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PostPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2009 5:41 pm 
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With all the health care reform discussion going around you may want to watch "Sicko." A documentary by Michael Moore available on DVD.

Trailer for "SiCKO"
http://www.michaelmoore.com/sicko/dvd/trailer.html

Trailer for "SiCKO"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlDAUKSh9CQ

Bill Moyers interviews former health insurance exec. Wendell Potter P.1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-M10jDkmm0&NR=1

Moyers Part 2 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mv1FwOCNoZ8

"Sick around the World"
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline ... dtheworld/

Rep. Anthony Weiner Issues an Impossible Challenge on Health Care
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMSV0wXG ... re=channel

Former CIGNA Executive Hails 'SiCKO' on Amy Goodman's Democracy Now!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=El2wmNV2 ... re=channel

Blue Dogs Bribed Over Health Care
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqibuO7n ... re=related

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 25, 2009 9:15 pm 
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Are lobbyists silver lining in health care storm?

"WASHINGTON – A strong force, perhaps as powerful in Congress as President Barack Obama, is keeping the drive for health care going even as lawmakers seem hopelessly at odds.

Lobbyists.

The drug industry, the American Medical Association, hospital groups and the insurance lobby are all saying Congress must make major changes this year. Television ads paid for by drug companies and insurers continued to emphasize the benefits of a health care overhaul — not the groups' objections to some of the proposals.

"My gut is telling me that something major can pass because all the people who could kill it are still at the table," said Ken Thorpe, chairman of health policy at Emory University in Atlanta. "Everybody has issues with bits and pieces of it, but all these groups want to get something done this year." As a senior official at the Health and Human Services department in the 1990s, Thorpe was deeply involved in the Clinton administration's failed effort.

President Barack Obama on Saturday continued his full-court press to pass health care reform legislation. In his weekly Internet and radio address, Obama cited a new White House study indicating that small businesses pay far more per employee for health insurance than big companies — a disparity he says is "unsustainable — it's unacceptable."

"And it's going to change when I sign health insurance reform into law," Obama said, adding that he has "a sense of urgency about moving this process forward."

This time, the health care industry groups see a strategic opportunity. As lawmakers squabble, the groups are focused on how to come out ahead in the end game.

"We're still optimistic that we can get health care reform accomplished," said Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for America's Health Insurance Plans, the main insurance industry trade group. "There is strong support from policymakers and from across the health care sector. "

It's all got to do with shifts in the economy. Even before the recession hit, employer-sponsored health coverage had been steadily shrinking, and many people couldn't afford the premiums for individual policies. Meanwhile, government programs have been expanding — and they've gotten increasingly friendly to private insurance companies. Insurers now play major roles as middlemen in Medicare, Medicaid and the children's insurance program.

And if the government requires everybody to get coverage — just what the overhaul legislation calls for — it could guarantee a steady stream of customers subsidized by taxpayers not only for insurers, but for all medical providers.

What I'm concerned about is the damage that's being done right now to the health of our families, the success of our businesses, and the long-term fiscal stability of our government," Obama said in his address.

Obama criticized what he said were tactics by opponents to block health care overhaul "as a way to inflict political damage on my administration. I'll leave it to them to explain that to the American people."

"Today, after a lot of hard work in Congress, we are closer than ever before to finally passing reform that will reduce costs, expand coverage and provide more choices for our families and businesses," Obama said.

The industry groups have invested heavily to make sure their views get taken into account. The health care sector gave $167 million in campaign contributions to congressional candidates in the 2008 election cycle, according to the watchdog group OpenSecrets.org. Health care companies poured $484 million into lobbying efforts in 2008, and are on pace to exceed that this year.

Separately, the drug companies have offered up $80 billion over 10 years to reduce prescription costs of seniors if a deal goes through, while major hospital groups agreed to a $155-billion reduction in Medicare and Medicaid payments to free up funds that would help subsidize coverage for the uninsured.

The political infighting on Capitol Hill has strengthened the hand of the health care groups, since liberals have been thwarted so far in their attempts to win speedy passage of the legislation through the House and Senate.

One of the liberals' main objectives is to include a strong government-sponsored insurance plan in the legislation, to compete against private insurance. Stopping or weakening the government plan is a top priority for the insurance industry. Other health care interest groups are also leery because the public plan could put a dent in their budgets. The House version, modeled on Medicare, would pay doctors and hospitals less than private insurance.

All eyes are now on Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., who has never been friendly to the idea of a government-sponsored insurance plan. Baucus is trying to broker a bipartisan deal with a handful of Republican colleagues.

It's not clear if Baucus will succeed, but his group is looking at creating nonprofit co-ops that would lack Medicare's power to dictate payment levels and tell providers to take it or leave it. Instead, the co-ops would have to negotiate payment rates with hospitals, doctors and drug makers — just like private insurance plans do.

"We are hopeful at the end of the day a bipartisan plan will emerge that benefits both patients and the U.S. economy," said Ken Johnson, senior vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the drug industry lobby.

Obama has endorsed the notion of a strong public plan, the kind liberals want to see. But if Baucus gets a bipartisan deal, the president may have to swallow hard and embrace it — or accept defeat of his top domestic priority.

"There is a way out of it — a bipartisan compromise_ but so far the liberals have found that to be anathema," said Robert Laszewski, a health care industry consultant.

Laszewski is pessimistic about the prospects for overhaul legislation this year. But he thinks insurers in particular look like they're in a win-win situation.

"The health insurance industry is in a fantastic position," he said. Democratic liberals overreached and can't move a bill over the objections of their moderate and conservative colleagues.

"Democrats can't blame the industry if this goes down," Laszewski added. "So the health insurance industry is happy to let this thing take its course."

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090725/ap_ ... ver_lining

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 30, 2009 11:53 am 
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Energy and Commerce Committee moving on health bill

House panel goes back to work on health care

"WASHINGTON – A House committee plowed ahead Thursday on a health care overhaul bill, with the clock running on chances for progress on President Barack Obama's top domestic priority before Congress takes its August break.

As Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., restarted the Energy and Commerce Committee's voting session, he warned lawmakers against offering amendments that make the bill more expensive — and agreed to a Republican suggestion to limit the time allowed for debate. Waxman said he hopes to finish the bill sometime Friday.

Meanwhile, a small group of Senate negotiators pursued an elusive bipartisan deal. Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and his Republican counterpart, Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, had both indicated Wednesday the group of six senators was making progress. But prospects for a Finance Committee breakthrough remained uncertain.

The progress in the House came after Democratic leaders won agreement from conservative Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee to allow the panel to proceed. It would be the last of three House committees to finish work, clearing the way for a floor vote in September.

The Finance panel and the Energy and Commerce panel are seen as pivotal tests of prospects for the legislation because they reflect the broader composition of the Senate and the House. The two House committees and one Senate panel that have already passed versions of the legislation are dominated by Democratic liberals.

One liberal, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said Thursday the obstacles to the bill mean that Congress probably can't finish its work until late fall. "The president wanted to have it on his desk in October," said Harkin. "Well, he'll probably have it in November now. But I'm very hopeful we'll get it done at least by that time."

The House bill and the plan under negotiation in the Senate are designed to meet Obama's goals of spreading health coverage to millions who now lack it, while trying to slow the skyrocketing growth in medical costs. As recently as two weeks ago, Obama was pressing the House and Senate to pass separate bills by the end of July or early August. After Republicans and moderate Democrats objected to the rush, the president said he'd settle for just progress.

Wednesday in the House, Democratic leaders gave in — at least temporarily — to numerous demands from rank-and-file rebels from the conservative wing of the party. The so-called Blue Dog Democrats had been blocking the bill's passage in Energy and Commerce.

The House changes, which drew immediate opposition from liberal lawmakers, would steer away from using Medicare as the blueprint for a proposed government insurance option, reduce federal subsidies to help lower-income families afford coverage, and exempt additional businesses from a requirement to offer health insurance to their workers.

Bipartisan Senate negotiators reported progress on legislation that aims to cover 95 percent of Americans without raising federal deficits.

Finance chairman Baucus said preliminary estimates from congressional budget experts showed the cost of the emerging Senate plan was below $900 billion and would result in an increase in employer-sponsored insurance — conclusions that may reassure critics who fear a bloated bill that prompts businesses to abandon the coverage they currently provide.

Congressional officials said Baucus was able to get the cost under $1 trillion because his bill includes only the cost of the first year of a 10-year, $245 billion program to increase doctor fees under Medicare. House Democrats used a similar sleight of hand, excluding the entire $245 billion when claiming their measure wouldn't add to the deficit.

The White House praised the developments in the House. At appearances in North Carolina and Virginia, the president sought to minimize the significance of the slippage in his timetable.

Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas, a leader of the Blue Dogs, said the changes agreed to by the leadership in the House bill would cut its cost by about $100 billion over 10 years. But his claim has been called into question.

A new break for small businesses, among other changes in the deal, also increased costs substantially, so it wasn't clear that the agreement actually generated net savings.

Waxman said the cost of helping small businesses was offset by a reduction in the level of federal subsidies that would be available to help people buy health insurance. The net result appeared to be a wash.

The House deal was worked out over hours of talks that involved not only Democratic leaders but also White House officials eager to advance the bill. Senior congressional aides cast it as a temporary accommodation, saying leaders had not committed to support it once the bill advances to the floor of the House in the fall.

As word of the agreement spread, liberals fired back. "We do not support this," said Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., co-chair of the Progressive Caucus. "I think they have no idea how many people are against this. They can't possibly be taking us seriously if they're going to bring this forward."

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090730/ap_ ... e_overhaul

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2009 10:50 am 
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Time's Joe Klein: How special interests could block health reform

"Sometimes I get a little frustrated," Barack Obama admitted to AARP in late July, "because this is one of those situations where it's so obvious that the system we have isn't working well for too many people, and that we could just be doing better." He was talking about health care, of course. As Washington collapsed toward its August recess, the President's reform efforts were looking distinctly iffy, even though he is absolutely right about the need for change. The system is a fiscal mess, the king of all budget busters. It is also a moral mess, leaving far too many Americans with far too little protection. But the President is wrong when he says, "The system we have isn't working well for too many people." The vast majority - more than 80% in the latest TIME poll - are satisfied with their health care. They may be worried about losing their coverage, and angry as their premiums rise, but the health-care "crisis" is theoretical to most Americans. That's the immediate source of Obama's frustration, but there is a larger, structural issue blocking his path. (See the five biggest hurdles to health-care reform.)

One of the most difficult things to do in a democracy is react to a problem that is real, but not immediately threatening. Obama is trying to do this in two monster areas, health care and climate change. "He's killing me," says Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, referring to the hordes of special-interest groups that have camped on her doorstep and clogged her phone lines. Stabenow is smiling as she says it. She supports the broad thrust of Obama's initiatives. "But you can't believe all the groups that want to make their case. There are the doctors, the nurses, the cancer society," she continues, raising the specter of a conga line of disease groups bending her ear. "All of them have legitimate concerns. And that's just health care."

As long ago as 1982, the economist Mancur Olson made the argument, in The Rise and Decline of Nations, that as a democracy matures, special interests grow more entrenched. Their intense dedication to their own specific needs, Olson wrote, often trumps the broader, but less focused, interests of society. And that was before the rise of cable news and talk radio. It was before the utterly corrupting effect of televised advertising on politicians really kicked in - the need to raise money (from interest groups, mostly) and to exercise extreme caution lest one of your votes be used to decapitate you in a 20-second ad. It was before the Democrats and Republicans transformed themselves into more strictly ideological parties. Put all these factors in the cauldron and you create a poisonous atmosphere that makes legislative action on big issues almost impossible. It is also a prescription for conservative governance of the sort that has thrived since Ronald Reagan. Doing nothing is the easiest thing. (Read TIME's exclusive health-care interview with Obama.)

