America's health care system is broken... and the American health care system knows it. The only people for whom the system is working—insurers, hospital execs, drug companies, the people making money off it—know that we know that they are overcharging and underserving us. They know the Obama Administration is determined to pass health care reform and could have the political savvy and clout to succeed even in the face of Harry & Louise 2.0.
The wealthy interests inserting inefficiency (a.k.a. profit) into the American health care system know their days are numbered, and they are terrified. To stave off their demise, the insurers and other profiteers are offering almost every carrot they can. They've offered to extend insurance coverage to people with pre-existing conditions (also known as people who need health care). They've offered to "transition away from risk rating," including the abhorrent practice of charging women more just because they have babies. And now they've pushed $2 trillion worth of chips to the center of the table, offering to rein in their cost increases over the next ten years. All they want in return: require everyone to buy private insurance, and please, please, please don't pass a public health care system that would run the failing private health care business model into the ground.
NPR asks this morning whether we can trust this latest offer from the health care moneymakers. They're not offering to make health care more affordable; they're offering to shave a mere 1.5% off the projected rate at which they will jack up our premiums and other costs. (Health care costs are currently rising at a 6% annual rate.) But how do we know voluntary cuts will stick? The health care industry pulled a similar trick at the beginning of the Clinton Administration, holding costs down for a few years to deflate public pressure for reform, then letting costs get out of control again.
Perhaps President Obama feels like he's on Deal or No Deal: He's clearing the board. The million-dollar case is still in play... and so is the one-dollar case. The banker just called and offered $400K. Deal or no deal?
Even I, a Kucinich Democrat who thinks Obama should get back to his 2003 position and put single-payer universal health care back on the table, can see they political reasonability of taking the health care industry's offer. The players who could destroy health care reform are making huge concessions. $2 trillion in savings is serious money. Getting rid of risk rating and exclusions for pre-existing conditions would increase health security for a lot of Americans.
A public plan is the best reform we could get. Pass it, and my wife and I will camp out in line to get US Health Policy Number 1. But politics doesn't always mean getting the best. Politics is the art of the possible. With these amazing concessions, the health-industrial complex is saying health care reform is not just possible but inevitable. The challenge for the President now is to determine just how much is possible.
Barack Obama has been known to seize the historic moment previously. There seems to be another such moment knocking. I'll understand if the man I voted for takes the deal... but I hope he'll hang tough and go for the whole enchilada.
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