Give Us Healthcare Or Prepare Us For Death!

Can the Senate save the public option? Perhaps - but only if the Evil Empire stops trying to strike back. An update on our current health care quagmire, after the jump.

The Politico reports that our hope for some sort of public option may not be dead after all - just on life support and in need of round-the-clock care:

"We know with the public option it's a long road. We get better as time moves on," Schumer said, citing a recent New York Times/CBS News poll that showed wide support for the public option. "I am very hopeful, I think there is a really high chance that at the end of the day there is a public option in the bill that the president signs."

There are at least three potential versions of the government option that could be offered in the Finance Committee on Tuesday.

Schumer has proposed the "level playing field" option, which would allow providers to negotiate reimbursement rates and voluntarily opt in to the program. The plan must be self-sustaining and, aside from initial start-up funds, cannot be supported by government appropriations or general revenues.

Schumer also teamed up with Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) on another amendment that would substitute the nonprofit insurance cooperatives with the public plan approved under the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The Health and Human Services secretary would negotiate the reimbursement rates for providers, which would be no higher than the average of all reimbursement rates of plans in the exchange.

Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) has offered the most liberal approach, allowing the HHS secretary to set the reimbursement rate for providers at 5 percent above Medicare rates.

None of these proposals is expected to pass the Finance Committee. Democrats hold a 13-10 majority, but Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) are each expected to vote against any public option plan.

Note to self (and other politicos), send angry letters to Max Baucus, Sen. Kent Conrad, and Sen. Blanche Lincoln.

Sample text will read as follows:

Dear Democratic Senator:

Fuck you in the ear. Oh, wait - in the spirit of discourse I will acknowledge that opening was rude. Let me try again.

Why do you hate my freedom? Or better yet, not my freedom but my right to be healthy in order to exercise these freedoms we are allegedly protecting?

Admittedly, I'm not too thrilled with any of these weak sauce health care plans - this government option is like the Diet Coke Zero of health care reform. Or maybe some stank-ass Axe body spray when we really just need some good deodorant and nice soap. However, it's all we got. I don't mind if you are voting against the public option with another plan that doesn't involve us all bum rushing the ER whenever we need service. Perhaps you have a plan up your sleeve to sneak all 44 million of us across the Canadian border and bootleg us some fake health care cards. I'm fine with this plan - I was just in Canada and was highly tempted to orchestrate a fall down some stairs just so I could see a doctor. If I was really lucky, maybe I could crack a tooth and share my American sob story with a dentist so I can stop these horrible twinges in my teeth. No wonder all our bald eagles moved to Canada - I saw more in three days there than I have in my entire life here. Some symbol of America they are - I'm sure they've all applied for citizenship in Canada as well. If the insurance companies counted DDT poisoning as a pre-existing condition, I don't blame them for leaving us.

But I digress.

I must say, I am concerned at your blanket dismissal of any public option. I am considering writing my next letter to Rahm Emmanuel, because the people's elbow needs to make a dramatic come back on the congressional floor. At any rate, I do hope you reconsider your positions on the public option. If not, we may be forced to come to your office and steal your health care cards along with your identity. After all, Montana, North Dakota, and Arkansas are all much closer than Canada.

Yours in reform,

Latoya Peterson

The news here just keeps getting grimmer - the Senate appears to be in the process of voting against the public option amendments in favor of some sort of health care co-op. (At least, as of 3:20 PM ET). Yet again, this is not making me feel better - sometimes, co-ops can end up more expensive than a standard option. Has anyone been to the Flatbush Co-op lately? Where I'm from, Co-ops are cheap and unglamorous parts of the community. I came to New York and was shocked at the Co-Op trying to sell me a twelve dollar roasted chicken and six dollar goat cheese rounds. I could go to Dean and Deluca for that! Applying this idea to heath care scares me.