"We've gotten rusty at legislating," says Representative Jim Cooper, a Tennessee Democrat. He is being kind. There are only two sorts of legislation that seem to pass these days: things that have to pass, like budgets - and cotton-candy giveaways, like tax cuts or the wildly irresponsible, unfunded Medicare drug bill that George W. Bush enacted. Occasionally, responsible actions take place in the budget process. Bill Clinton spent most of his political capital on deficit reduction, which helped fuel the economic boom of the 1990s. Obama has just managed to kill the F-22, an anachronistic fighter jet. Very, very occasionally a special interest will take it on the chin - as the teachers' unions did when Bush passed the No Child Left Behind Act, which mandated a testing regimen the teachers didn't like. But the passage of landmark legislation like the health-industry reforms that Obama is seeking has become about as common as politicians who refuse to run television ads. It just doesn't seem to happen anymore.

Download TIME's new BlackBerry app.

See who's who in Obama's White House.

These constrictions account for some of the strange decisions that Obama has made in shaping the health-care debate. Since most people like the health care they have, the President has been forced to say, "If you like the health care you have, you can keep it." But it is difficult to enact substantive reforms when 80% of the system stays the same. The need for simplicity has also forced Obama to stick with - indeed, to double down on - the current practice of having employers provide health insurance. This is the weakest, most illogical part of the system. It is difficult to sustain in a global economy where American corporations have overseas competitors that aren't saddled with providing health care for their employees.

The pressures of partisanship have forced other contortions. It seems obvious that the cost of malpractice insurance cripples doctors - and drives up the number of tests and procedures they perform in order to bulletproof themselves against lawsuits. Obama has said he is open to malpractice reform, but congressional Democrats haven't included it in their bills because trial lawyers are a major Democratic special-interest group. Another Democratic interest group, organized labor, has blocked the most logical and progressive way to fund a universal health-care system - eliminating the tax exclusion on health benefits and replacing it with a progressive tax credit. The health-care exclusion is, at approximately $250 billion, the single biggest tax break in the federal code. The problem is that unions have negotiated generous health packages over the years. According to Senator Stabenow, autoworkers get a package worth about $15,000 per year - and public employees get more, about $19,000. "The police and firefighters get even more," she says. "But they need it, and do you really want to tax them for putting their lives on the line?" (Advocates like Representative Cooper insist that exceptions for some unions can be made.) (See the results of TIME's health-care poll.)

The best-constructed health-care bill, developed by Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, would eliminate the health-care tax exclusion the unions want. "But we also offer a tax credit of $17,000 per year, which is more than most people are getting in health-care benefits now," he says. Wyden's bill addresses most of the other major health-care issues. It has 14 bipartisan co-sponsors in the Senate, it covers everyone and offers more choices, it reforms the health-insurance business, it alleviates the responsibility of employers, it has a robust cost-control mechanism, and it has been scored as revenue-neutral over 10 years by the Congressional Budget Office. "It's got everything," says Stabenow, one of the co-sponsors, "except interest groups to back it."

At the end of his presidency, Clinton told me that the biggest mistake he made in trying to reform health care was pulling a pen out of his pocket during the 1994 State of the Union address and threatening to veto any health-care legislation that didn't achieve universal coverage. He had come to believe that the only way to get something big like health-care reform was to do it incrementally. Obama has been wise not to make any take-it-or-leave-it offers. He is still fighting for a comprehensive bill - and he still may get one. But he may have to settle for less. (Watch TIME's video "Uninsured Again.")

"Something called health-reform legislation will pass," a prominent Democrat told me. "The political consequences of not passing anything would be too great." A bare-bones bill that reforms the health-insurance industry - insurers would have to accept all comers, including those with pre-existing conditions, at the same rates - is a distinct possibility. Expanded coverage, perhaps including the parents of children eligible for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), is also probable. Most important for long-term reform, a system of health-care superstores - the wonks call them "exchanges" or "co-ops" - where individuals and small businesses can go to buy a plan, could be included.

"Look, we've already passed three major pieces of health-care legislation," says Henry Aaron of the Brookings Institution, who is skeptical about the chances for a comprehensive bill. He was referring to the expansion of SCHIP and the funds for electronic records and studies to monitor which treatments are most effective that were included in the stimulus bill. "If we can pass health-care exchanges, which could be expanded in the future and are the seeds of real change, this will be the most successful year of health-care reform in decades." The President wants much more; the media expect much more - but given the constraints of our middle-aged democracy, perhaps we should be happy to achieve any sort of progress at all."

http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/20090731/u ... 9191361900

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article ... tion-yahoo

http://www.time.com/time/politics/artic ... 20,00.html

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2009 11:35 pm 
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Quote:
Key congressional panel approves hard-fought health bill

Dems win approval of health bill in committee

"WASHINGTON – In a triumph for President Barack Obama, Democrats narrowly pushed sweeping health care legislation through a key congressional committee Friday night and cleared the way for a September showdown in the House.

The 31-28 vote in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, along party lines, was weeks later than either the White House or Democratic leaders had hoped.

As part of a last-minute series of changes, the committee agreed to cap increases in the cost of insurance sold under the bill, and also to give the federal government authority to negotiate directly with drug companies for lower prices under Medicare.

The new provisions were part of an intensive effort Democrats made in recent days to satisfy the conflicting demands of liberals and conservatives on the panel, unity necessary to overcome a solid wall of Republican opposition.

"We have agreed we need to pull together," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the committee chairman who presided over hours of private negotiations and public committee meetings. Five Democrats opposed the bill.

The measure is designed to extend health insurance to millions who now lack it, at the same time it strives to slow the growth in medical costs nationwide — Obama's twin goals.

While the pace of action was slower than party leaders had hoped, it was speedier by far than the timetable in the Senate.

