With No Exit Polls, The “Why?” For Dem. Coakley’s Senate Defeat Gets Spun
One of the most vexing revelations to come from last night’s Senatorial contest in Massachusetts was the fact there were NO EXIT POLLS. NONE! Not a single news organization conducted exit polls to ascertain a “why?” for such a huge, significant upset.
Surely, the networks knew the significance of last night’s election before a single vote was cast, and they clearly saw Coakley’s sliding poll numbers since January 5, when Rasmussen released a survey showing Republican Scott Brown trailing Democrat Martha Coakley by only nine points.
Call me a cynic, but you just have to wonder if the absence of exit polls wasn’t somehow intentional. Perhaps the beltway media establishment didn’t want to quantify the populist voter outrage which would likely incite a legislative turn to the Left, against entrenched interests.
By not conducting exit polling, the establishment accorded itself the opportunity to reframe the impending Democratic upset in the usual way: Obama needs to move further to the right to placate enraged Independents (whom they routinely misportray as nothing more than disaffected Republicans).
Ryan Grimm of the Huffington Post addressed the establishment’s reaction to last night’s Republican victory in Massachusetts as being focused entirely on the Independent voters; while largely ignoring the base:
With all the talk about “angry independents” deciding the special election in Massachusetts Tuesday night, the inclination among establishment Washington Democrats is to chase after them. Progressives, meanwhile, want the party to deliver on promises made during the campaign.
Not surprisingly, Democratic politicians are already indicating that they will likely shift rightward. Barney Frank seemed to suggest to Rachel Maddow, in reaction to the upset, “that without support from at least some Republican senators, health care reform, at least in this iteration, wouldn’t happen.” In other words, he interpreted this defeat as a need to appease the right — as if they haven’t been doing that all along. That move would certainly help him to water down even further his current banking reform initiative (as would also be necessary to gain Republican votes).
Anthony Weiner “suggest[ed] on MSNBC that maybe it’d really be better to drop health care reform–and pivot to jobs.”
Digby points out that Chris Matthews, in reaction to Coakley’s defeat, has now joined the deficit-hawk choir:
The predicted reverberations are already being felt. Chris Matthews is already going on about deficits being the most important problem in the whole wide world and how his daughter is really worried about government spending and taxes.
And the Democrats are subsequently making it much more difficult to fix the economy by playing into this deficit propaganda themselves.
The usual conservative voices, as one would expect, are all too happy to capitalize on the absence of exit polls.
Here’s Michael Gerson at the Washington Post, suggesting that Obama’s “liberalism” has infuriated Independent voters:
It means that Rahm Emanuel’s “big bang” theory of legislative liberalism is the most foolish political strategy in recent memory. It means that spending political capital on health reform instead of economic recovery and growth was a dreadful error. It means that a crisis that Obama didn’t want to waste has largely been wasted. […]
There is only one explanation for this remarkable turn of events. Americans thought Obama was a moderate. He certainly sounded like one. But now he is attempting to remake one seventh of the economy in a quick march of party-line votes. In the process, he has alienated independents in large numbers — even in Massachusetts.
Did you get that? According to Michael Gerson this isn’t about populist outrage from both the Left and Right; this is about Obama (who actually ran on a progressive populist platform) somehow misleading Independents into thinking he was more conservative than he really was. To Gerson, it would seem Independents have suddenly awakened to discover that Obama and his “liberal” cohort Rahm Emanuel are governing as some kind of commie-liberals.
David Broder never once mentions populist outrage in his column; no talk of Wall Street bailouts while turning a blind eye to the plight of Americans; no mention of Health Insurance and Pharmaceutical Industry giveaways off the backs of hurting Americans.
First he mentions voter concerns about deficit spending, and then he describes just how Republican victor Scott Brown was able to capitalize on the current Health Care Reform bill before Congress:
This allowed Brown to argue that he would vote against the legislation pending in Washington, which by comparison looks more expensive and more bureaucratic and more partisan than the Massachusetts model.