Unfortunately, the Dems aren't are only opponents for true reform. The herpes simplex virus that is Karl Rove just keeps on giving in the form of the derailing tactics that the GOP dispatched to ensure health care reform fails. Tim Dickinson of Rolling Stone explains:

On the first day of August, a mob of 200 right-wing Texans stormed the parking lot of a Randalls grocery store in southwest Austin. They were united in a single goal: Disrupt the "office hours" that Rep. Lloyd Doggett, the district's congressman, had scheduled for his constituents. The protesters targeted Doggett for his role in crafting the House's bill to reform health care, brandishing signs that read "No Government Health Care" and "No Government Counselor in My Home!!!" But their anger seemed to encompass a universe of conservative fears: higher taxes, illegal immigration, socialism. The threat of violence was thinly veiled: One agitator held aloft a tombstone with the name Doggett. Screaming, "Just say no!" the mob chased Doggett through the parking lot to an aide's car - roaring with approval as he fled the scene.

W.T.F.

All this discussion of white mobs is making me jumpy. And justifiably so. I don't care why there are a mob of angry mostly white folks storming parking lots and chasing people, their existence is enough to derail all my Post Traumatic Slavery Syndrome (PTSS) coping tactics. Word to Marcello Lucero and Robert Cantu.

If it's about to be Tombstone out this bitch (with the fringe factions as the Cowboys), then I'm Doc Holliday (movie version).

And for the record, yes, I do plan to die with my boots on.

But back to the article.

Call it the return of the Karl Rove playbook: The effort to mobilize the angriest fringe of the Republican base was guided by a conservative dream team that included the same GOP henchmen who Swift-boated John Kerry in 2004, smeared John McCain in 2000, wrote the script for Republican obstructionism on global warming, and harpooned the health care reform effort led by Hillary Clinton in 1993. [...]

Behind the scenes, top Republicans - including House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, Minority Leader John Boehner and the chairman of the GOP's Senate steering committee, Jim DeMint - worked hand-in-glove with the organizers of the town brawls. Their goal was not only to block health care reform but to bankrupt President Obama's political capital before he could move on to other key items on his agenda, including curbing climate change and expanding labor rights. As DeMint told an August teleconference of nearly 20,000 town-hall activists, "If we can stop him on this, the administration won't be able to go on to cap and trade, card check and the other things they want to do." [...]

The fourth group behind the town-hall protests, Conservatives for Patients' Rights, has direct connections to the health care industry. Its founder, Rick Scott, is the former CEO of Columbia/HCA, the world's largest hospital conglomerate. Scott was ousted from the company after it was caught overbilling taxpayers for Medicare treatment; it eventually pleaded guilty to criminal fraud and paid a record $1.7 billion in penalties. Scott now runs a chain of urgent-care clinics that serve uninsured Americans fearful of being bankrupted by hospital emergency-room visits. "He is one of those people who's gotten very, very, very rich off of sick people," says Potter, the former CIGNA executive. "He doesn't want that cash cow to go away - so that's why you're seeing all his money there."

Indeed, Scott has bankrolled Conservatives for Patients' Rights with more than $5 million of his own fortune. "We have invested a lot of time, energy and resources into educating Americans over the past several months about the dangers of government-run health care," he boasted in August. "And I think we're seeing some of the fruits of that campaign." To block reform, Scott has also hired CRC Public Relations, the firm that orchestrated the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign against John Kerry in 2004. CRC enjoys high-ranking connections to the right-wing establishment, with a client list including the RNC, the National Republican Senatorial and Congressional Committees, the Federalist Society, the Parents Television Council and the Christian Coalition.

I wish this was just about health care. But all signs point to a major disruption in our current political climate, and not in that good, fostering conversation way. Stay tuned.

Public option may have new life [Politico]
Senate Finance Committee Rejects First Public Option Amendment [Washington Post]
Assaults on Latinos Spur Inquiry [New York Times]
Robert Cantu Petition [Voto Latino]
Tombstone (film) [Wikipedia]
The Lie Machine [Rolling Stone]