There, Democrats said a deadline of Sept. 15 had been imposed on marathon talks aimed at producing a bipartisan compromise. Several officials said Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., had informed fellow senators he intends to convene his Finance Committee to begin voting by then.

Without a bipartisan bill, Baucus would presumably have to produce a measure tailored to Democratic specifications, a step he has said repeatedly he would rather avoid. It wasn't clear how much the deadline was Baucus' idea, and how much it reflected growing impatience at the White House and on the part of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

The Energy and Commerce Committee was the third of three House panels to act on the legislation, a measure that numerous lawmakers note would rearrange one-sixth of the nation's economy. A vote in the full House is expected in September, after lawmakers return from a monthlong vacation.

In the run-up to final approval, the panel handed the drug industry a victory, voting 47-11 to grant 12 years of market protection to high-tech drugs used to combat cancer, Parkinson's and other deadly diseases. The decision was a setback for the White House, which had hoped to give patients faster access to generic versions of costly biotech medicines like the blockbuster cancer drug Avastin.

Democrats also turned back a Republican bid to strip out a provision allowing the government to sell insurance in competition with private industry. The vote was 31-28, reflecting the shaky majority Democrats had on a 59-member committee they nominally controlled with 36 members.

The Democrats who opposed the final bill were Reps. John Barrow of Georgia; Rick Boucher of Virginia; Jim Matheson of Utah; Charlie Melancon of Louisiana and Bart Stupak of Michigan.

Under the bill, insurance companies would be required to sell coverage to all seeking it, without exclusions for pre-existing medical conditions. The federal government would provide subsidies for lower-income families to help them afford policies that would otherwise be out of their reach.

The bills would set up so-called exchanges, in effect national marketplaces where consumers both with and without subsidies could evaluate different policies and choose the one they wanted.

The main expansion of coverage would not come until 2013 — after the next presidential election.

Even so, the political stakes are enormous for Obama and the Democrats as they strive to pass legislation that has proven elusive for years. Republicans are overwhelmingly opposed to the approach they chose, and outside groups on both sides of the issue arranged a heavy dose of television advertising over August.

"Let me assure you: There will be a health care reform bill passed and it will make a big difference in the lives of the American people," Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in an interview.

But the House Republican Leader, John Boehner of Ohio, countered that "Democrats are in for a long, hot summer once they return to their congressional districts, where Americans are lining up in opposition to a government takeover of health care. "

On a vote that crossed party lines, abortion opponents failed in an attempt to bar insurance plans that offer abortion services from accepting customers with government subsidies. The vote was 31-27.

On Thursday night, the panel agreed on a provision saying the government could neither require nor prohibit abortion services in insurance plans sold in the exchange.

Waxman's announcement of a series of last-minute changes capped a tumultuous period that began more than two weeks ago when conservative and moderate Democrats on the panel sought changes.

Needing their votes, Waxman began negotiations that grew to include Pelosi and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. An agreement at midweek excluded more businesses from a requirement to offer insurance to their workers and reduced subsidies for lower-income uninsured.

It also swiftly triggered a counter-revolt among liberals, who demanded the subsidies be restored in full.

The final deal accommodated them without sacrificing the concessions made earlier to the conservatives, and included numerous other provisions.

Insurance plans sold in the exchange would need government approval before increasing premiums by more than one and half times medical inflation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics calculated that medical prices rose at an annual rate of 3.6 percent annually for the three months ending in June.

The provision giving the federal government the right to negotiate for better drug prices under Medicare has long been a goal of Democrats who say it could lower costs for seniors. Critics argue that is unlikely unless Congress also limits the drugs than can be sold, thereby giving the government the ability to play one company off against another.

That has long been viewed as politically unfeasible under Medicare, because it would limit the choice that seniors now enjoy.

But including restrictions in the government health insurance option would place it in line with Medicaid, the government program for the poor, as well as the Department of Veterans Affairs and many private plans that limit drug choice."

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090801/ap_ ... e_overhaul

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2009 12:30 pm 
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Keith Olbermann Exposes Congressional Opponents of Universal Health Care

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hki8hA1J ... annel_page

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 11, 2009 11:07 am 
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"Sick for Profit"
http://sickforprofit.com

Quote:
Fight back against health insurance lies

"What does UnitedHealthcare CEO Stephen Hemsley have to lose if Congress passes real healthcare reform this year? Well, for starters, his nearly three quarters of a billion dollars in unexercised stock options might lose a few pennies on the dollar."
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKI9be55N00

The health sector in the US makes $200 billion per year in profit.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 3:49 pm 
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Here's another one:

"Sick around the World"
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline ... dtheworld/

Quote:
Introduction:

"In Sick Around the World, FRONTLINE teams up with veteran Washington Post foreign correspondent T.R. Reid to find out how five other capitalist democracies -- the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, Taiwan and Switzerland -- deliver health care, and what the United States might learn from their successes and their failures.

Reid's first stop is the U.K., where the government-run National Health Service (NHS) is funded through taxes. "Every single person who's born in the U.K. will use the NHS," says Whittington Hospital CEO David Sloman, "and none of them will be presented a bill at any point during that time." Often dismissed in America as "socialized medicine," the NHS is now trying some free-market tactics like "pay-for-performance," where doctors are paid more if they get good results controlling chronic diseases like diabetes. And now patients can choose where they go for medical procedures, forcing hospitals to compete head to head.

While such initiatives have helped reduce waiting times for elective surgeries, Times of London health editor Nigel Hawkes thinks the NHS hasn't made enough progress. "We're now in a world in which people are much more demanding, and I think that the NHS is not very effective at delivering in that modern, market-orientated world."

Reid reports next from Japan, which boasts the second largest economy and the best health statistics in the world. The Japanese go to the doctor three times as often as Americans, have more than twice as many MRI scans, use more drugs, and spend more days in the hospital. Yet Japan spends about half as much on health care per capita as the United States.

One secret to Japan's success? By law, everyone must buy health insurance -- either through an employer or a community plan -- and, unlike in the U.S., insurers cannot turn down a patient for a pre-existing illness, nor are they allowed to make a profit.