Perhaps subtle to some, but the word “bureaucratic” is actually a lightening rod term within Conservative circles. It conjures up images of an inefficient government run entity (i.e. the Republican stigmatization of a would-be public option — something which isn’t even part of the bill under consideration). In reality, the Senate Bill is clearly a giveaway to the private “for profit” health insurance industry — a dream bill to a corporatist like Broder.
The only Democratic politicos Broder spoke to were the ones who seemed to parrot the White House talking points:
“They were critical of Coakley’s campaign, arguing that it was a serious miscalculation for her to break off campaigning and advertising after her easy victory in the primary.”
Like Gerson, Broder implies it is more about ideological differences; meaning the “liberal” Democratic Congress and President are imposing their will on a more “moderate” electorate, and it’s backfired. Broder gives his readers two false choices to explain the Democratic upset: 1. voter repudiation of liberal initiatives (i.e. runaway spending and government ‘bureaucratic’ health care), or 2. a poorly run Coakley campaign (i.e. the White House talking points). Yet he never mentions the visible outrage bubbling over from the left, as Obama continues to sell out the American people to serve his corporate masters.
The reality is President Obama has been governing from right of center since the moment he took office. Liberals feel betrayed. The Democratic base couldn’t be less energized — thanks to all of Obama’s broken promises, and his backdoor deals with entrenched interests.
Ryan Grimm contends that Independents and liberals have indicated they want essentially the same thing: CHANGE.
A review of surveys of independent and Democratic voters show that both want much the same thing: change. Both groups are deeply troubled by the state of the economy and angered that bailed-out Wall Street firms seem to be the only ones to have recovered from the crisis. […]
“If Scott Brown wins tonight, he’ll win because he became the change-oriented candidate,” Celinda Lake, pollster to losing Democratic candidate Martha Coakley, told HuffPost before the election results came in. “Voters are still voting for the change they voted for in 2008, but they want to see it. And right now they think they’ve got economic policies for Washington that are delivering more for banks than Main Street.”
Ezra Klein from the Washington Post perfectly sums up the frustration from the Left:
A Democratic Party that would abandon their central initiative this quickly isn’t a Democratic Party that deserves to hold power. If they don’t believe in the importance of their policies, why should anyone who’s skeptical change their mind? If they’re not interested in actually passing their agenda, why should voters who agree with Democrats on the issues work to elect them? A commitment provisional on Ted Kennedy not dying and Martha Coakley not running a terrible campaign is not much of a commitment at all.
Joe Trippi, a longtime party strategist and high-ranking official on the Howard Dean and John Edwards campaigns told the Huffington Post:
“This needs to be a wake up call that people are still demanding change. I don’t think it is ideological, I don’t think it is left versus right. I think it is outsider versus insider. It is the new way versus people doing it the old way. That is still the carryover from 2008. And whether the Obama administration recognizes that is important. This is a wake up call that they can’t play the inside game.”
Glenn Greenwald weighs in on the establishment’s effort to reframe Coakley’s defeat as voter repudiation of the Left:
The very idea that an administration run by Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel and staffed with centrists, Wall Street mavens, and former Bush officials — and a Congress beholden to Blue Dogs and Lieberdems — has been captive “to the Left” is so patently false that everyone should be too embarrassed to utter it. For better or worse, the Democratic strategy has long been and still is to steer clear of their leftist base and instead govern as “pragmatists” and centrists — which means keeping the permanent Washington factions pleased. That strategy may or not be politically shrewd, but it is just a fact that the dreaded “Left” has gotten very little of what it wanted the entire year.
Senator John Kerry — the quintessential Washington ‘insider’ — has wisely calculated the necessity in addressing populist angst, by attributing it to Coakley’s defeat:
I didn’t need any reminders, but this election encapsulated what was clear in 2006 and 2008 and remains clear today: Americans are angry. They’re mad at Washington and they’re mad at Wall Street. They’ve seen millions of jobs lost and been left no choice but to bail out those responsible. They’re tired of insurance companies that charge exorbitant premiums but don’t deliver decent coverage when they need it. They’re fed up with sending billions of dollars a day overseas for foreign oil. They hate knowing that they pay taxes while powerful interests evade taxes and hide money overseas in Cayman Island bank accounts. And they expect all of us, Democrat or Republican, to fight for them.
