Alan Grayson appeared on Keith Olbermann’s show this evening defending the House compromise health care reform bill presented last week by Nancy Pelosi. In a repeat performance of his interview on Ed Schultz’s show a few days back Alan gave us his interpretation of the bill. Here are a few quotes from his answers to KO’s questions, along with my own comments after each one.
”. . . the main thing is that we have to save American lives. . . .”
I couldn’t agree more. Alan and I agree that nearly 45,000 Americans die every year because they lack health insurance. But Alan never says that the House bill he supports, as currently written will save only roughly 14,000 of those lives annually between now and 2013, and only 34,000 per year even when the House reform is in full swing after 2015, and that according to CBO forecasts it will never reduce the annual death toll to less than 11,000.
”. . . there’s 122 Americans dying every day because they have no health care . . . “
This is true, but Alan doesn’t say to KO, or to us, that in the 3+ years of the band-aid period there will be 85 Americans dying every day, and even when the bill is fully implemented, there will still be 30 Americans dying every day due to lack of insurance. This bill that Alan Grayson is so quick to support will not eliminate the problem of dying Americans due to lack of health insurance in the next 3+ years. Nor will it do that even in the 7 years after that, or ever, according to CBO forecasts.
”There are hundreds and hundreds of people in Connecticut who will live if this bill passes, and will die if it doesn’t. . . .”
The population of Connecticut is roughly 3.5 million. Roughly 10%, or 350,000 are uninsured. Of these, about 350 will die each year due to lack of insurance without any reform. If the House bill passes, then in the Band-aid period, 241 people will still die, and when the reform is in full swing, 86 Americans from Connecticut each year will still die. So Alan is way off, unless his statement is taken to apply to a ten year period, then there will be hundreds and hundreds saved, but also even more hundreds and hundreds will die, needlessly, because of the House’s failure to legislate an end to these deaths.
”The Democratic defense play is to tell the Republicans: stop lying!”
The Republicans do need to stop lying. Listening to them is often like listening to a fairy tale, and what is even more irritating is that Republicans seem to have elevated lying to a fundamental principle of politics, as if they had all internalized Plato’s doctrine of the noble lie, and forgotten how dependent the health of American Democracy is on at least a modicum of honesty when faced with reality. Unfortunately, the Democrats and Mr. Grayson himself are often less than scrupulous when it comes to stretching the truth. We have seen that in the “bait-and-switch” campaign for a public option-led health care reform. And we see it now in the Democrats celebration of the House’s very flawed proposed bill, as a milestone accomplishment, when, in fact, it is largely a sell-out to the insurance industry that doesn’t eliminate deaths, bankruptcies, and foreclosures due to health insurance, and also does almost nothing to contain costs, while it provides the insurance companies with a huge expansion of their revenue. The Democrats celebration of this bill is nothing but spin – in the older more direct vernacular, it is nothing but a lie.
”. . . We’re close to the end of this long, long, road to universal, affordable, comprehensive health care in America.”
I can’t believe that Alan said that. The House bill won’t produce universal health insurance. Even after the band-aid period is over, it will leave 11,000,000 Americans uninsured. The health plan for them will be “if you get sick, die quickly.”
As far as “affordable” is concerned, what is “affordable” will be defined by a Congress which is already far more concerned about deficit neutrality, then they are about universal health care. Also, the health care subsidies provided in the bill, are not tied by the legislation to inflation in private insurance premiums. So, as the years pass, this bill will provide mandates for individuals to buy insurance, but subsidies that are inadequate to fund private sector premiums. This situation may even exist in 2013, since the lack of price controls in the bill almost guarantees that by the time the exchange is operative, insurance premiums will have risen 40-50% over today’s prices.
As far as “comprehensive” is concerned. It is doubtful that the bill will cover abortion in the public plan. Also, since the public plan will have to compete on a level playing field with private insurance plans, it is doubtful that the public plan will be able to cover more than the private plans and also compete successfully with them.
So, it appears that the House bill will produce neither universal, nor affordable, nor comprehensive coverage for all Americans. The attempts of Alan Grayson and the House Democrats to over-sell Nancy Pelosi’s bill are both foolish and counter-productive. Some people may be fooled into thinking that this bill is the major accomplishment they say it is. This evening KO was certainly very accepting of Alan’s interpretation, as Ed Schultz was last week. But by today, Ed was asking some tough questions of guests on his show about the bill. He clearly has already begun to question the Democrats “happy talk” about it. If the bill or even a weaker one passes, the happy talk won’t last long, and the insistence that the health care reform, while far from perfect, is a great accomplishment of Democrats and progressives will give way to the continued reality of deaths, bankruptcies, foreclosures and rising insurance and medical costs. In the end the public will blame the Democrats for this sad excuse of a reform bill, not praise them.
(Also posted at firedoglake.com where there may be more comments)