published Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Corker wrong on reform

Sen. Bob Corker’s visit Monday to Chattanooga to tell us what’s wrong with the health care reform bill passed by Democrats and the Obama administration, without Republican help, is rich in malicious irony — an irony bred in long, deep and unyielding Republican resistance to a truly comprehensive and fair universal health system.

His doomsday criticism about the future cost of caring for people laid off from work or victimized by benefit cuts in the Great Recession handed to us by the prior Republican administration is appalling. His laying blame on health care reform is akin to a gunslinger shooting an innocent victim in the foot and then complaining that the victim can’t dance very well. We have to wonder how short Sen. Corker’s memory has become, or how politically cynical he has become.

In the health care reform debate that consumed the better part of a year, Republicans repeatedly denied every decent proposal for a better system and a vastly superior reform bill.

Many doctors — and many Americans — wanted, and still want, a public option insurance plan that would allow every citizen the right to buy into a truly nonprofit national health-insurance plan administered like Medicare, or even as an arm of Medicare. With barely half of employees in Tennessee still provided an employer-based plan, such an option would be a honest-to-God life-saver for many working Tennesseans and their families. But what do Republicans care? They fought it tooth-and-nail, and killed it. What we got instead was state-by-state insurance exchanges.

A core group of physicians across the country is still demanding a bona fide single-payer system, which would cut our national health care costs approximately in half by reducing for-profit insurers’ rich overhead spread, by bargaining with Big Pharma for prescription drug prices like those every other industrial nation gets (one-half to one-third of what Americans pay), and by levying a fair health care tax adjusted for income for a public-option plan.

To confirm the savings figures, Google the OECD international comparisons of the quality universal health care plans that all other industrial nations provide, most at roughly half the per-capita GDP costs of our pot-holed system, i.e., 8 to 9 percent for universal systems vs. 17 percent of GDP for health care in America. Plus, our inequitable system now leaves 50 million Americans without a health care insurance safety net of any kind, not even Medicaid.

Sen. Corker stood solidly with his Party of No’s monolithic resistance to more comprehensive reform, and against putting regulatory reins on private insurers and the pharmaceutical and ancillary medical industries.

Why? Put simply, Republicans are in bed with health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and all their rich CEOs and upper-echelon managers who make a bundle by denying care (death panels anyone?) and charging bandit prices for prescription drugs, medical devices and virtually every ancillary medical service.

These companies are heavy contributors to Republican candidates and the party’s campaign coffers, and they all want to kill reform. So compliant Republicans are now planning to dismantle the administration’s bill piecemeal by refusing to fund critical portions if they capture a majority in Congress. All their talking points about health care now go to the weaknesses that they drove into the new reform bill. Indeed, their “repeal and replace” mantra has become a core part of their campaign agenda — never mind the public interest in a more equitable health care system.

That is why it is so perverse for Sen. Corker to stage a press conference here at BlueCross BlueShield’s new hilltop palace to complain that up to one out of three Tennesseans could wind up on the state’s Medicaid plan once the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act takes full effect in 2014. That’s not the plan’s fault; it’s the fault of low-wage jobs and Republicans’ trickle-down economics.

Neither is it the plan’s fault that both private and nonprofit insurance companies (including our BlueCross) have cruelly decided to drop their child-only policies. They made that decision because they can no longer exclude children with pre-existing conditions. Their economic practice of cherry-picking the healthy and leaving the sick to wither or die takes cruel precedence over flat community rates and real insurance for all. Without mandated community ratings, that’s our health care race to the bottom in a nutshell.

So far, the insurance reform pieces that have taken effect, by the industry’s own figures, add just 1 to 1.5 percent costs to insurance coverage — a negligible figure relative to their usual double-digit increases for same-benefit policies. These valuable reforms end exclusions for pre-existing conditions and lifetime coverage limits, prohibit insurers from dropping coverage for people who become ill, make routine preventive care free of charge, allow children to remain on parents’ policies until the age of 26, and establish high-risk pool coverage.

When the full program takes effect in 2014, the new act will expand Medicaid coverage to children, pregnant women, parents and adults with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty limit. Corker fears the cost of this because it will cover so many working people in Tennessee, where, according to his own figures, the average household income (in 2008) was just $43,000.

By contrast, Corker and his Party of No want to keep the Bush-era tax cuts for the nation’s richest 2 percent, for whom the average income is $8 million, though that will cost the country $700 billion over the next 10 years. Where’s the fairness?

If Corker and other Republicans wanted to do ordinary Americans a great service to keep them from running out of health care options, he, and they, would seek to improve the reform bill by adopting a voluntary single-payer, nonprofit public option for health care with income-adjusted premiums, an emphasis on wellness and a new, salaried medical infrastructure for care providers.

A majority of Americans would snap it up, and health costs for the public at large would decline to affordable levels. That would be much better than blaming our first partial reform act for the cost of coverage for the middle-class Americans who are rapidly losing employer-based insurance on account of a greedy, out-of-control, profit-driven health care industry.