So what should those on the Left take away from these dueling-message efforts? In the future, if Progressives intend to send a ‘resounding’ message by abandoning Democratic candidates, they’d be well served to at least hire an independent polling company to conduct exit polls that accurately quantify the “why?” for voter behavior.
If exit polls aren’t there to capture the true underlying motivation of the voters, then the beltway establishment will gladly define it for them.
Thanks to cbsunglass at FireDogLake for pointing out a newly released Research 2000 Massachusetts Poll.
Though not an exit poll, it reveals exactly what we hoped to show. Fascinating how this has been largely overlooked by much of the press all day.
Here are some of the findings of that poll:
- 95% of voters said the economy was important or very important when it came to deciding their vote.
- 53% of Obama voters who voted for Brown and 56% of Obama voters who did not vote in the Massachusetts election said that Democrats enacting tighter restrictions on Wall Street would make them more likely to vote Democratic in the 2010 elections.
- 51% of voters who voted for Obama in 2008 but Brown in 2010 said that Democratic policies were doing more to help Wall Street than Main Street.
- Nearly half (49%) of Obama voters who voted for Brown support the Senate health care bill or think it does not go far enough. Only 11% think the legislation goes too far.
Health Care Reform: WTF Just Happened? The Left Weighs In
The reaction to Obama’s Health Care Reform fiasco is getting rather explosive on the Left. There seems to be somewhat of a prevailing sentiment that Obama’s Administration bears the lions’ share of the blame for Lieberman and Blue Dog intransigence. Here’s some of the reactions:
Sam Stein from the Huffington Post is reporting that two of the country’s largest labor groups, the SEIU and the AFL-CIO, are holding emergency meetings, and are hinting they will formally oppose the ‘Lieberman-friendly’ bill. He described the labor leaders as “fuming at the concessions that Democratic leadership made in the last few days to win the support of the caucus’s most conservative members, notably Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.)” Listen to how one high-ranking labor official described who is to blame for this mess:
“What is really frustrating folks here is that it’s impossible to make and implement plans to pressure senators when the White House and Reid keep undermining the efforts no one from the outside can put any credible pressure on Senators because they know the White House will back that Senator up whatever they do. If the White House is going to cave to a Senator who spent the entire election campaigning with McCain and calling Obama a traitor how are we supposed to have any leverage over anyone?
“If Lieberman — who has done so many horrible things directly to Obama — can get away with this on Obama’s signature issue it makes it infinitely harder for us to pressure senators, on issues in the future, because there is no fear of retribution or coercion from the White House. They only pressure progressives, not anyone in the middle.”
Here’s the President of the United Steel Workers, Leo Gerard, who gives President Obama the benefit of the doubt, by calling him naive, and suggesting he “got hoodwinked” by the Health Insurance Industry. Leo, no offense, but I don’t think Obama is the one showing naivete. He goes on to state:
“I can tell you this — point blank — if we don’t get a meaningful health care bill that reduces costs and has everybody in and doesn’t have an excise tax, has a pay or play for employers, has a public option, or a medicare buy-in, we’re not gonna campaign for any Democrat that voted against this bill, and we’re going to go out and try and defeat them.”
I think Glenn Greenwald has BRILLIANTLY NAILED what’s been going on here, as he usually does. He doesn’t buy that Obama and Rahm Emanuel got bested, due to some sort of naivete. He believes they got EXACTLY the health care bill they always wanted, and shows how they had no problem flexing muscle to get legislation through the Houses in the past when it was something important to them:
Indeed, we’ve seen before what the White House can do — and does do — when they actually care about pressuring members of Congress to support something they genuinely want passed. When FDL and other liberal blogs led an effort to defeat Obama’s war funding bill back in June, the White House became desperate for votes, and here is what they apparently did (though they deny it):
The White House is playing hardball with Democrats who intend to vote against the supplemental war spending bill, threatening freshmen who oppose it that they won’t get help with reelection and will be cut off from the White House, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) said Friday. “We’re not going to help you. You’ll never hear from us again,” Woolsey said the White House is telling freshmen.