Reid's journey then takes him to Germany, the country that invented the concept of a national health care system. For its 80 million people, Germany offers universal health care, including medical, dental, mental health, homeopathy and spa treatment. Professor Karl Lauterbach, a member of the German parliament, describes it as "a system where the rich pay for the poor and where the ill are covered by the healthy." As they do in Japan, medical providers must charge standard prices. This keeps costs down, but it also means physicians in Germany earn between half and two-thirds as much as their U.S. counterparts.

In the 1990s, Taiwan researched many health care systems before settling on one where the government collects the money and pays providers. But the delivery of health care is left to the market. Every person in Taiwan has a "smart card" containing all of his or her relevant health information, and bills are paid automatically. But the Taiwanese are spending too little to sustain their health care system, according to Princeton's Tsung-mei Cheng, who advised the Taiwanese government. "As we speak, the government is borrowing from banks to pay what there isn't enough to pay the providers," she told FRONTLINE.

Reid's last stop is Switzerland, a country which, like Taiwan, set out to reform a system that did not cover all its citizens. In 1994, a national referendum approved a law called LAMal ("the sickness"), which set up a universal health care system that, among other things, restricted insurance companies from making a profit on basic medical care. The Swiss example shows health care reform is possible, even in a highly capitalist country with powerful insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

Today, Swiss politicians from the right and left enthusiastically support universal health care. "Everybody has a right to health care," says Pascal Couchepin, the current president of Switzerland. "It is a profound need for people to be sure that if they are struck by destiny ... they can have a good health system."

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline ... opsis.html

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 11:00 pm 
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Wendell Potter, health insurance whistle blower & former CIGNA exec.

Wendell Potter - August 12, 2009
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qsq6GYEdgBE

Single Payer Action:
http://www.singlepayeraction.org

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 16, 2009 2:53 pm 
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White House appears ready to drop 'public option'

By Associated Press Writer Philip Elliott– 27 mins ago

"WASHINGTON – Bowing to Republican pressure, President Barack Obama's administration signaled on Sunday it is ready to abandon the idea of giving Americans the option of government-run insurance as part of a new health care system.

Facing mounting opposition to the overhaul, administration officials left open the chance for a compromise with Republicans that would include health insurance cooperatives instead of a government-run plan. Such a concession probably would enrage Obama's liberal supporters but could deliver a much-needed victory on a top domestic priority opposed by GOP lawmakers.

Officials from both political parties reached across the aisle in an effort to find compromises on proposals they left behind when they returned to their districts for an August recess. Obama had sought the government to run a health insurance organization to help cover the nation's almost 50 million uninsured, but he never made it a deal breaker in a broad set of ideas that has Republicans unified in opposition.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that government alternative to private health insurance is "not the essential element" of the administration's health care overhaul. The White House would be open to co-ops, she said, a sign that Democrats want a compromise so they can declare a victory.

Under a proposal by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., consumer-owned nonprofit cooperatives would sell insurance in competition with private industry, not unlike the way electric and agriculture co-ops operate, especially in rural states such as his own.

With $3 billion to $4 billion in initial support from the government, the co-ops would operate under a national structure with state affiliates, but independent of the government. They would be required to maintain the type of financial reserves that private companies are required to keep in case of unexpectedly high claims.

"I think there will be a competitor to private insurers," Sebelius said. "That's really the essential part, is you don't turn over the whole new marketplace to private insurance companies and trust them to do the right thing."

Obama's spokesman refused to say a public option was a make-or-break choice.

"What I am saying is the bottom line for this for the president is, what we have to have is choice and competition in the insurance market," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Sunday.

A day before, Obama appeared to hedge his bets.

"All I'm saying is, though, that the public option, whether we have it or we don't have it, is not the entirety of health care reform," Obama said at a town hall meeting in Grand Junction, Colo. "This is just one sliver of it, one aspect of it."

Lawmakers have discussed the co-op model for months although the Democratic leadership and the White House have said they prefer a government-run option.

Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, called the argument for a government-run public plan little more than a "wasted effort." He added there are enough votes in the Senate for a cooperative plan.

"It's not government-run and government-controlled," he said. "It's membership-run and membership-controlled. But it does provide a nonprofit competitor for the for-profit insurance companies, and that's why it has appeal on both sides."

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said Obama's team is making a political calculation and embracing the co-op alternative as "a step away from the government takeover of the health care system" that the GOP has pummeled.

"I don't know if it will do everything people want, but we ought to look at it. I think it's a far cry from the original proposals," he said.

Republicans say a public option would have unfair advantages that would drive private insurers out of business. Critics say co-ops would not be genuine public options for health insurance.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, said it would be difficult to pass any legislation through the Democratic-controlled Congress without the promised public plan.

"We'll have the same number of people uninsured," she said. "If the insurance companies wanted to insure these people now, they'd be insured."

Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., said the Democrats' option would force individuals from their private plans to a government-run plan, a claim that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office supports.

"There is a way to get folks insured without having the government option," he said.

Obama, writing in Sunday's New York Times, said political maneuvers should be excluded from the debate.

"In the coming weeks, the cynics and the naysayers will continue to exploit fear and concerns for political gain," he wrote. "But for all the scare tactics out there, what's truly scary — truly risky — is the prospect of doing nothing."

Congress' proposals, however, seemed likely to strike end-of-life counseling sessions. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has called the session "death panels," a label that has drawn rebuke from her fellow Republicans as well as Democrats.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, declined to criticize Palin's comments and said Obama wants to create a government-run panel to advise what types of care would be available to citizens.

"In all honesty, I don't want a bunch of nameless, faceless bureaucrats setting health care for my aged citizens in Utah," Hatch said.

Sebelius said the end-of-life proposal was likely to be dropped from the final bill.

"We wanted to make sure doctors were reimbursed for that very important consultation if family members chose to make it, and instead it's been turned into this scare tactic and probably will be off the table," she said.

