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Know Senate Health Reform By Its Opponents

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The Senate's health reform package has become an ugly perversion in the eyes of many on the left. And, certainly, there are so many reasons why the legislation deserves to be unloved.

And, yet, as the bill moves this week toward final passage,
progressives could take some small measure of comfort from the beating it is taking from its opponents elsewhere on the political spectrum.

While the devil is more in the details in this legislation than in even most others, progressives generally have two overarching arguments against the Senate bill.

One is that the abortion provisions within the bill further erode a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy.

The other is that without a public option, federally run healthcare plan, the coverage mandates amount to a big payoff to the insurance industry.

I'm not going to pretend to be a technical expert on the actual legislative language of either of those two aspects of the reform package.

What I can do is offer some political calculus that may offer some perspective that may have gotten lost in the forest for for the trees.

First, on the abortion question, I've been unable to find a single anti-abortion group that is even a bit cheered by the Senate bill.

Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life Action, is fairly typical in calling it "a first-ever mandatory abortion tax on the American people."

"A 'yes' vote is a solid 'yes' to the expansion of federal funding for abortion," Yoest adds.

Meanwhile, on the matter of the insurance mandate, the insurance industry sure doesn't sound like it's looking for a big haul.

The president of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Missouri released an open letter to the Show Me State's senators — one Democrat, the other Republican — urging them not to support the bill.

Dennis Matheis complains about the tax to be levied on the health insurance industry, and he claims that tax will hurt the 3 million Missourians who have health insurance provided by for-profit companies.

Even more broadly, the Washington trade group AHIP continues to fight the Senate bill tooth-and-nail. The head of the organization, Karen Ignagni, claims that the Senate package "will create significant disruption and instability for individuals, small businesses, and seniors."

Admittedly, these attacks on the Senate bill don't answer progressive's concerns most directly.

Also, as it relates to abortion, advocates on that issue do tend to paint everything in fairly absolutist terms such that anything in the Senate bill short of an explicit repeal of Roe v. Wade would likely result in condemnation.

What is most telling, though, is the strong language used by the insurance industry in their attack.

While certainly inclined to be more conservative and Republican-leaning, business interests tend to be more pragmatic in dealing with Washington.

Recall, for instance, the stream of major corporations that bailed out on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce earlier this year for a position taken by the chamber on the climate issue that was broadly seen as too ideological and doctrinaire to help business actually resolve the issue and make money.

Likewise, if the insurance companies are smart enough to know that they were truly getting a sweetheart deal out of this bill. They would be keeping their collective mouths shut and let it come to them.

That they continue to object so strongly indicates just on a "smell test" that maybe the Senate bill isn't so business-friendly as we might fear.

Finally, of course, the ultimate "smell test" is in the fact that Majority Leader Harry Reid did succeed in holding together all 60 Democrats.

That includes a number of highly progressive senators who fought quite strongly for the public option, including, most to the point, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

You could argue that ultimately Russ Feingold, Patrick Leahy, Jay Rockefeller and other progressives fell into line with Reid out of some larger party loyalty.

But not Sanders. Although he caucuses with the Democrats, Sanders is strictly a left-leaning independent who owes no higher alleigance to the Democratic Party in order to get re-elected.

His progressive bona fides are not to be doubted as he introduced the first attempt in the Senate to move the nation to a single-payer health system.

So in the end, perhaps it's a case of: If it's good enough for Bernie Sanders, it's good enough for me.

None of this is to say that you should suddenly love this Senate bill; only that perhaps you might come to hate it a little less and that it might not be as bad as we fear.

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About Scott Nance

  • Inasmuch as it may be “good enough” for Bernie Sanders, I get the feeling that Senator Sanders has taken the Ted Kennedy approach: half a loaf is better than none. I would argue that half a loaf is better, provided the bread is not stale or moldy. This bill is both.

    At this stage, I have no use for insurance companies. The mere fact that insurance interests have invested $635 million in the health care bill fight is the last straw. Again, I ask you — when will we recognize that all of those who have died for lack of a “considerate” insurance industry were the ultimate victims while members of Congress enjoyed the perks of insurance lobbyists. It’s tantamount to involuntary manslaughter.

  • What I love is that the Democrats are still claiming that they are passing this despite opposition from insurance companies, when it’s quite clear that the insurance companies have bought their votes and are ready to rack in the profits.


  • Arch Conservative

    Know it by it’s opponents?

    Gee when you have Keith Olbermann and Ron Paul opposing the same proposed legislation it can be difficult to figure out what’s going on. We must examine the reasons why each man opposes it.

    One opposes it because he believes in the Constitution and does not think that the federal government running every aspect of our lives is the way to go while the other is angry because there isn’t enough of the federal government running our lives in the legislation.

    Either way, the scumbags in DC, with very few exceptions, don’t give a damn about the American people.