That’s what the White House can do when they actually care about pressuring someone to vote the way they want. Why didn’t they do any of that to the “centrists” who were supposedly obstructing what they wanted on health care? Why didn’t they tell Blanche Lincoln — in a desperate fight for her political life — that she would “never hear from them again,” and would lose DNC and other Democratic institutional support, if she filibustered the public option? Why haven’t they threatened to remove Joe Lieberman’s cherished Homeland Security Chairmanship if he’s been sabotaging the President’s agenda? Why hasn’t the President been rhetorically pressuring Senators to support the public option and Medicare buy-in, or taking any of the other steps outlined here by Adam Green? There’s no guarantee that it would have worked — Obama is not omnipotent and he can’t always control Congressional outcomes — but the lack of any such efforts is extremely telling about what the White House really wanted here.
Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake weighs in with similar sentiments on the Administration:
“They were very good at making it look like they wanted a public option in the final bill without actually doing anything to make it happen,” said Jane Hamsher, publisher of the liberal blog Firedoglake. “It’s hard to believe that the two most powerful people in the country — arguably the world — could not do more to achieve their desired objective than to hand the keys over to Joe Lieberman. They would not be where they are if they are that bad at negotiation.”
Digby weighs in:
There are not a lot of good reasons why [Obama] wouldn’t use the power of his popularity when his numbers were stratospheric to insist on something other than cost controls. One can only assume he didn’t want to.
Even I knew that the Senate was full of a bunch of prima donnas who had to be deftly handled and given a tremendous amount of attention and engagement when you try to do something big. That’s just how it works in that chamber, especially when Democrats are in the majority. It was never going to be easy. But the president had a tremendous amount of good will and political power when he came into office and indicated from the beginning that instead of pushing through his agenda quickly and efficiently he would have the congress to “take the lead” and only inject himself when it was necessary to consecrate some (preferably bipartisan) compromise. That’s a recipe for slow action and bad legislation.
The president may not have the singular power to enact good domestic policy, but he is the only one with the power and public backing to knock heads and lead in his own party. And if the best he can do in that regard is tell the Democrats that they need to “protect him” by passing any bill, well, that’s pretty weak.
Most surprising of all, is the candor coming from Democratic politicians themselves. No more putting a nice spin on things, for the sake of the President. They are pulling-no-punches:
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey (D-Wis.) told POLITICO:
“It’s ridiculous, and the Obama administration is sitting on the sidelines. That’s nonsense. The White House has been useless,” he said.
“Snowe? Stupak? Lieberman? Who left these people in charge? It’s time for the President to get his hands dirty. Some of us have compromised our compromised compromise. We need the President to stand up for the values our party shares. We must stop letting the tail wag the dog of this debate.”
Senator Feingold weighed in to The Hill:
“This bill appears to be legislation that the president wanted in the first place, so I don’t think focusing it on Lieberman really hits the truth,” said Feingold.
Here’s what John Conyers had to say about it:
“The president keeps listening to Rahm Emanuel,” he said. “He doesn’t listen to” the Congressional Black Caucus.
As for the Senate health care bill, Conyers went through a list of defeats: “No public option, no extending Medicare to 55, no nothing, an excise tax, God! The insurance lobby is taking over.”
Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus:
“Since the Senate won’t use reconciliation, which only requires 51 votes, it doesn’t look promising for any real change.” Grijalva said he would vote against the Senate bill unless the House is able to make significant changes in conference.