Sebelius spoke on CNN's "State of the Union" and ABC's "This Week." Gibbs appeared on CBS' "Face the Nation." Conrad and Shelby appeared on "Fox News Sunday." Johnson and Price spoke with "State of the Union." Hatch was interviewed on "This Week."

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_health_care_overhaul

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2009 11:09 am 
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The Health Insurers Have Already Won

"How UnitedHealth and rival carriers, maneuvering behind the scenes in Washington, shaped health-care reform for their own benefit. As the health reform fight shifts this month from a vacationing Washington to congressional districts and local airwaves around the country, much more of the battle than most people realize is already over. The likely victors are insurance giants such as UnitedHealth Group (UNH), Aetna (AET), and WellPoint (WLP). The carriers have succeeded in redefining the terms of the reform debate to such a degree that no matter what specifics emerge in the voluminous bill Congress may send to President Obama this fall, the insurance industry will emerge more profitable. Health reform could come with a $1 trillion price tag over the next decade, and it may complicate matters for some large employers. But insurance CEOs ought to be smiling...."

Read the full article -

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/co ... 820260.htm

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 18, 2009 5:06 pm 
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Democrats demand Obama keep public option in health plan

Democrats Demand Obama Keep Government Health Plan

"Aug. 18 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama is facing pressure from fellow Democrats to keep a government-run insurance plan in a health-care overhaul, with House lawmakers threatening to withhold support without it.

“To take the public option off the table would be a grave error,” leaders of the 83-member Congressional Progressive Caucus said in a letter last night to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Passage in the House of Representatives depends upon inclusion of it.”

The Democratic lawmakers also attached a July 30 letter from 60 party members to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that said any legislation that didn’t contain a government plan was “unacceptable.”

Sebelius sparked the response after she suggested on Aug. 16 that Obama may be willing to back down from including a federal insurance plan in a U.S. health-care revamp.

“We stand in strong opposition to your statement that the public option is ‘not the essential element’ of comprehensive reform,” read the letter to Sebelius, signed by Representatives Raul Grijalva of Arizona and Lynn Woolsey of California, who co-chair the progressive caucus, and Barbara Lee of California, who heads the Congressional Black Caucus.

‘Best Option’

Yesterday, Pelosi, also a California Democrat, said a government-run plan “is the best option to lower costs, improve the quality of health care, ensure choice and expand coverage.”

Republicans and some Democrats oppose the creation of a federal plan, saying it would undercut private insurers and give the government too great a role in health care. Lawmakers have fielded questions on the topic from constituents at town- hall meetings throughout the nation during their August recess. Legislation approved by three House committees and one Senate panel includes a government-run health plan.

Sebelius suggested on Sunday the administration may be retreating from the plan, saying that providing citizens with the alternative of government-run insurance isn’t vital to the health-care overhaul.

“What’s important is choice and competition,” Sebelius said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” The public option itself “is not the essential element.”

Position Unchanged

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the administration’s position is unchanged and that media stories were an “overreaction” to what Sebelius said.

Obama would like to include a government-run program as an option for consumers, Gibbs told reporters today. He said the administration supports “choice and competition,” adding that “we’ve been boringly consistent.”

Sebelius echoed those remarks today, saying in a speech in Washington that “Sunday must have been a very slow news day” because nothing has changed in the administration’s position.

For Obama, the support of centrist Democrats in the Senate as well as a group of House lawmakers who have raised concerns about the $1 trillion cost of the overhaul is crucial. Yet he risks losing members of his party who advocate for a strong public plan.

“This is very much a thread-the-needle kind of legislative process,” said Democratic consultant Peter Fenn. “There are a lot of people who are going to be very disappointed if it turns out this doesn’t have a public option.”

Senator Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, said a public plan “is the only proven way to guarantee that all consumers have affordable, meaningful and accountable options.”

‘Deal-Breaker’

Omitting the government plan “is a deal-breaker for many Democrats,” said Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report in Washington.

The administration wants to “find a way to say that they will support a public option at some point and bring the Democratic base along with them,” Rothenberg said.

While Obama has made the public option a central component of an overhaul, he said in a town-hall meeting last week that it “is not the entirety of health-care reform.”

He has asked Congress to complete action this year on a medical-care plan that would expand coverage to millions of uninsured Americans and curb health costs that make up about a sixth of the nation’s economy. Polls show Americans increasingly disapprove of the legislation.

Easier to Compromise

Still, Charlie Cook, publisher of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said the flap may give Obama room to maneuver.

“This may make compromise a lot easier than a month or two months ago,” Cook said. “The silver lining of the town- meeting food fights is that many liberals now have a sense of the difficulty, the political pushback that a public option and other ambitious aspects create.”

As one alternative, the Senate Finance Committee is discussing cooperatives, or networks of health-insurance plans owned by their customers, that would get started with government funds as an alternative to the public plan. "

http://news.yahoo.com/s/bloomberg/20090 ... u0_7_zceme

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 19, 2009 6:58 pm 
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Universal Health Care / HR 676, the Conyers-Kucinich bill

"Our health care system is broken, and HR 676, the Conyers-Kucinich bill, is the only comprehensive solution to the problem. It is also the system endorsed by more than 14,000 physicians from Physicians for a National Health Program. Nearly 46 million Americans have no health care and over 40 million more have only minimal coverage. In 2005 some 41% of moderate and middle income Americans went without health care for part of the year. Even more shocking is that 53% of those earning less than $20,000 went without insurance for all of 2005. In fact, the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine estimates that 18,000 Americans die each year because they have no health insurance.

