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UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of ten of America's presidencies and who has edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review, which has been on the web since 1995, is now published from Freeport, Maine. We get over 5 million article visits a year. See prorev.com for full contents of our site

January 20, 2010

MASSACHUSETTS

Tim Rutten, LA Times - Truth to tell, the president and his surrogates have done a lousy job selling the electorate on reform. Social Security and Medicare are our most popular social programs because they have two crucial attributes: they cover everybody, and their benefit to the individual can be explained in one declarative sentence. By contrast, the benefits of healthcare reform are diffuse. In this nation of 300 million, only 30 million people are without health insurance. That's a scandal and, frequently, a tragedy for the uninsured. In political terms, however, the problem is that most of what the other 270 million will gain from reform seems marginal and remote. . .

Much of the disaffection in Massachusetts came from self-described independents. That's significant because independents are concentrated in middle-class suburbs where physical and economic security are overriding preoccupations. Today, those anxieties are both real and justified, though not as critiques of Obama's first year.

The truth of the matter is that, if you adjust for inflation, the average income of American males has not grown in real terms since the 1970s. Most families have compensated for that by sending mom to work outside the home. . .

According to work done by Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren, who chairs the congressional panel appointed to oversee the bank bailout, 20% of all Americans are either jobless, underemployed or simply have given up looking for work. One out of every eight Americans is on food stamps, and one out of every eight U.S. mortgages is in default or foreclosure. The wholesale flight of American employers from the responsibility of maintaining traditional pension plans forced tens of millions of 401(k) participants into the equity markets to secure their retirements. The crash erased $5 trillion from their accounts.

Scolds would have you believe that middle-class Americans were complicit in the financial collapse because of their profligacy. Warren points out that the numbers state a different case. "By the early 2000s, families were spending twice as much (adjusted for inflation) on mortgages than they did a generation ago," she wrote recently, "for a house that was, on average, only 10% bigger and 25 years older. They also had to pay twice as much to hang on to their health insurance. . . . Families today spend less than they did a generation ago on food, clothing, furniture, appliances and other flexible purchases, but it hasn't been enough to save them."

As employers have come to regard their employees as little more than another fixed expense, layoffs have become a routine tool for manicuring quarterly profits. Thus, even those lucky enough to have full-time jobs have little security in their current positions -- in which, as the current productivity numbers show, they're forced to work ever harder for less -- and none about their future, including retirement. This shift of economic risk onto the backs of the middle class has allowed the top 5% of income earners to amass a share of the country's wealth unmatched for a century.

There's the real source of the country's anger.

Susanne L. King, Boston Globe - Massachusetts has been been lauded for its healthcare reform, but the program is a failure. Created solely to achieve universal insurance coverage, the plan does not even begin to address the other essential components of a successful healthcare system.

What would such a system provide? The prestigious Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, has defined five criteria for healthcare reform. Coverage should be: universal, not tied to a job, affordable for individuals and families, affordable for society, and it should provide access to high-quality care for everyone.

The state's plan flunks on all counts.

First, it has not achieved universal healthcare, although the reform has been a boon to the private insurance industry. The state has more than 200,000 without coverage, and the count can only go up with rising unemployment.

Second, the reform does not address the problem of insurance being connected to jobs. For individuals, this means their insurance is not continuous if they change or lose jobs. For employers, especially small businesses, health insurance is an expense they can ill afford.

Third, the program is not affordable for many individuals and families. For middle-income people not qualifying for state-subsidized health insurance, costs are too high for even skimpy coverage. For an individual earning $31,213, the cheapest plan can cost $9,872 in premiums and out-of-pocket payments. Low-income residents, previously eligible for free care, have insurance policies requiring unaffordable copayments for office visits and medications.

Fourth, the costs of the reform for the state have been formidable. Spending for the Commonwealth Care subsidized program has doubled, from $630 million in 2007 to an estimated $1.3 billion for 2009, which is not sustainable.

Fifth, reform does not assure access to care. High-deductible plans that have additional out-of-pocket expenses can result in many people not using their insurance when they are sick. In my practice of child and adolescent psychiatry, a parent told me last week that she had a decrease in her job hours, could not afford the $30 co-payment for treatment sessions for her adolescent, and decided to meet much less frequently.

