Thursday, September 10, 2009

And It's....OUTTA HERE!

The stakes could not have been higher.
On a political scale from one to ten, one being a ribbon cutting at a needed bridge, ten being the absolute linchpin moment of an administration (think "Katrina"), last night's speech on healthcare was an eleven. While it wasn't bottom of the ninth, two out, bases loaded, it was certainly bottom of the seventh one out, men on second and third. Critical, but not irretrievable.
President Obama parked one in the seats. Granted, it was from a friendly pitcher but it impressed the audience nonetheless and probably wrested the momentum for healthcare reform back from the opposition.
It didn't hurt that one member of the opposing team balked, and gave him a chance to show the Republicans for what they have been for twenty years: obstructionist corporatists interested only in servicing their wealthy capitalist masters at the expense of the citizenry. Americans will put up with a lot of rowdy behavior in lots of places, even some that formerly had been places of quiet and respect, but to diss a President on national TV like you were heckling a stand-up comedian, no matter how abject the apology, is going to harm the cause faster than if you took a shot at him.
It's precisely why the GOP leadership backed off from Wilson's comments faster than a sorority co-ed from a serial killer.
Likely, Obama instigated the bad blood that Wilson (and others) felt, perhaps to trigger precisely that reaction of irrationality. Just moments earlier, Obama called out Sarah Palin and other harsh critics by calling them liars with regards to "death panels."
A digression: I've noticed that suddenly, right wing blogs have been following stories out of the UK about life and death decisions made by the National Health Service with respect to triage of mortally ill people. Interesting those stories have started to pop up in the press in England, dontcha think?
But I digress...
Here's what I think insurance companies are afraid of: once employers, particularly smaller, struggling employers who do not have the resources to wage a bidding war for their insurance pool, realize that the public option is not only cheaper but takes the entire insurance problem out of their laps, they will abandon private insurance in droves.
This is a good thing. It will force private insurers to stop taking 14 or 15% of your insurance premiums and spend it on themselves, their houses and their country clubs. It will immediately lower rates, and it will ultimately plow more money back where it should be: patient care.
The only real weapon the Republicans have is scare tactics, a strategy that had some traction over the summer, as Blue Dog Democrats across the nation started getting antsy about reform.
Well, here's a free piece of advice to any Blue Dogs reading this: your constituency NEEDS a public option. Likely, they are made up of fairly conservative working class folks, who respect an honest appeal to their sensibilities and their values.
Rather than be scared by talk of "death panels," remind them that when little Johnny down the block was crippled by illness because his parents had no insurance, or when Uncle Elmer died because the insurance company calculated it would cost too much to keep him on life support, those death panels were nowhere to be seen. And yet people died and were tragically crippled.
Which they would not have been, had they had an option for real healthcare.

Obama spoke to some of thess concerns in his speech last night:

One man from Illinois lost his coverage in the middle of chemotherapy because his insurer found that he hadn't reported gallstones that he didn't even know about. They delayed his treatment, and he died because of it. Another woman from Texas was about to get a double mastectomy when her insurance company canceled her policy because she forgot to declare a case of acne. By the time she had her insurance reinstated, her breast cancer more than doubled in size. That is heart-breaking, it is wrong, and no one should be treated that way in the United States of America.

The speech outlined a comprehensive plan that, while not ideal for the American public, is a damned sight better than the mishmash of private plans out there now, and would force insurance companies to hew to some form of accountability.
Who knows? It may ultimately be the kind of healthcare that countries with purely public plans, like Canada or England, would move to when their own citizenry begins to age and healthcare costs begin an inevitable march upwards in those nations, and we can claim the mantle of leadership once again in an area of social progress!