The American health system is quite sick. Pulitzer Prize journalists Donald Barlett and James Steele, in their stunning analysis of the health care industry, Critical Condition (2006 Broadway Books), insist that "... U.S. health care is second-rate at the start of the twenty-first century and destined to get a lot worse and much more expensive." Considering the following facts from Tom Daschle's article for the Center for American Progress: "Paying More but Getting Less: Myths and the Global Case for U.S. Health Reform":

1. Americans are The Healthiest People in the World.
FACT: Citizens of 34 nations live longer than Americans.
2. The U.S. is the Best Place to Get Sick.
FACT: The World Health Organization ranked the U.S. 37th in the world for health system performance. Countries like Australia and the United Kingdom rank above the U.S. Americans have lower odds of surviving colorectal cancer and childhood leukemia than Canadians who do have national health care. Americans also experience greater problems in coordination of care than the previously mentioned countries and New Zealand.
3. Covering All Americans Will Lead to Rationing.
FACT: Same-day access to primary-care physicians in the U.S. (33%) is far less available than in the United Kingdom (41%), Australia (54%) and New Zealand (60%). Per capita spending for health care averaged $2,696 in countries without waiting lists and $5,267 in the U.S.
4. Global Competitiveness is Hampered in Comprehensive System.
FACT: "Health care costs are not just a burden and barrier to care for individuals; they are taking a heavy toll on American businesses." The strain on employers in 2005 was staggering. "The average total premiums for an employer-based family plan was $9,979 in 2005 ..." Most of our competitors in the world markets finance their systems outside corporate taxes and employer mandates. Without Medicare for Everyone, the U.S. will continue to hemorrhage jobs.
5. We Cannot Afford to Cover All Americans.
FACT: We already spend enough to have universal health care. "The truth is, we cannot afford to not reform the health system." We spend about 50% more than the next most expensive nation and nearly twice per person what the Canadians do. On May 1, 2006 Paul Krugman explained in Death by Insurance how incredibly wasteful the current system is. The doctor he referenced has two full-time staff members for billing, and two secretaries spend half their time collecting insurance information on the 301 different private plans they deal with. This type of waste is easily 20%. Also consider that 98% of Medicare funds are spent on medical care.

IMPORTANT: The hackneyed -- and inaccurate -- mantra of Republicans when universal health care is introduced is to blame trial lawyers and malpractice cases for our lack of national health care. In fact, 0.46% of our total health spending is spent on awards, legal costs, and underwriting costs -- about the same as Canada and the United Kingdom and about the same amount we spend on dog and cat food each year. While "defensive medicine" may drive up the price, it hardly accounts for our stunning health care costs. The belief that citizens should give up their right to fair legal redress for legally proven medical mistakes in exchange for lower health care costs rings as true as the promise that if we must give up our civil rights to be safe from terrorists.

Even those with coverage too often pay exorbitant rates. The current profit-driven system, dominated by private insurance firms and their bureaucracies, has failed.

We must establish streamlined national health insurance, "Enhanced Medicare for Everyone." It would be publicly financed health care, privately delivered, and will put patients and doctors back in control of the system. Coverage will be more complete than private insurance plans; encourage prevention; and include prescription drugs, dental care, mental health care, and alternative and complementary medicine.

Perhaps the clearest and most eloquent explanation of the Conyers-Kucinich National Health Insurance Bill was given on February 4, 2003, in Washington, D.C. by Dr. Marcia Angell in introducing H. R. 676. Backed by over 14,000 doctors, this is the future of American medicine.

"We are here today to introduce a national health insurance program. Such a program is no longer optional; it's necessary.

"Americans have the most expensive health care system in the world. We spend about twice as much per person as other developed nations, and that gap is growing. That's not because we are sicker or more demanding (Canadians, for example, see their doctors more often and spend more time in the hospital). And it's not because we get better results. By the usual measures of health (life expectancy, infant mortality, immunization rates), we do worse than most other developed countries. Furthermore, we are the only developed nation that does not provide comprehensive health care to all its citizens. Some 42 million Americans are uninsured (nearly 46 million today -- updated figure) -- disproportionately the sick, the poor, and minorities -- and most of the rest of us are underinsured. In sum, our health care system is outrageously expensive, yet inadequate. Why? The only plausible explanation is that there's something about our system -- about the way we finance and deliver health care -- that's enormously inefficient. The failures of the system were partly masked during the economic boom of the 1990's, but now they stand starkly exposed. There is no question that with the deepening recession and rising unemployment, in the words of John Breaux, 'The system is collapsing around us.'

"The underlying problem is that we treat health care like a market commodity instead of a social service. Health care is targeted not to medical need, but to the ability to pay. Markets are good for many things, but they are not a good way to distribute health care. To understand what's happening, let's look at how the health care market works ... "

"Mainstream" writers like Ph. D. economist and columnist for the New York Times Paul Krugman now agree with those doctors and Dennis that "covering everyone under Medicare would actually be significantly cheaper than our current system." They all recognize that we already spend enough to provide national health care to all but lack the political courage to make the tough decisions that doctors, nurses and medical professionals must run our health care system, - not "for profit" insurance companies who make money by denying health care.

It is time to recognize that all the civilized countries have a solution that we must adapt to this country. American businesses can no longer be competitive shouldering the entire cost of health care. Health care is a right that all Americans deserve."

http://healthcare.kucinich.us/index.php ... 1&Itemid=1

H.R. 676
http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z ... L&summ2=m&

http://forum.kucinich.us/index.php?topic=29.0

http://kucinich.us/index.php

http://www.michaelmoore.com/sicko/what- ... num649.php

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 22, 2009 2:39 pm 
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Analysis: Competition lacking among private health insurers

"WASHINGTON – One of the most widely accepted arguments against a government medical plan for the middle class is that it would quash competition — just what private insurers seem to be doing themselves in many parts of the U.S.

Several studies show that in lots of places, one or two companies dominate the market. Critics say monopolistic conditions drive up premiums paid by employers and individuals.

For Democrats, the answer is a public plan that would compete with private insurers. Republicans see that as a government power grab. President Barack Obama looks to be trapped in the middle of an argument that could sink his effort to overhaul the health care system.

Even lawmakers opposed to a government plan have problems with the growing clout of the big private companies.

