Burke’s Law XV: Heavy Lifting on Healthcare Reform


By Elizabeth Burke
Special to the Clyde Fitch Report

On Sat., Nov. 7, the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, by a 220-to-215 vote, a margin that was a little too close for comfort. After all, five votes does not a mandate make. It also leaves 215 representatives, including 39 Democrats, believing nothing is the right thing to do. To those “Dempublicans,” I can only say this: you’d better have a good defense for your “screw you” vote when running for reelection next year.

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Actually, there were two bills in the House last week. The Democratic bill was a monster at some 1,900 pages. But the Republicans also put out a version of a healthcare bill — just 220 pages, about the length of a Harlequin romance and just as deep. I tried to read both versions, beginning with the Democrats’. It is, I will confess, a very wordy document! As I looked for help in deciphering those, er, words, here’s what I learned from thesimon.com:

Despite what you may have heard, the Democrats’ plan IS Socialism, pure and simple. This is the first step in President Obama’s “Godless Society” (mentioned in a little-covered speech that aired on C-Span 2 on March 3rd of this year – look for it on YouTube); Step Two is mandatory community service of no less than three years for all citizens; Step Three is the outlawing of religion and guns; and last but not least, Step Four requires all citizens to be tagged with radio transmitters for tracking purposes by the United Nations. (There is some debate as to whether or not Obama himself can sign these steps into law, since his Kenyan citizenship may not make the signing constitutionally valid.)

TheSimon.com also commented on the GOP bill, “which appears to have been written on the back of a cocktail napkin after a crazy night on C Street”:

Abortion, birth control, Viagra… ANYTHING having to do with sex will not be covered through the Republican plan, because as the napkin says, “sex = bad.” Unless it’s with an underage Congressional page or someone outside your own marriage, like an Argentine mother or the wife of one of your employees. In any case, rich white sex addicts will be allowed to seek treatment with the help of “The Family,” the quasi-political Republican group that secretly runs the country. All others are shit outta luck. For abortions, start saving up to go to Canada, ladies, because the Republicans will move to repeal Roe v. Wade with the help of a willing Supreme Court. (But once no one’s having sex, it shouldn’t be an issue in the first place.)

Meanwhile, to make all of your lives easier, I will now break down the bills so you don’t have to cry your way through some of the most mind-numbing legalese in history of legalese.

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First, the Democratic Plan:

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that the Democrats’ bill will increase coverage to an additional 36 million people, raising the number of insured to 96 percent. It also contains these basic tenets:

  • Ensuring value and lower premiums;
  • Ending health insurance rescission abuse;
  • Sunshine on price-gouging by health insurance issuers;
  • Requiring the option of extension of dependent coverage for uninsured young adults (your children don’t get kicked off your insurance at age 22);
  • Limitations on preexisting condition exclusions in group health plans in advance of applicability of new prohibition of preexisting condition exclusions;
  • Prohibiting acts of domestic violence from being treated as preexisting conditions (yes, insurance companies have actually called domestic violence a pre-existing condition);
  • Ending health insurance denials and delays of necessary treatment for children with deformities (insurance companies had to be forced to do this?);
  • Elimination of lifetime limits;
  • Prohibition against postretirement reductions of retiree health benefits by group health plans;
  • Reinsurance program for retirees;
  • Wellness program grants;
  • Extension of COBRA continuation coverage;
  • State Health Access Program grants;
  • Improving and simplifying financial assistance for low-income medicare beneficiaries;
  • Protecting the choice to keep current coverage;
  • Prohibiting preexisting condition exclusions;
  • Guaranteed issue and renewal for insured plans and prohibiting rescissions.

This is the Republican Plan (quoting directly from the legislation–click on the link to read it for yourself):

PURPOSE.-The purpose of this Act is to take meaningful steps to lower health care costs and increase access to health insurance coverage (especially for individuals with preexisting conditions) without-

  • raising taxes;
  • cutting Medicare benefits for seniors
  • adding to the national deficit
  • intervening in the doctor-patient relationship
  • instituting a government takeover of health care

The Republican plan claims it will lower the cost of premiums 10 percent. Wow! So if my bill each month as a single payer is $400, thanks to the Republicans I will pay only $360? That’s huge savings!

The CBO has found insurance coverage under the Republicans’ plan would increase by 3 million, and the percentage of insured non-elderly adults would remain at about 83 percent after ten years.

The CBO has also found that the Republicans’ plan would lower federal budget deficits by $68 billion during the period from 2010 to 2019.

