about reform options immediately available to health care consumers who want to make informed choices. Those who want to get up to speed on the politics of health care reform will find no shortage of good reporting on the eve of the battle.
Here’s the basic timetable, according to a succinct summary by USA Today‘s Susan Page:

This year’s fast-track timetable on health care calls for leaders of key congressional committees to unveil legislation this month, debate it next month and pass it before leaving for the summer recess in August. Final passage would follow in September or October, before next year’s elections start to complicate things.
That, at least, is the plan.

Deepak Bhargava’s Huffpo article “Health Insurance You Can Trust,” makes a short, but tight case for insisting that there be a public insurance option. Bhargava notes:

According to the Harris Poll only 7% of people judge private health insurance companies to be “honest and trustworthy.”…a Lake Research poll found that a whopping 73% of voters want everyone to have a choice of a public health insurance plan while only 15% want everyone to have private insurance.

Bhargava recounts a familiar litany of horror stories of care denied and economic disaster for consumers and adds,

A Harvard study found that 50 percent of all bankruptcy filings were partly the result of medical expenses. Every 30 seconds in the United States someone files for bankruptcy in the aftermath of a serious health problem.

At Daily Kos, RDemocrat has a long post that covers a lot of interesting ground regarding the politics of health reform. The author makes a strong case for establishing a single-payer system, which most observers believe is off the political table this year. But he also provides a wealth of facts for challenging the argument that the private sector can best deliver quality affordable coverage, including:

Fact One: The United States ranks 23rd in infant mortality, down from 12th in 1960 and 21st in 1990
Fact Two: The United States ranks 20th in life expectancy for women down from 1st in 1945 and 13th in 1960
Fact Three: The United States ranks 21st in life expectancy for men down from 1st in 1945 and 17th in 1960.
Fact Four: The United States ranks between 50th and 100th in immunizations depending on the immunization. Overall US is 67th, right behind Botswana
Fact Five: Outcome studies on a variety of diseases, such as coronary artery disease, and renal failure show the United States to rank below Canada and a wide variety of industrialized nations.

Meanwhile the U.S. Senate’s two Democratic heavyweights on health care, Ted Kennedy and Max Baucus are talking unity, despite their differences about providing a public option. Kennedy is leading the charge for “a robust public public health care plan,” while Senator Chuck Shumer reportedly has a compromise in the form of a watered down public option Baucus may find acceptable. Baucus wants a bill that passes with a filibuster-proof 60 vote majority, while Kennedy and other Senate liberals are ready to rumble with 51 votes in the budget reconciliation maneuver. According to a head count by Open Left‘s Chris Bowers, the 51 votes are in place.
Bring it on. Whatever it takes to put an end to profit-driven health care in America and the unending stream of horror stories, a few of which were recounted by Bhargava in his HuffPo post, will be long overdue. Given the amount of money at stake, we can safely assume that we are about to see a tidal wave of health care provider propaganda on a scale never before experienced. Democrats of all stripes have two choices this summer: get rolled or get unified and bring their “A” game.

One comment on “Health Care Battlefield Takes Shape

  1. Lee on

    I get a lot of email from Organizing for America (OFA) and some the Washington State Democratic party asking me to support Obama on health care. OFA says that Obama is demanding that any bill meet 3 principles: affordable care for all, choice, and reduce costs. At the same time, I have read that Obama is willing to compromise on the inclusion of a “public plan”, which he had promised in the campaign, as did Hilary Clinton.
    Make no mistake — there will be no effective cost control without a public plan in competition with private plans. That is why the health care industry and those who carry water for them are dead set against it — it would make them look bad by comparison and drive costs down. Without this competition, there will be no effective cost control – just some sweet words about it, and an infinite number of ineffectual cost control goals, objectives, and hopes.
    The public plan is effectively a synonym for cost control. Without cost control universal health care is unaffordable and therefore doomed. That is why the public plan is so important. It would be a major strategic mistake for Obama to give on this point. Everyone in the Democratic establishment needs to be working to stiffen his spine on this.


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