"There is a serious problem with the lack of competition among insurers," said Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, one of the highest-cost states. "The impact on the consumer is significant."

Wellpoint Inc. accounted for 71 percent of the Maine market, while runner-up Aetna had a 12 percent share, according to a 2008 report by the American Medical Association.

Proponents of a government plan say it could restore a competitive balance and lead to lower costs. For one thing, it wouldn't have to turn a profit.

A study by the Urban Institute public policy center estimated that a public plan could save taxpayers from $224 billion to $400 billion over 10 years by lowering the cost of proposed subsidies for the uninsured, while preserving private coverage for most people.

"Right now, there's no incentive for insurers or big hospital groups to negotiate with each other, because they can pass higher payments on through premiums," said economist Linda Blumberg, co-author of the report. "A public plan would have the leverage to set lower payment rates and get providers to participate at those rates."

"The private plans would come back to the providers and say, 'If you don't negotiate with me, you're going to be left with only the public plan.'" Blumberg continued. "Suddenly, you have a very strong economic incentive for them to negotiate."

Insurers contend their industry is extremely competitive, and a public plan is unnecessary. About 1,300 carriers operate across the country, although many only have a small share of the market in their states.

"You can have a very competitive market and still have companies with a high market share," said Alissa Fox, a top Washington lobbyist for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

Fox points to the federal employee health program, which also covers members of Congress. It offers a total of more than 260 options and 10 nationwide plans. Despite all the choices, about 60 percent of federal workers pick a Blue Cross plan.

"Insurers need to be of a significant size to best serve their customers and make sure that people get the best value," Fox said.

Nonetheless, lawmakers are concerned. Big insurers are getting bigger. Small businesses in particular have fewer and fewer options for getting coverage.

Congressional investigators this year looked at insurers catering to small employers around the country. The Government Accountability Office found that the median _or midpoint — market share of largest carrier increased to 47 percent in 2008 from 33 percent in 2002.

There's widespread recognition among lawmakers that a health care overhaul should foster more competition among insurers. The debate is over how far to go.

The basic framework lawmakers are looking at would encourage competition, even without a government plan. It calls for setting up a big insurance purchasing pool called an exchange. It would be open, at least initially, to individuals and small businesses. The government would offer subsidies to make premiums more affordable.

Consumers would find it much easier to shop for a plan through the exchange. For one thing, they would be able to readily compare benefits and premiums in different plans. Also, participating insurers would have to take all applicants and not charge higher premiums to those in poor health.

Offering the option of a public plan would supercharge the competition, supporters say.

Blumberg envisions a plan that pays medical providers more than Medicare, but less than private insurance. Her study estimated it could grow to 47 million members, leaving 161 million with private insurance. Even so, that would make the new public plan one of the largest insurers in the country, rivaling Medicare, Medicaid and big private companies such as Wellpoint and UnitedHealthcare.

It's a scenario that gives pause even to traditional adversaries of the insurance companies.

"The fear and concern is that the public plan could become the market-dominant plan," said Dr. James Rohack, president of the American Medical Association. "When you've got the federal government involved, it can infuse money into a plan to keep it solvent even if the premiums are lower than its actual costs."

Snowe, among the few Republican senators still trying to come up with a bipartisan compromise, wants to hold back on creating a public plan for now and give insurers one last chance to show if they can keep costs in check.

That's doesn't go far enough for liberals, who are loath to give the insurance industry tens of millions of new customers supported by taxpayer subsidies.

"It would give the industry a windfall without any countervailing force to require them to lower their costs," said Richard Kirsch, national campaign manager for the advocacy group Health Care for America Now. "The insurance companies could continue to jack up premiums while getting a whole new market."

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090822/ap_ ... ompetition

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 03, 2009 9:27 am 
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Why Chuck Grassley Turned on Health-Care Reform

"If there had ever been any hope for a truly bipartisan health-care bill this year, it came in the person of one cantankerous and quirky Iowan. For months, much to the consternation of many of his fellow Republicans, Charles Grassley, the ranking minority member on the Senate Finance Committee, had continued to negotiate behind closed doors with chairman Max Baucus and four other members of the panel. No Republican received more TLC from Barack Obama, who has met with Grassley three times at the White House and called him three times more just to keep in touch. White House aides reckoned that if Grassley, with his conservative credentials, could find a health-care deal he liked, a significant number of other Republicans might be persuaded to climb aboard. "Health care not only is 16% of the gross national product, but it touches the quality of life of every household as few others do," Grassley declared back in April. "I'm doing everything I can to make the reform effort in Congress a bipartisan one."

That was then. In August, Grassley - who is up for re-election next year - held town halls and constituent meetings in 30 counties. While the sessions never got as raucous as they did in some other parts of the country, Grassley's constituents turned out by the thousands to tell him how little they thought of his efforts back in Washington. One sign in the small town of Adel read "Thank God Patrick Henry Did Not Compromise." Over the course of the recess, Grassley began sounding less like a potential Obama ally and more like the enemy army. When the Iowa Senator actually gave credence to the absurd notion that the House version of the legislation might allow the government to decide when, in his words, to "pull the plug on Grandma," Democrats decided he was past the point of any hope. And then came Grassley's late-August coup de grÂce, a campaign fundraising letter. "The simple truth is that I am and always have been opposed to the Obama Administration's plans to nationalize health care," Grassley wrote. "Period." (See 10 players in health-care reform.)

So much for bipartisanship. Wyoming Republican Mike Enzi, another participant in the Finance Committee talks, has all but abandoned the notion of reaching a deal with the Dems. With Grassley bailing out too, the only Republicans who might side with the Democrats now are Maine's Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins - though their GOP street cred is undercut by the fact that they were also the only current Republicans to vote for Obama's economic-stimulus package. Some Democrats now wonder whether Grassley had been toying with them - and particularly his good friend Baucus - from the start. One joked that Baucus needs to see the movie He's Just Not That into You. ........

http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/20090903/u ... 9192020900

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