The CBO has also found that the Democrats’ plan would lower the federal budget deficit by a bigger number — $109 billion — over the same period.

CBO analysts have finally — and perhaps most crucially — concluded that under the Republicans’ plan, some 52 million Americans under 65 would still have no insurance by 2019. That’s 2 million more Americans than are uninsured right now.

By comparison, the Democrats’ plan would reduce the total number of nonelderly without coverage to 18 million by 2019.

Here, from what I can tell, is also what is missing from the Republicans’ bill:

  • No ban on preexisting conditions;
  • Nothing to help cover the majority of underinsured;
  • No ending rescission abuse;
  • No elimination of lifetime limits;
  • No subsidies to make coverage more affordable to people of modest means;
  • No evidence of better healthcare: While the GOP claims their bill will lower premiums, it will be encourage far more inferior plans. Their idea pay less, get less. It’s the free-market system at work!

Clearly — and consistent with their approach to healthcare reform all year — Republicans don’t believe there’s an issue with healthcare in the United States. To drive home this point, this is what Rep. Steve King (R-NY) said this on Nov. 7:

Which begs the question: Where does Rep. King live? I mean, really? Every American has healthcare?

I can say I’m a 22-year-old six-foot blonde, but repeating that belief won’t make it so.

Now healthcare reform now sits squarely in the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). For reasons I just can’t fathom, Reid recently claimed the bill might not come up for a vote before year’s end, that he wouldn’t be “bound by timelines.” Worse, some Democrats recently suggested that getting a bill done this year is a “no-go.”

So as Reid’s office busily backtracks, and as we realize that we never needed, and were never going to get, a bipartisan consensus on healthcare, here’s the bottom line: We need a majority of moral, courageous, gutsy senators to stand up and vote aye on reform. It’s the Christmas present our country needs.

  • Damian Corboy

    I’ll tell you what planet Steve King is living on: one that Obama won easily, that’s where!

    He’s nuts.

    Who are these mysterious Moral, gutsy senators? Reid has to go. He’s in to precarious a situation back home and doesn’t have the balls to CUT the balls off of his Conference.

  • The utopian 3962 will die a just death in the senate; as it should. The govt. has no business in health care(among many other things). They can’t even run an h1n1 vaccine program effectively. Why on earth do you think they could run the entire health system? Don’t you get it? Name one thing the govt. does efficiently and effectively. The left keeps making the same mistakes and expecting a different result. we all know what that’s the classic definition of. Oh yeah, we also can’t afford the damn thing.

  • Jesse is a genius.

  • Liz Burke

    to mudslinger and Jesse,

    do you know how tiresome it is to hear people like you complain, whine, bitch and moan about the liberal spending, yet historically, it has been the Republicans who have blown up deficits.

    So, here is a crazy thought, since you do not believe this plan will work, what exactly is your plan? To complain while paying more every year to your insurance company? Do you believe in banning pre-existing conditions? Dropping coverage when one gets sick? What exactly is your plan? Because as I say to small children, unless you have a better idea, stop talking.

    You are what is wrong with this country, pissy, angry, fact deficient with an “I’ve got mine” attitude. You do realize Medicare (which ALL seniors seem to LOVE) and the VA system (which most vets seem to love) are government run. But why talk about the facts?

  • Truthisinthemiddle

    From AOL Finance blah blah blah….
    WASHINGTON -The government paid more than $47 billion in questionable Medicare claims including medical treatment showing little relation to a patient’s condition, wasting taxpayer dollars at a rate nearly three times the previous year

    In the Medicaid program for the poor, roughly $18.1 billion, or 9.6 percent of claims, are believed to be improper payments.

    ***In short, the Government is no less inefficient at managing insurance than commercial carriers. And it boggles my mind that there’s no obvious attempt, or intent, to manage the less obvious, insidious waste caused by repeat claim submission and review, simply because people don’t understand how their plans work, billing departments can’t be bothered to read an explanation of payment/denial, and insurance companies, thanks to government and industry regs, have to concentrate on speed over accuracy.

  • To Liz,

    Do you know how tiresome it is to watch people like you enthusiasticly accept another govt program; like kept farm animals being led to slaughter.

    You erroneously assumed I was a republican. I bitch and moan when the GOVT. spends recklessly, regardless of the party. You never answered the question of naming one thing the govt does effectively by the way.

    My plan, you ask? Is to tell the lawmakers to get thier ass back to the think-tank and come back with something that doesn’t include a govt takeover; that does include allowances to purchase health insurance across state lines, and includes meaningful TORT reform. These two things alone would drasticly reduce costs.

