John Eby: Congress has no intention of reforming anything

Published 10:54 am Monday, August 24, 2009

ebyAt this turning point in American history upon which his entire presidency is likely to be judged, there President Barack Obama was Aug. 20 pitching his health care plan on conservative talk radio.

The election’s long over.

It’s well past time to lead.

Liberals verged on revolt as Obama quit saying any final deal “must” include a public option of government-run insurance.

Obama, fleeing Washington for vacation on Martha’s Vineyard unless hurricanes blocked his way, insisted reason would prevail and it was not time to panic.

“I guarantee you … we are going to get health care reform done,” Obama told a caller to Philadelphia radio talk show host Michael Smerconish during a broadcast from the White House Diplomatic Room.

“You know, passing a big bill like this is always messy.”

The Associated Press dubbed Obama the “fact checker-in-chief, trying to correct untrue claims such as that the proposals would provide health care for illegal immigrants, create ‘death panels’ or pay for abortions with taxpayer dollars.

“Aides say the situation has left Obama exasperated.”

It’s August, the month you can swift boat a decorated Vietnam veteran, John Kerry.
Real Man Magazine distributed a commentary calling Obama a dork.

Call him a socialist, but don’t compare him to Urkel.

Ask the first George Bush how “Wimp Factor” Newsweek cover stories and manhood in a blind trust Doonesbury storylines take on lives of their own.

Now that this fleeting window of opportunity has all but shut, here’s Obama saying, “What we’re going to have to do is to cut through the noise and the misinformation. The best offense against lies is the truth.

“All we can do is just keep on pushing the truth.”

The man was a U.S. senator, albeit not long. Doesn’t he know that truth isn’t exactly kryptonite to Congress?

This is a job for Harry Potter because the sorcerer’s stone – health care reform – is guarded by a three-headed dog of Republicans, congressional Democrats from the more fiscally conservative to activists on the left and media scorpions.

“There’s no way I can pass a bill in the House of Representatives without a public option,” piped up House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The House’s proposed bill, 1,017-page H.R. 3200, predicts that over the next decade premiums will continue to escalate to levels unaffordable for the middle class to pay.
The average American household has watched the amount it spends on health care rise faster than the amount it earns annually for years.

Spending on health care in the United States has been growing faster than the economy for many years.

The average annual premium for a family policy in 2008 was $12,680, with those costs split by the employer and employee.

While health insurance premiums are largely covered by employers, as costs rise, companies shift more of that burden to employees.

A study by the non-partisan Commonwealth Fund released Aug. 20 predicts that with health reform, insurance premiums for the average American family – again with those costs divided between the employee and employer – would be $20,083 annually in 2010.

Without reform, the study sees premiums rising another $3,759 to $23,842 annually.

So, when Obama and others speak of lowering health care costs, what they are really saying is their proposals will make costs lower than they would be without reform.

A public option, lacking any profit motive, executive bonuses or corporate marketing, would automatically cost less than private insurance.

Has anyone really proposed socialized medicine, like Britain’s?

The government employs the doctors, owns the hospitals and buys the technology.
Like the American Veterans Health Administration.

Single payer is a system much like Medicare in which one institution purchases care, but the payer does not own the doctors, hospitals or MRI scanners.

Almost every developed country but the United States uses a single-payer system.

There are more than 1,300 private insurers with different forms and different reimbursement procedures, drowning doctors’ offices in paperwork.

According to one estimate, a single-payer system could save $350 billion on paperwork alone.

What we might get would not be socialized medicine or single-payer health care, but a hybrid of private insurers competing with a public option. Private doctors and private hospitals.

Government regulation and subsidies.

So now our broken, bloated health care system that doesn’t seem to work for anyone and denies insurance to 47 million Americans is on a collision course with another huge unworkable bureaucracy that ought to be outsourced.

Congress is ill-equipped to fix actual urgent national problems. Instead, it devotes all of its resources to the same old tired appearances of acting without any actual reform.

Even the firing by an angry electorate of one entrenched White House party and its replacement with Democrats across the board wasn’t enough to shake Congress from slumber and stir our representatives to real action.

Take the Senate Finance Committee chaired by right-leaning Montana Democrat Max Baucus. He received $2.8 million in campaign contributions from the health care industry. Whose voice do you think he hears in this debate?

No single-payer system, no meaningful public option.

What will we get as “reform?”

Well, the insurance industry wants to force everyone to buy some form of coverage or face a tax penalty. Progressives must wonder why they won the election only to lose the war.

With health care reform effectively gutted, whatever diluted proposal passes will be expensive, like the scare tactics predict, and will sour the public on reform efforts for years to come. By design.

And Congress will run on its record and get re-elected.

Bankrupt: Reader’s Digest, the country’s most popular general interest magazine, said Aug. 17 it will file for Chapter 11 protection.

Circulation of 8.2 million in the second half of 2008 was down from a peak of about 17 million in the 1970s for the magazine founded in 1922.

Closed so far this year are Blender and Conde Nast’s Portfolio, which I wrote admiringly of in this space Aug. 3.

John Eby is Daily News managing editor. E-mail him at john.eby