Rep. Peter DeFazio:
“There is unbelievable frustration with the Senate,” he said. “The Senate is a graveyard. They could run the place with 50 or 51 votes, but they don’t want to hurt the club,” he said. “They are relying on people like Joe Lieberman, who was thrown out of the Democratic Party by the voters of his state, to tell the Democratic Party what its agenda is. That’s a very sad state of affairs.”
Rep. Lynn Woolsey:
“Thirty percent of Democrats will not come out and vote if there is no public option in the health care bill,” she said. “What does that tell you?”
I think it’s safe to conclude that Obama and Emanuel have effectively divided the Democratic Party in two. Instead of applying an iota of pressure on Lieberman and the Blue Dogs they are doing the very opposite: hitting back at the base. Note: I didn’t say “hitting back at liberals or the ‘Left Wing of the Party’,” because 88% of ALL Democrats still favor a public option, as does 60% of ALL Americans.
The President has effectively been undermining the popular will of his own party AND country, and he’s furious that everyone isn’t bending over, and giving him his ‘political victory’.
Progressive Reactions To The Senate’s Public-Option Compromise
While the Congressional Budget Office reviews the Senate’s new health care reform proposal, the key players are remaining tight-lipped about its details. But news organizations are piecing together from their sources what this public option compromise is beginning to look like.
Dylan Ratigan of MSNBC’s “Morning Meeting” outlined some key components he’s uncovered of the new Senate proposal:
1. Private Health Insurers Offer Non-Profit Plans On Government Exchange:
“It encourages private ensurers to offer non-profit plans that will be negotiated by the federal government, and sold on exchanges that are regulated and run out of Washington. So imagine you’re a for-profit insurance company, now you’re going to be told to run a non-profit insurance plan to compete with yourself.”
2. Trigger Option For Public Plan
“The threat to get them to do this [administer non-profit plans] would be the creation of a government plan which would be a greater threat to obliterate them if they don’t do it, because obviously you don’t want to open a non-profit to compete with yourself unless your only alternative is obliteration.”
3. Expands Medicare / Allows Buy-In
“The deal also lets the uninsured in this country buy into Medicare once they turn 55. […] Reid says there is a public option in there, but many Progressives may disagree with this.”
Here’s some of the initial feedback, thus far, by pro-public option progressives:
THUMBS UP: Howard Dean spoke to the Huffington Post about the new proposal:
The former Vermont governor called the decision to allow consumers between the ages of 55 and 64 to buy Medicare coverage “a big step forward.”
“It opens up Medicare and gives people a real choice,” he said. “And secondly it does something that should have been done the whole way along: instead of creating a new bureaucracy it just uses the one we already have.”
“I’m not a fan of the private market, as you know. However, the private market does work in two countries, Switzerland and the Netherlands, and the way it works is by substantial regulation… If, in fact, this is basically going to be run as if it were the federally employee benefit plan, than this can work. The [Office of Personnel Management] knows how to run this plan and I’ve almost never heard anything bad of the federal employee benefit program.”
“There doesn’t have to be a public option in the bill because I’m some sort of ideological socialist,” he said of his support for a government-run insurance provider. “There had to be a public option because the private sector doesn’t work. And if they can make it work [without a public option], then let’s see.”
“The criteria that I use to evaluate the various proposals is; ‘Is it reform?'” Dean concluded. “And this is reform.”
“I’m disposed towards this,” he said. “It was part of my platform when I ran for president. But look at this. It makes sense. Why have two bureaucracies, including one who hasn’t run this before [the Department of Health and Human Services]… when you can use Medicare?”
THUMBS UP on many aspects of proposal: Senator Bernie Sanders stated last night:
“What you’re looking at is tradeoffs which, in fact, at the end of the day, may be stronger than the very weak public options,” Sen. Bernie Sanders told Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. “The other part of the tradeoff…may also be an expansion of Medicaid. And if you add to Medicaid the development of many new community health centers, you will be providing a lot more health care access to lower income people. If you do an opt-in for people 55 years of age through Medicare, you’re also providing a significant benefit,” Sanders added.
