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Will Victory on Health Care Reform Mean Defeat for the Democrats?

Being a futurist is not really about making predictions, but people ask for them anyway.

So here is one: The way things are trending right now, Obama and the Democrats will succeed in getting a reform bill – and it will cost them the Congress in 2010 and possibly the presidency in 2012. Why? Because it will be ineffective at bringing most voters any tangible benefits soon, and ineffective especially at bringing down the cost of health care.

Obama (along with everyone else) repeatedly talks about “affordable” health care. What the bill is most likely to bring is health insurance reform. This is very important, and will bring tangible benefits especially for those who must go without insurance now because they have “pre-existing conditions.” But there is nothing in the bills that are most likely to pass that will really bring down the costs of health care any time soon. Yet the bills demand that the health plans cover many more people, and the providers treat them, while putting in place no mechanisms that would forcefully and quickly control costs – so costs are likely to go up even faster than before.

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Capitol Shortage: Can the Two Democratic Parties Get It Together on Health Reform?

Hcan-june25crowd+dome3 As an exceptionally grumpy American summer grinds to a conclusion, it is apparent that only a bipartisan solution will enable Congress and the Obama Administration to complete health reform.  No, we’re not talking about co-operating with the Republicans. Other than a handful of contrarian Republican moderates on the Senate Finance Committee, at least one of whose votes might be needed for eventual passage, the Republicans are irrelevant to the final outcome.

No, the bipartisan solution we’re talking about is co-operation between the two Democratic parties represented in Congress:  the “Safe-Seat” Democrats- the Pacific Heights/Beverly Hills/Berkeley Hills/Upper West Side/Harlem Democrats and the “Running Scared” Democrats from the western, southern and border states, who actually require independent and some moderate Republican support to get elected.  These parties have very little in common other than the Capital D after their names.  

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Obama’s Medicare Half-Truth

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Obama was called a liar during his recent address to a joint session of Congress. Actually, he was not fully truthful about the implications of cuts to Medicare. Obama repeated that his health reform plan includes payment cuts for private Medicare Advantage (MA) health plans:

The only thing this plan would eliminate is the
hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and fraud, as well as
unwarranted subsidies in Medicare that go to insurance companies —
subsidies that do everything to pad their profits and nothing to
improve your care. … So don’t pay attention to those scary stories
about how your benefits will be cut… That will never happen on my
watch. I will protect Medicare.

Obama’s claim that the cuts will trim insurer profits but not Medicare benefits was meant to calm nervous seniors. As I and others have pointed out the proposed cuts will in fact reduce benefits to some degree, contrary to the President’s assertion. But seniors, in general, should not be concerned. First, only about 23% of Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in an MA plan.

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Obama’s Medicare Half-Truth

Picture 12

Obama was called a liar during his recent address to a joint session of Congress. Actually, he was not fully truthful
about the implications of cuts to Medicare. Obama repeated that his
health reform plan includes payment cuts for private Medicare Advantage
(MA) health plans:

The only thing this plan would eliminate is the
hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and fraud, as well as
unwarranted subsidies in Medicare that go to insurance companies —
subsidies that do everything to pad their profits and nothing to
improve your care. … So don’t pay attention to those scary stories
about how your benefits will be cut… That will never happen on my
watch. I will protect Medicare.

Obama’s claim that the cuts will trim insurer profits but not Medicare benefits was meant to calm nervous seniors. As I and others
have pointed out the proposed cuts will in fact reduce benefits to some
degree, contrary to the President’s assertion. But seniors, in
general, should not be concerned. First, only about 23% of Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in an MA plan.

Continue reading…

The Speech: Could this have been what he planned all along?

A conventional look at The Speech: Obama over-learned the lessons of Hillary-care; he gave Congress too long a leash; he lost control of the message; the wacko’s attacked with a barrage of Socialist/Nazi/Plug-Pulling-on-Grandma-isms; not only was health reform on the ropes but the entire Obama Presidency was in danger of imploding (taking the Dems down with him in the mid-terms); Obama had his back against the wall, a make-or-break moment. Then last night, the President gave a great speech that staked out a thoughtful middle ground; Joe Wilson went rogue, horrifying nearly everyone; this led to real sympathy for Obama and the Dems and a shift in the political landscape. In the end, a mild version of health reform – with nearly-universal coverage, some regulatory protections against the most heinous insurance practices, fee hikes to pay for it all, and a little movement toward improving quality and efficiency – passes.

