Monday, November 30, 2009
Peanuts, Pop Corn, and Cracker Jacks pretty much sums up the Senator Actors especially ... Sens. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Max Baucus, D-Mont. Enter Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Joe Lieberman, I-Joe Lieberman, to strut and fret their hour under the big top. This is how we do health care reform. "Instead of government, we had a three ring stage with Harry Ried as the Big Top Banana Announcer," as the Che character [Nancy Pelosi] sings in Evita in the key of Botox.
If you watched the scene changes instead of the actors, you saw the production go from health care reform to health insurance reform.
Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans, the industry trade association, has moaned in apparent pain as the House and Senate edited the script. But that is for show. There are some cost-cutting experimental programs there, but if reform passes in anything like the current form, it will open employers' and consumers' pockets and wallets for the insurance companies to reach in and take what they want.
What you hear is that the nasty big government will make everyone buy insurance, whether they want to or not. What you don't hear is that making you buy insurance is not new. The nasty state government makes you buy automobile insurance, and the nice bank that holds your mortgage makes you buy property and casualty insurance, whether you want to or not.
What you really, really will never, never hear is that you have to buy all that insurance from private insurance companies — except when the private insurance company decides you are too big a risk. If it does, the state has to insure you.
Then again, when the topic is the costs of the health insurance legislation, you hear about what it may cost the taxpayers. You don't hear about what it may cost insurance customers.
You did hear a lot about a "public option" that may not even end up in the final bill and, in any case, represents a small part of the overall costs. The big money in the overall costs will go to private insurance companies.
Oh well, a lot of other stuff you heard is just plain wrong. The next line of that Tim Rice song from Evita is, "Instead of ideas, a prima donna's rage." In a democracy, everyone is entitled to act like a prima donna. And, boy, did we have them raging last summer, on and off the TV set.
The chance for sound reform may have been lost when the terms of debate were set to draw in Republicans, who were totally useless anyway. Scriptwriters agreed to pretend there is nothing wrong with the system and made it their goal to pull more people in, not fix it.
There has been little serious discussion of rationing. If a conversation with your doctor could be called a "death panel," as it was, almost anything can be misconstrued. The leaders agreed to stick with the kind of rationing we have and avoid discussion of smarter rationing to avoid offending the small percentage of the public that can buy its way out of the kind of rationing we have if it gets caught. That pretty much killed cost containment and meant we will keep on paying more each year for the inefficiencies and waste of the current system.
In the past, universal health care died at the hands of lobbyists for those who make a living out of what we have. But this time, the main players showed interest — insurance industry histrionics to the contrary notwithstanding. Physicians have been sucking it up through the whole process. The big obstacles this time are politicians.
The idea that anything important, much less health care, should depend on Mary Landrieu or Joe Lieberman has to make you wonder if we can govern ourselves.
It does make you admire Lyndon Johnson. He was able to pass through the House and the Senate's filibuster rule two civil rights laws that the filibuster was designed expressly to prevent. Since then, all our leaders can agree to do is cut taxes, spend money and rage on stage. They never say much, but they say it loud.
ATTRIBUTION: SEVERAL OPINION COMMENTARIES WITH A LITTLE BIT OF SARCASM SPRINKLED ABOUT FOR LEVITY.
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