Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

July 15, 2009


Dave Lindorff, Counterpunch - Real health care reform of the kind that Democratic candidates were promising during last year's presidential campaign is dead, killed by the timidity of the promiser-in-chief, President Barack Obama (and by the massive corruption of the Democrats in Congress, who have accepted the tainted coin of the health care industry). . .

This president who, in years past as a senator, as a state representative and as an activist had praised the idea of single-payer, has taken to saying it's important do keep the private health insurance industry in business. . .

But let's note that Obama's sell-out on health care reform was aided and abetted by the progressives, the left groups and political organizations and the unions that failed to hold him to his earlier espousal of single-payer, that instead of calling him out on his cave-in, bought into his initial compromise of a so-called "public option" insurance alternative, and even into his subsequent back down to an even more watered-down version of possibly state-run or "cooperative" plans.

Now his political cowardice and mendacity have caught up with him. His "plan," if it can even be called that, of mandating employer health coverage and then adding a government-run alternative "public option" to existing private insurance, has understandably failed to excite the public, while still arousing the passionate opposition of conservative Republicans and conservative members of his own party, and meanwhile does nothing to limit soaring health costs, which already eat up a fifth of the entire gross domestic product of the nation, requires an increase in taxes and reductions in Medicare, will probably, if established, lead to more companies actually dropping their current benefit programs in favor of a cheaper, stripped-down government plan, and yet will still leave millions of people unable to get access to timely, quality, affordable medical care.

Furthermore, his apparent failure to deliver on this key initiative will deal a body blow to his political clout on other initiatives, such as tackling climate change and dealing with an acute economic crisis.

If I'm right that health reform is dead, so is Barack Obama's presidency. President Bill Clinton's new administration foundered early on following his shameless backdown on a pledge to guarantee the right of gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. It never recovered. President Obama's new administration is foundering on his equally shameless backdown on a promise to establish a system of quality affordable health care for all.

Healthcare for America Now - Senator Grassley pays $356.59 per month for health care, and the most he pays when visiting a doctor or hospital is $300. Senator Grassley's health care bills are paid by you and me.

Will Senator Grassley vote for health care reform that gives your family coverage that's as affordable as his? So far his answer is no. Instead, Senator Grassley says you should get a job with the feds.

So, fill out your name below to apply for a job with Senator Grassley so you can get the same benefits he gets. We'll deliver your job application to his office so you can get the care you deserve.

Wall Street Journal - The House measure would bar insurance companies from denying coverage to individuals who are sick, while also requiring most Americans to carry health insurance or pay a penalty equal to about 2.5% of their gross income. It would provide families earning up to $88,000 a year with subsidies to help them buy coverage. And it would expand health-insurance coverage through the Medicaid federal-state insurance program for the poor.

The Senate legislation is also expected to include mandates on insurers to provide coverage and individuals to carry it, although the details may differ. The bigger differences will come on the financing side, where many senators are cautious about introducing major new taxes on the wealthy to pay for health care.

CQ Politics
- Democrats still lack an official cost estimate for their [health] bill, which the Congressional Budget Office has not yet scored. But a preliminary CBO estimate of the insurance expansion provisions of the bill put the total spending at just over $1 trillion over 10 years and said it would cover all but 17 million of the nation's estimated 46 million uninsured. Half of the remaining uninsured would be illegal immigrants. . .

The Medicare and Medicaid sections will include cuts to those programs that will help pay for the bill, along with a surtax on the wealthy that would raise $544 billion over a decade, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. Other tax provisions raise the revenue total to $581 billion. . .

One concession to the Blue Dogs was the inclusion of $8 billion to help make sure rural hospitals and doctors are paid adequately by Medicare. The Blue Dogs had threatened not to support any bill that they thought would treat unfairly health care providers in their mostly rural districts. . .

According to a summary of the bill, most of the proposed coverage expansions would not begin until 2013. By that year, a government-run "public option" for insurance would be available for people to buy through a health insurance "exchange," essentially a government-organized marketplace where private plans would compete with the public option.

Most people in the exchange are expected to purchase private plans, said senior House Democratic aides. They said that by 2019, CBO estimates that about 9 million people would be in the public plan, while 21 million who bought coverage through the exchange would choose private plans.

Republicans have slammed the Democratic bill as a "government takeover" of health care that would result in most people ending up in the government-run plan. The CBO estimate appears to contradict those claims; the number of people covered through their employers would increase over the implementation of the bill, according to the estimate.

By 2013, there would be a mandate for individuals to buy coverage or pay a fine of 2.5 percent of their income - but the fine would be capped at the cost of the average plan in their area. Businesses would face a similar mandate, with a requirement to offer insurance coverage to employees or pay a fine equal to 8 percent of their payroll costs.

With the opening of the exchange, the government would provide subsidies to help buy coverage. People with incomes below 400 percent of the federal poverty level and down to the eligibility level for Medicaid would get the credits, on a sliding scale.

According to a CBO analysis, there would be five "tiers" of subsidies to help people buy at least a "basic" insurance plan on the exchange. People in the poorest tier, with incomes between 133 percent and 150 percent of the federal poverty level, would have to spend no more than 3 percent of their income on insurance premiums. At the highest level, 400 percent of federal poverty, spending on insurance premiums would be limited to 11 percent of income.

According to the CBO estimate, the government would contribute, on average, $4,600 for each person getting a subsidy in 2014, rising to $6,000 by 2019. . .

Open Left - Businesses with a payroll for $400,000 or more must either provide health insurance, or pay 8% of payroll to "subsidize" healthcare for their employees.

Take a look at the graph. It's a little out of date (2005) but it shows payroll percentage costs of insurance. The numbers are higher than the government numbers, because it only includes companies which do provide insurance and doesn't average costs in of employees they don't provide insurance for.

In other words, as of 2005, this was the cost of actually providing insurance for employees. Since then it's only gone up, rising faster than inflation. You'll notice, that for companies of all sizes, it's more than 8%, although this doesn't include the value of any tax deductions to the companies. . .

What's clear is that from a pure price perspective, for most employers, dropping their health coverage and paying the 8% "subsidy" is the price effective option. . .

The end result of this will be that more and more employers will simply drop their insurance plans and throw their employees onto the public insurance exchanges. Assuming that the public option is cheaper and generally comparable to the private plans, this will mean that large numbers of people will wind up in the public plan. Larger numbers, I think, than the current scoring expects.

Unless the public plan can reduce costs to what would be 8% or less of payroll, this means the cost of the public plan may be higher than expected, and since the private companies shedding their insurance plans won't be making up the difference . . . that means premiums will also be higher than


Anonymous Anonymous said...

IN a country w/ a free press and an informed electorate every one of the sorry motherfuckers would be impeached or recalled except of course Kuccinich.

July 16, 2009 12:10 AM  

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