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whatever said...

Why did Corker hold his Press Conference at the BC HQ and no with the people who most need health care?

Because the people who need something wouldn't let him get away with just complaints. They'd expect him to provide solutions. They wouldn't just stand by and cheer him on. They'd get in his face and ask them why he didn't want them to get health care when he had his provided for LIFE!

October 6, 2010 at 12:25 a.m.
acerigger said...

Thanks editors, for giving folks a clear look at the health care reform situation and Sen. Corker's role in it.(and also for not calling it "Obamacare"!)

October 6, 2010 at 3:12 a.m.
EaTn said...

You can fool some of the people part of the time.... those who are being shoved farther down into the mire of health care bills will soon wake-up and vote the elitists out of office.

October 6, 2010 at 6:52 a.m.
anniebelle said...

Corker is just typical of the uber rich CONS/REGRESSIVES who have no problem with us, the taxpayer, providing him and his family with the best health insurance available, but you and I are not entitled to the same quality health care because it "costs too much" to take care of us peons. In reality, for those out there still dealing in the land of facts and reason, it will cost us a whole lot more to take care of our less fortunate unless all our citizens are treated equally -- not just the top 2%.

October 6, 2010 at 7:26 a.m.
nucanuck said...

Senator Bob lives big and thinks big,which can make it difficult to understand fair policy for little people. A single payer system would include him and his family receiving the same health care as the rest of the nation. Now that's an ugly thought...a man of his stature not receiving preferential treatment?...that would be unRepublican.

Be strong Bob,stand up for privelege.

October 6, 2010 at 11:02 a.m.
BigRidgePatriot said...

Wake up you guys. The "progressive" governments you would love to see the US emulate are close to collapse. It is down right stupid to assume that we are ready for a universal health care system or that it is even a good idea. Your lazy, copy the european socialists, approach to political thinking is being proven wrong all around you but you just stick your heads in the sand and hope it aint so.

October 6, 2010 at 11:06 a.m.
eeeeeek said...

The intranet homepage here at work has Corker's nasty face pictured.. and I have to hold back my scream of horror every time I load the browser.

October 6, 2010 at 11:25 a.m.
whatever said...

Can you please tell how any of the progressive govenments you complain about are close to collapse, and why it is necessarily the fault of their universal health care system, and not some other factor?

Also, why is it not a good idea to provide health care to everybody? Is it a better idea to provide health care to only some people instead?

Why is health care different from the vote, or the mail, or phone service?

October 6, 2010 at 11:25 a.m.
nucanuck said...


The social democracies of this world are universally capitalist,but with a socialized structure for health and education. Those few that are failing owe their failure to leverage and capitalist excess in banking,not from providing universal health care.

Greece,Spain,Portugal,Ireland,Iceland,and even Japan,are not in trouble because of health and education costs. They,like the US,are in trouble for failing to regulate the banking sector and failing match taxation with spending.

How can we even imagine a strong society without a foundation that includes reasonable universal access to health care and education?

October 6, 2010 at 11:46 a.m.
BigRidgePatriot said...

Socialism is in trouble because of cost and inefficiency. The “capitalism” issues you are pointing to were created by crony capitalism with government regulators getting involved in social engineering through fiscal and banking policy and helping to create unsustainable bubbles while turning a blind eye to the reckless behavior they are supposed to be regulating. Crony capitalism is not capitalism at all but a form of back-door fascism.

October 6, 2010 at 4:09 p.m.
whatever said...

Or IOW, no principle or philosophy is immune to corruption.

I think that's part of human nature, sadly, we just don't measure up to our ideals.

October 6, 2010 at 4:41 p.m.
carlB said...
October 7, 2010 at 12:26 a.m.
fairmon said...

The federal government legislates and intervenes and things progressively grow worse.

It is not the federal governments right to require that a physician or hospital treat and provide care to those unable to pay. It is not a federal roll to require anyone to purchase anything and certainly not their right to require others to purchase it for them.

It is a local option to assist those in need in acquiring the basics of life; Food, clothing, shelter, health care, utilities, phone service, or anything else local churches and citizens are willing to provide their fellow Americans.

It should not be a federal government right to allow people not paying social security to benefit from it. several ways to draw social security have been added since it became part of the general fund. Those items should not be funded with social security dollars but from another fund that everyone contributes to. Many Americans are exempt from paying and participating in social security therefore those in the social security program are funding disability and other non-earned social security benefits.

Local and state governments continue abdicating their responsibility and the federal government continues avoiding theirs.

Taxes should be increased from the poverty level up at an indexed rate not to exceed 70% at the top rate. The federal government must be restrained to a pay as you spend budget and reduce the national debt 3% annually. This is necessary if the dollar is to avoid being devalued and inflation moving even more people to poverty. But, incumbents can't get reelected with this platform.

The justification and need for centralized planning and administration are more than those responsible can do well. However, people keep insisting and they are willing expand their sphere of control.

October 7, 2010 at 10:45 p.m.
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