Calling Legislation Reform Does Not Make it Reform

While we do not support a public option, as it will not control costs or provide universal coverage, each day is another opportunity to see just how little reform we may actually end up with, courtesy of K Street flexing the power of the industry over our government.

Word out this weekend was that Obama is open to dropping the public option and accepting a nonprofit cooperative (which studies show are not effective in lowering cost).  This should not come as a surprise since Obama has never given a straightforward answer when asked whether he would oppose a bill without a public option.  Fifty-seven House Democrats, on the other hand, have signed a letter stating exactly that.  And Rep. Weiner (D-NY) believes that number could be closer to 100.  Fifty-seven is enough to ensure that any bill without a public option could fail to pass the House.  Today, Speaker Pelosi reaffirmed the House’s committment to a public option.

The Senate, on the other hand, is unlikely to pass a bill with a public option.   Democrats have a filibuster-proof majority, but remove the conservative Dems who oppose a public option from that number and there are no longer enough votes to pass a bill (although there has been quiet talk of invoking the arcane procedure of reconciliation).   It is likely that whatever bill ends up in the conference committee will be without a public option unless progressive Dems take a stand and successfully block anything without such a measure.  Or, we could end up with nothing.  Which may not be as bad as some of the proposals, quite honestly, as they will cost a lot of money and not address the real problems.

Most political talking heads do believe that the Dems will pass something.  But that something is looking less and less like anything other than the status quo: more profits for health insurance and drug companies.  Saving for-profit health insurance (who, by the way, have nearly single-payer control in regional markets ergo the argument for choice is moot) ignores the most fundamental issue at hand: health care is not a commodity, it is a human right.  And from the beginning of this debate, this issue has been ignored as protecting industry profits have been the centerpiece of any so-called debate on reform.

And if the current trajectory of health care ‘reform’ is not a strong enough indicator of the power of the health insurance lobby, and the lack of democracy in our system for that matter, this article from TIME on Tom Daschle’s connections to the industry begins with the sentence “This is how Washington really works: Even a top liberal advocate for taking a strong stand against the insurance industry takes money behind the scenes from the insurance industry.”  It is worth a read.