THUMBS DOWN: Senator Russell Feingold issued a statement immediately following the meeting last night:
“While I appreciate the willingness of all parties to engage in good-faith discussions, I do not support proposals that would replace the public option in the bill with a purely private approach,” he said. He added, however, that he will base his vote “on the entirety of what is in the bill, and whether I think the bill is good for Wisconsin.”
THUMBS UP: Senator Rep. Anthony Weiner issued a statement:
“Last night, my Democratic colleagues in the Senate struck a deal that will help us move health care reform forward in the Senate. The details are still sketchy, but there is one remarkable element of the emerging plan: the expansion of the smart single-payer health care plan that serves over 43 million Americans—Medicare.
Extending this successful program to those between 55 and 64, a plan I proposed in July, would be the largest expansion of Medicare in 44 years and would perhaps get us on the path to a single payer model. Medicare provides health care to all Americans over 65 and has an overhead of barely 1 percent. In a debate that hasn’t focused enough on how to genuinely contain costs and deliver affordable health care, this is one idea I like a lot.”
THUMBS UP: Sen. Jay Rockefeller said:
“I’ve got a smile on my face. I don’t smile naturally.”
THUMBS DOWN: Sen. Roland Burris is threatening a filibuster from the left:
“If we have to get 60 and it comes back and it does not have a public option in it, I will not vote for it. It will still take 60 votes to pass it. If we don’t pass a meaningful health care reform bill in this session, we are all going to hang separately,” Burris said. “I’ve listened to my constituents.” He added, “Understand that I have drawn a line in the sand. I’m not much of a dealmaker in this regard.”
Here’s some of the noise emanating from the progressive blogosphere:
THUMBS DOWN: Jame Hamsher of FireDogLake doesn’t like it.
THUMBS DOWN: Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos doesn’t like it. In responding to an email from Obama, Markos says:
Really? All we have to do is send the DNC $5 and we get ponies? The same DNC that is enabling corporatist Democrats to water down and destroy any hope for health care reform? That DNC?
This is so freakin’ obnoxious I can hardly stand it. We are about to get a turd of a “reform” package, potentially worse than the status quo. We have the insurance industry declaring victory, Republicans cackling with glee, and the administration is using that piece of shit to raise money?
Obama spent all year enabling Max Baucus and Olympia Snowe, and he thinks we’re supposed to get excited about whatever end result we’re about to get, so much so that we’re going to fork over money? Well, it might work with some of you guys, but I’m certainly not biting. In fact, this is insulting, betraying a lack of understanding of just how pissed the base is at this so-called reform. The administration may be happy to declare victory with a mandate that enriches insurance companies, yet creates little incentive to control costs or change the very business practices that have screwed so many people. But I’ll pass.
Democrats are demoralized, and have little incentive to turn out next year. The teabaggers will turn out. If this is how the Obama camp thinks we can energize the base — by promising them a health care pony for $5 to the same Democratic Party that is home to the likes of Baucus, Nelson, Lincoln, Lieberman, and the rest of the obstructionist gang — then we’re in for a world of hurt in 2010.
THUMBS SOMEWHAT UP (over the long haul): Matthew Yglesias writes:
… what the Senate has been negotiating over is the availability of a not-so-hot public option. Still better than nothing, but not transformative, not a game-changer. The Senate’s deal has watered this down even further, involving a sort-of co-op idea plus a triggered public option under circumstances where it’ll be very difficult to ever pull the trigger. Disappointing.
But there’s an important ray of hope here: The compromise will allow people to buy into Medicare. This, in essence, is a version of the original public option idea from before it got watered-down—a nationwide program linked to Medicare. The bad news is that the availability of the buy-in will be limited. People under the age of 55 won’t be able to buy in. And buy-ins will be limited to people on the exchange. As Chris Bowers points out this means the expansion won’t impact very many people “this public option ‘compromise’ would only cover 1.08 million Americans, or only about 25-33% of what the opt-out public option would have done.”