Another look at The Speech:

Obama, a student of history, realizes that health reform is a near-impossible sell since every special interest will come out swinging; he gives Congress the ball knowing that whatever plan emerges from their sausage factory will simply be red meat for demagoguing Republicans and special interests worried about preserving their Gravy Train; Congress obliges by developing plans that overpromise and under-resource, or that push predictable hot buttons (immigrant coverage, palliative care); the Right and its attack dogs go berserk throughout the Wacko Days of August; the left hunkers down, drawing a line in the sand on the Public Option, kyboshing malpractice reform, and avoiding the hard questions about financing.Continue reading…

The Speech: Could this have been what he planned all along?

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White House Photo

A conventional look at The Speech:
 
Obama over-learned the lessons of Hillary-care; he gave Congress too long a leash; he lost control of the message; the wacko’s attacked with a barrage of Socialist/Nazi/Plug-Pulling-on-Grandma-isms; not only was health reform on the ropes but the entire Obama Presidency was in danger of imploding (taking the Dems down with him in the mid-terms); Obama had his back against the wall, a make-or-break moment. Then last night, the President gave a great speech that staked out a thoughtful middle ground; Joe Wilson went rogue, horrifying nearly everyone; this led to real sympathy for Obama and the Dems and a shift in the political landscape. In the end, a mild version of health reform – with nearly-universal coverage, some regulatory protections against the most heinous insurance practices, fee hikes to pay for it all, and a little movement toward improving quality and efficiency – passes.

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Economist: “A huge step forward. With one exception …”

A thumbs up:

“Cleverly borrowing good ideas from both sides of the party divide, his proposals at least look like a plausible basis for agreement. The plan obliges everyone to take out health insurance while creating a tapering subsidy for poorer families to help them afford it. It also requires insurance companies to end various nefarious practices, such as refusing to insure people with existing conditions or cancelling their coverage just when they need it most. To pay for these long-held liberal goals (the cost is put at $900 billion over ten years), the president has committed himself to several policies that Republicans, if only they could remove their partisan spectacles, should applaud.

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What Obama Must Demand from Congress on Health Care

Picture 11 Congress returns this week to one of the fiercest and most important debates in recent memory — whether and to what extent the nation will provide health care to all Americans, and how we will reign in the soaring costs of health care overall. But do not expect unusual courage from this Congress in standing up to demagogic lies and money-toting lobbyists. An unusually large portion is facing close races in 2010, both in primaries and in the general election. Republicans have many primary challenges from the right. A record number of Democrats, who took over Congress in 2006, hail from traditionally Republican or swing states and districts.

In order to get anything meaningful through this session of Congress, then, the President will have to give congressional Democrats far more leadership and more cover. Doing so is harder now than before the recess, when he was still basking in the afterglow of a honeymoon and 60 percent favorabilities.Yet it’s not too late. Addressing a joint session of Congress next Wednesday is a good idea but Obama can’t rely solely on his exceptional rhetorical skills. He’ll need to twist arms, cajole, force recalcitrant members to join him, threaten retribution if they don’t come along.

Most importantly, he’ll need to be specific about what he wants — especially about three things. I hope says the following next Wednesday, and makes clear to individual members that he means business.

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Transcript of Obama’s Health Care Speech (and the GOP response)

Transcript of the GOP Response to Obama’s Speech

The full text of President Obama’s address on health care to the Joint Session of Congress:

———

Madame Speaker, Vice President Biden, Members of Congress, and the American people:

When I spoke here last winter, this nation was facing the worst
economic crisis since the Great Depression. We were losing an average
of 700,000 jobs per month. Credit was frozen. And our financial system
was on the verge of collapse.

As any American who is still looking for work or a way to pay their
bills will tell you, we are by no means out of the woods. A full and
vibrant recovery is many months away. And I will not let up until those
Americans who seek jobs can find them; until those businesses that seek
capital and credit can thrive; until all responsible homeowners can
stay in their homes. That is our ultimate goal. But thanks to the bold
and decisive action we have taken since January, I can stand here with
confidence and say that we have pulled this economy back from the
brink.

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