    Oh and Liz, as a surgeon, I do realize that medicare and the VA system are run by the govt. I also realize that they are unmitigated disasters that are currently are, or are going broke. You also forgot to mention medicaid, which is in the same sinking boat. Dealing with these “programs” is a beuracratic hell for both patients and doctors. I can assure you that “all”seniors and “most” vets do not “LOVE” these beuracratic quagmires.

    And finally Liz, about my “I’ve got mine” attitude; I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis five years ago. So I know first hand what it is to be both patient and healer…I also know the govt. isn’t the solution. You are stunningly naive and simple.

  • Dr. Jesse is a genius

  • RadicalCentrist

    Raise your deflector shields, Dr. Jesse, she’s going to fire the photons straight at you!
    Having years of experience in health insurance, reading through the bill, listening to both sides, I’m not convinced that either side has finished their homework. We KNOW not all of our elected officials are reading the bill, what else aren’t they doing? It’s a mess all around, that needs a lot of cleanup; in my opinion, relatively inexpensive, minimum legalese/bill writing cleanup, along with a public option that doesn’t involve people who are happy with their current plans and don’t want to pay for others any more than they already are. Having spent days, weeks, months, years on talking with seniors, veterans, and Medicaid recipients, I would say the love/hate ratio is fairly even. It depends on the individual’s own experience. Same could be said about people with commercial group health insurance.

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  • Don’t worry RadicalCentrist, if her aim is as accurate as her political logic, we’re all safe. However, if her writing carried any gravitas whatsoever, she might be dangerous.

  • Mudslinger is a genius.

  • Sorry Leonard, I just couldn’t resist. Liz is truly an angry woman. Bye the way , Clyde would have likely fared better in the U.S. European style medicine was lacking even then. Bet I could’ve saved the poor bloke.

  • noname

    This article is from the Buffalo News, Sunday, Nov 22. A government task force doesn’t think women should be screened for breast cancer between the ages of 40 – 50. I would prefer the government stay far, far away from my health care and insurance.

    Buffalo News:
    The day a government task force issued a report saying that women ages 40 to 49 don’t need screening mammograms, Dr. Irene Snow’s telephone rang. It was Snow’s sister, who is 48.
    “She’s scheduled this week for her mammogram, so I get a call and she’s saying, “Well, what do you think?’ ” Snow recalled. ” “Should I go, should I not go?’ ” Snow didn’t miss a beat. “I said, “Are you kidding me?’ ” her voice climbing the scale. “Suffice it to say, she is going. The age-old saying is that I want for my patient what I want for my family, and this is a literal example of that.” Snow is not only the medical director of Buffalo Medical Group and a primary care internist, she is also a breast cancer survivor. She found the lump in her breast at age 45, while doing the breast self-examination she recommended to her patients.

    The report that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force published last week in the Annals of Internal Medicine also says breast self-exams are of no statistical value. “I was 45 years old. If I didn’t do breast self-examination, and I didn’t go for mammograms, what was I supposed to wait for?” Snow asks. “By age 50, I would have been five years past the time when I had clinically palpable disease.”

    “This report absolutely gives me chills.” Snow knew when she read the report that the recommendations would “whip up a lot of sentiment,” but, she said, “I’ve never seen such a firestorm.” The outcry comes from many sources, including women who were diagnosed with breast cancer when they were younger than 50 and the American Cancer Society. Its chief medical officer, Dr. Otis W. Brawley, said the society’s experts “overwhelmingly believe the benefits of screening women aged 40 to 49 outweigh its limitations.”

  • RadicalCentrist

    Burke’s Law etc. says “[…] Clearly – and consistent with their approach to healthcare reform all year – Republicans don’t believe there’s an issue with healthcare in the United States. To drive home this point, this is what Rep. Steve King (R-NY) said this on Nov …Continued […]”
    —-I don’t see any Repuplicans here saying there’s no issue with healthcare… just concerned citizens suggesting that there might be better ways of dealing with the problem. For what it’s worth, I CRINGE whenever I hear “anyone without in need of medical care without insurance can just to go the E.R.” Yeah, I’m going to walk in to the E.R. and get scheduled dialysis…or a biopsy for the mole that suddenly look different…. or an eye exam considered routine every other year, but “medically necessary” yearly for diabetics….

    No Name mentioned the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and their new recommendations.
    I’ve heard the newest incarnation of health reform states that the agency’s recommendations will be followed. Priority A and B services will be covered, but priority C services won’t be. Breast exams, possibly pap smears, and who knows what else to be reduced to priority C.