Single Payer Amendment before the Senate at Two Minutes to Midnight

Bernard Sanders (Independent – Vermont) will see his single- payer health plan amendment read before the Senate today. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is going to allow a vote on the amendment as well. Reid loses nothing by doing this. In return for some very late exposure of single-payer, the progressives will vote ‘yes’ on the final bill – a bill lacking a public option, or much that is progressive.

The single- payer health plan amendment is being reported more for the Sen. Tim Coburn’s procedural demand that the entire text of Sanders’ amendment be read into the record. This is expected to take 12 hours and is still ongoing.

Coburn (Republican – Oklahoma) talks as if Sander’s bill and Reid’s bill was the same thing. It’s laughable, as Obama, Reid, Baucus and Pelosi worked strenuously to keep single-payer out of the health care debate. The distinction is academic to most voters. Any intervention of government in health care will play to the Republican’s wall-to-wall anti-communist rhetoric. The failure of the Obama plan to control costs or provide universal coverage will encourage those who would prefer to do nothing over the rising cost of health care and the worsening in quality of life.

In a two-track debate, the Republicans will come out ahead on this one. Including single-payer or national health care advocates in the debate might have brought the Republicans and Right-wing Democrats pro-market (and anti-cost control) assumptions into question. Obama would have to be a very astute politician to manage a play like that. It appears that he is not, unless his constituency is Joe Lieberman and the heath insurance industry.

Digbysblog sums up what’s wrong with this bill from a progressive, free market or socialist perspective (courtesy Glenn Greenwald’s Salon column):

Obama can say that you’re getting a lot, but also saying that it “covers everyone,” as if there’s a big new benefit is a big stretch. Nothing will have changed on that count except changing the law to force people to buy private insurance if they don’t get it from their employer. I guess you can call that progressive, but that doesn’t make it so. In fact, mandating that all people pay money to a private interest isn’t even conservative, free market or otherwise. It’s some kind of weird corporatism that’s very hard to square with the common good philosophy that Democrats supposedly espouse.

Nobody’s “getting covered” here. After all, people are already “free” to buy private insurance and one must assume they have reasons for not doing it already. Whether those reasons are good or bad won’t make a difference when they are suddenly forced to write big checks to Aetna or Blue Cross that they previously had decided they couldn’t or didn’t want to write. Indeed, it actually looks like the worst caricature of liberals: taking people’s money against their will, saying it’s for their own good — and doing it without even the cover that FDR wisely insisted upon with social security, by having it withdrawn from paychecks. People don’t miss the money as much when they never see it.

In the end, Obama seems to have gotten the bill he wanted but lost his base in the process. Or rather, he caused the base to realize that what they saw in him was only a hopeful reflection of themselves.He never was a progressive, he was always a blue dog Democrat with a better story to tell. People voted for FDR, but they got Jimmy Carter.

You can read Sanders’ proposal and even the entire bill here:

– The United States spends $7,129 per person on health care, which is almost double the amount spent by nearly any other industrialized country. Despite this fact, we still do not insure all of our citizens.
– There are currently 46 million Americans without health insurance, 100 million Americans who cannot access dental care, and 60 million Americans who do not have access to primary care.
– The United States ranks among the lowest of developed countries are far as health outcomes, according to both life expectancy and disease metrics.
– One reason we spend our money so ineffectively is that there is tremendous waste in our system. Healthcare providers spend $210 billion on administrative costs, mostly to deal with insurance paperwork, and the ranks of administrative personnel have grown by 25 times the number of physicians in the past 30 years.
– This waste and the high costs of insurance associated with it place a tremendous burden on American employers and makes it difficult for them to compete internationally.

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Posted on December 16, 2009, in national health care and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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