In another case, a divorced mother stopped treatment for her son because the father had changed insurance, leaving them with an unaffordable deductible. And at Cambridge Health Alliance, doctors and nurses have cared for patients who, unable to afford the new co-payments, were forced to interrupt care for HIV and even cancers that could be treated with chemotherapy. . .

Rasmussen - In 2006, Massachusetts implemented its own statewide version of health care reform and 32% of the state's voters consider that reform a success. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of the Bay State finds that 36% consider the plan a failure and another 32% are not sure.

Twenty percent (20%) now say that the state's reform effort has made health care more affordable while 31% say just the opposite. Thirty-nine percent (39%) believe it's had no impact on prices and 11% are not sure.

Sixteen percent (16%) say the Massachusetts reform has improved the quality of care in the state while 24% believe the quality of health care in the state has gotten worse. Most, 51%, say there has been no impact on the quality of care.

Despite the fact that Massachusetts voters are lukewarm in evaluating their own experiment with health care reform, 51% favor the national plan proposed by President Obama and Congressional Democrats. Forty-seven percent (47%) of Massachusetts voters oppose that plan. . .

Still, even in Massachusetts, those with strong feelings on the subject are more likely to oppose the plan than support it. Thirty-two percent (32%) Strongly Favor the legislation and 37% are Strongly Opposed.

Seventy-six percent (76%) of Massachusetts Democrats favor the President's plan while 82% of Massachusetts Republicans are opposed. Among those not affiliated with either major party, 37% favor the plan and 59% are opposed.

Robert Scheer, Truthdig - The two issues that mattered on Election Day were the economy, which Obama has sold out to Wall Street-as quite a few disgruntled voters pointed out-and his plea to save health care reform, which the voters who had backed him for the presidency with a huge majority now spurned. It is significant that it was the voters of Massachusetts who have now derailed the Democrats' efforts to revamp the country's health care system by denying them the necessary 60th vote in the Senate, for these voters know the subject well.

The federal proposal is based on their own state's model requiring people to obtain health insurance without the state doing anything to effectively control costs through an alternative to the private insurance corporations. Lacking a public option, the cost of health care in Massachusetts, already the highest in the nation at the time of the plan's implementation, has spiraled upward. Services have been curtailed, and many, particularly younger people, feel they are being forced to sacrifice to pay for a system that doesn't work.

Instead of blindly following the failed Massachusetts model, Obama should have insisted on an extension of the Medicare program to all who are willing to pay for it. He squandered the opportunity to bring about meaningful health care change that the public would have supported had it been kept simple and just. Instead, Obama gave away the store to medical profiteers. They, in turn, hopelessly muddied the waters with well-funded scare advertising tactics that principled leadership on Obama's part could have thwarted.

A mere seven months ago, The New York Times/ CBS poll found that 72% of Americans "supported a government-administered insurance plan-something like Medicare for those under 65-that would compete for customers with private insurers." Even half of those identified as Republican said they would back such a public plan, as would three out of four independents and 90% of Democrats. Instead of heeding that call by endorsing a serious extension of Medicare, along with increased subsidies for those who could not afford it, Obama played to the conservatives in Congress-and they rolled him. . .

A new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll finds that "Americans ranked job creation and economic growth as their clear top priority for the federal government, well above national security and deficit reduction. Health care, Mr. Obama's top domestic priority in 2009, now ranks fourth, closely trailing the deficit and government spending."

Of course, the public is right. In the midst of the worst economic crisis in 70 years, why waste enormous political capital battling to pass a health care plan that is modeled on a proven failure in Massachusetts, as voters there clearly registered? Meanwhile, the president has dropped the ball in the effort to make bankers act responsibly by forcing them to forego outrageous bonuses and help homeowners stay in their homes.


2 Comments:

Anonymous Told ya said...

Most of the above is bullshit. Coakly's loss came because she was a witch prosecutor who squeezed bad evidence from innocents to prosecute nonexistent child molestation and further her wicked self, along with the fact that people are pissed at congress and obuma for queering single payer. They voted for the republican because they are furious with the dems but the moronic republicans are crowing because they are functional imbeciles. Next time I say vote for Nader, maybe you dumb fuckers will listen, but I doubt it.

January 20, 2010 7:54 PM  
Anonymous wellbasically said...

You have no clue.

January 21, 2010 2:14 PM  

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