That’s correct. But there’s an important caveat to that. Anything limited to the exchange won’t impact most Americans very much even when reform goes online in 2014. But the exchanges will get much bigger over time. Part of what’s going on in the United States is that the employer-based health insurance system is slowly unraveling. Both the House and Senate versions of reform consist not only of using exchanges to cover the currently uninsured, but also using exchanges to construct a kind of safety net so that as employer-based insurance continues to unravel, people will land softly in exchangeland rather than crashing into the rough ground of the current individual insurance market. The Senate bill will slightly accelerate the decline of employer-based insurance by slowly phasing out the tax subsidy for such insurance. […]
So in addition to pushing for expansion of the buy-in to people outside the exchange, it’s also worth pushing for accelerated opening of the exchange to more-and-more people. In the long run, of course, it’ll also be necessary to fight for further lowering of the age threshold.
RESERVING JUDGMENT FOR NOW: Digby writes:
I believe that had Obama and Reid really been committed to the public option they probably could have found a way to finesse Lieberman long before now. There is no doubt that the only reason Lieberman did this was to fuck the liberals. Hard. It’s obviously become his life’s purpose.
We’ll know details soon. Right now it sounds like everyone is still confused, so there’s no need to get too excited or angry or anything else. Rockefeller’s attitude bodes well. And I saw Bernie Sanders on Maddow and he seemed quite jolly, although he reiterated his pledge to not vote for any bill that didn’t have a public option. So, we’ll see.
THUMBS UP: Ezra Klein writes:
The national non-profits are not exactly like, but not that far from, the compromised public plan in the House version of the bill. They won’t be publicly run, but with the OPM regulating them tightly and carefully choosing which offerings are accepted into the market, the impact might not be that different in practice. They have the advantages of offering a single product nationally and being freed from the profit motive, both of which were key to the theory of the weaker public option. Indeed, they’re like publicly-regulated utilities more than private plans. These look a lot like the semi-private insurers that function well in Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands, among others.
Meanwhile, the Medicare buy-in lets people in the broader insurance market see what national bargaining power can do for individual premiums. Right now, Medicare’s rates are largely hidden, as no one pays the full premiums, and so no one can really compare it to private offerings. But if the premiums become visible, and Medicare’s superior bargaining power is capable of offering rates 20 to 30 percent lower than its private competitors can muster, we’ll see how long it is before representatives begin getting calls from 50-year-olds who’d like the opportunity to exchange money in return for insurance as good as what 55-year-olds can get.
My personal take:
Call me cynical, but the idea of placing perhaps the single most corrupt and immoral industry on the planet — the health insurance industry — in charge of administering non-profit plans is like hiring Pol Pot as bus driver at a private, elite, prep school. And if the Blue Dogs go along with this and sign on, then I’ll have to assume that the health insurance industry has found a way to work around it (i.e. there will be something in the bill that will allow them to base non-profit — probably subsidized — premiums on costs which the industry will be allowed to arbitrarily inflate).
The question that should be getting asked is this: If there are to be non-profit plans on a government exchange (for those who can’t afford health insurance) then wouldn’t Medicare be the most logical choice for administering them, since they are already administering non-profit plans? Since Medicare’s administrative expenses tend to be lower than the health insurance industry’s, it would be cheaper to allow Medicare to administer the plans. It makes no sense to put the corrupt and inefficient health insurance industry in charge of this function, which leads me to believe there’s some kind of fix in the works.
At some point, this cancerous industry wedged between patient and doctor will have to be surgically removed, and the longer it takes for our representatives to confront this reality, the more pain I fear is ahead of us.
THUMBS DOWN: Ed Schultz of MSNBC’s “The Ed Show” is adamantly against this new compromise.
Ed’s guests both give THUMBS DOWN: Editor of The Nation Katrina Vanden Heuvel and former Cigna VP Wendell Potter. See the clip here:
THUMBS UP: Rep. Alan Grayson seems to like the compromise:
Technorati Claim: GRR82NPHT8BW