labor committees. On the Senate side, a bill was completed by the HELP committee (Health, Education, Labor andPensions, chaired by Ted Kennedy). The only committee that
finish a bill is the one that's likely to matter most:the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by the infamous obfuscating dick Max Baucus, a right-leaning Democrat fromMontana who has received $2,880,631 in campaign contributions from the health care industry.The game in health care reform has mostly come down to whether or not the final bill that is hammered out from thework of these five committees will contain a public option — i.e., an option for citizens to buy in to a government-runhealth care plan. Because the plan wouldn't have any profit motive — and wouldn't have to waste money on executivebonuses and corporate marketing — it would automatically cost less than private insurance. Once such a public plan ison the market, it would also drive down prices offered by for-profit insurers — a move essential to offset the added costof covering millions of uninsured Americans. Without a public option, any effort at health care reform will be asmeaningful as a manicure for a gunshot victim. "The public option is the main thing on the table," says Michael Behan,an aide to Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. "It's really coming down to that."The House versions all contain a public option, as does the HELP committee's version in the Senate. So whether or notthere will be a public option in the end will likely come down to Baucus, one of the biggest whores for insurance-company money in the history of the United States. The early indications are that there is no public option in the Baucusversion; the chairman hinted he favors the creation of nonprofit insurance cooperatives, a lame-ass alternative thateven a total hack like Sen. Chuck Schumer has called a "fig leaf."Even worse, Baucus has set things up so that the final Senate bill will be drawn up by six senators from his committee: agang of three Republicans (Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Mike Enzi of Wyoming) and threeDemocrats (Baucus, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico) known by the weirdly Maoist sobriquet"Group of Six." The setup senselessly submarines the committee's Democratic majority, effectively preventing memberswho advocate a public option, like Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Robert Menendez of New Jersey, from seriouslyinfluencing the bill. Getting movement on a public option — or any other meaningful reform — will now require thesupport of one of the three Republicans in the group: Grassley (who has received $2,034,000 from the health sector),Snowe ($756,000) or Enzi ($627,000).This is what the prospects for real health care reform come down to — whether one of three Republicans from tinystates with no major urban populations decides, out of the goodness of his or her cash-fattened heart, to forsake foreverany contributions from the health-insurance industry (and, probably, aid for their re-election efforts from the RepublicanNational Committee).This, of course, is the hugest of long shots. But just to hedge its bets even further and ensure that no real reforms pass,Congress has made sure to cover itself, sabotaging the bill long before it even got to Baucus' committee. To do this,they used a five-step system of subtle feints and legislative tricks to gut the measure until there was nothing left.
STEP ONE: AIM LOW
eading into the health care debate, there was only ever one genuinely dangerous idea out there, and that was asingle-payer system. Used by every single developed country outside the United States (with the partial exceptions of Holland and Switzerland, which offer limited and highly regulated private-insurance options), single-payer allows doctorsand hospitals to bill and be reimbursed by a single government entity. In America, the system would eliminate privateinsurance, while allowing doctors to continue operating privately.In the real world, nothing except a single-payer system makes any sense. There are currently more than 1,300 privateinsurers in this country, forcing doctors to fill out different forms and follow different reimbursement procedures for eachand every one. This drowns medical facilities in idiotic paperwork and jacks up prices: Nearly
of all health carecosts in America are associated with wasteful administration. Fully $350 billion a year could be saved on paperworkalone if the U.S. went to a single-payer system — more than enough to pay for the whole goddamned thing, if anyonehad the balls to stand up and say so.Everyone knows this, including the president. Last spring, when he met with Rep. Lynn Woolsey, the co-chair of theCongressional Progressive Caucus, Obama openly said so. "He said if he were starting from scratch, he would have asingle-payer system," says Woolsey. "But he thought it wasn't possible, because it would disrupt the health careindustry."
Sick and Wrong : Rolling Stonehttp://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/29988909/sick_and_wrong/print2 of 99/10/2009 12:07 AM