Sunday, March 7, 2010

"But the best part of the story is the identity of the doctor restoring HCR to life: Anthem Blue Cross! Who says insurance cos can’t fix healthcare?"

By Lauren Reichelt posting on the Tikkun Daily Blog TDB

Can right wing over-exuberance in the face of their Massachusetts victory have spurred the sudden and vibrant revival of healthcare reform? It has risen unexpectedly, like the miraculous victim of a head injury, from its seemingly permanent coma.

But the best part of the story is the identity of the doctor restoring HCR to life: Anthem Blue Cross! Who says insurance companies can’t fix healthcare?
On January 19, Scott Brown supposedly rode a wave of public disgust over the Dems’ proposed “Government Takeover of Health Care” (or so the story went) to hand Republicans a 2/5 majority in the Senate. As usual, the only evidence of Democratic huevos at the time was all over their faces. DNC chair Tim Kaine, who had not conducted an exit poll, was entirely unprepared to refute the latest gibberish spewed by the right wing lie machine. It looked as if we were on the verge of permanent capitulation. The railroad tracks of healthcare reform became mired in senatorial quicksand.

Fortunately for us, our friends at the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) in collaboration with Kaine’s ousted but more effective predecessor, Howard Dean (and Democracy for America), conducted their own poll showing that Massachusetts’ Democratic voters stayed home because they were angry the Public Option had been dropped.

Meanwhile, a little over two weeks after the Massachusetts debacle, as Senator Brown was taking his seat, Anthem Blue Cross (aka Hedley Lamarr) celebrated by announcing a 39% rate hike in California. Their premature dance at the side of HCR’s deathbed brought the Public Option roaring back to life.

Shades of Blazing Saddles! A few important transitions occurred quietly behind the scenes. Obama brought David Plouffe, the ingenious captain of his Presidential campaign, back into the fray. Newly deputized HHS Secretary (and former Insurance Commissioner/Governor of Kansas), famous for facing down the industry bandits in her home state, rode forth on her white horse vowing to take on the ne’er-do-wells.

Next, the Black Guy strode through the saloon doors alone, and in front of the people of the town, challenged every single member of the Republican House Caucus to a verbal gunfight.

He won. He then challenged Republican leaders to a televised bi-partisan health care negotiation summit on February 25 which many progressives appear to have mistaken for another attempt to convert badguys to civility. (In fact its true purpose is most likely the rallying of Independents and Democrats behind HCR.)

The President is expected to post his new plan online for our perusal in advance of the televised brawl. According to HuffPo:

A Democratic source familiar with the details said the White House proposal would scale back the Senate bill’s tax on high-cost insurance plans. It would also strip out special Medicaid deals for certain states, while moving to close the Medicare prescription coverage gap, and making newly available coverage for working families more affordable. The changes would cost about $200 billion over 10 years. It’s unclear what the total price tag for the legislation would be; the Senate bill was originally under $900 billion.

Rightwing pundits are already struggling to contain the expected damage, labelling the “summit” a “trap.” Boehner and Cantor published and then recanted a list of demands that were widely ridiculed as a ransom note. Boehner later appeared on teevee to express his concern about walking into the Blair House without prior assurance he will not be verbally ambushed.

But Hedley (not Hedy) Lamarr’s nefarious crowd of Tea Party thugs had not finished overplaying their hand. Riding high on a wave of assumed victory, they televised both the Tea Party Convention and the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Apparently, the far right is so confident of a 2010 electoral sweep that they fear the future landslide may not be noticed. So to boost ratings, they have handed Dems a series of juicy soundbites for political ads.

First Sarah Palin, reading from her hando-prompter, noted a connection between budget tax cuts and soaring American spirits. Rabid crowds welcomed Dick Cheney with cries of “Run, Dick, Run!” Tom Tancredo was cheered wildly for suggesting we reinstitute the voting “literacy tests” of the Jim Crow South. Dick Armey informed followers it is time to put an end to Medicare and Social Security. Ron Paul and his “watering the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots” base were voted most likely to succeed in a straw poll. And Glenn Beck ended the conference by touting the need to further whitewash the Republican party:

All we’ve heard is we need a big tent. We need a big tent. Can we get a bigger tent? How can we get a big tent? What is this the circus? America is not a clown show. America is not a circus. America is an idea. America is an idea that sets people free.

While all this was happening an angry right-wing pilot scrawled a rambling suicide note about “watering the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots,” (the same phrase Ron Paul’s gun-toting supporters carried at Obama rallies) and flew his plane into a government building killing three people.

I digress. Though none of these antics are likely to appeal to Independent voters, they have nothing to do with Anthem’s revival of both the Public Option and Health Care Reform. While Teabaggers and CPAC-goers were streaming out of Hollywood wild, wild west facades and into the streets of DC, our friends at the PCCC were quietly circulating a petition and conducting polls. Specifically, they were asking Senators to sign a letter promising to support the passage of the Public Option through reconciliation. Dianne Feinstein (a conservative California Democrat normally a tad to the left of Liebermenace) signed the letter, enraged by Anthem’s rate hike in her home state. Left-leaning Barbara Boxer followed, as did Menendez in NJ. The letter now has 20 signatories in the Senate and 100 in the House.

Through polls, the PCCC learned that in Nevada, where Harry Reid’s popularity among his constituents is seriously flagging, he can still redeem himself through inclusion of a government-sponsored insurance plan. Thirty-five percent (35%) of Independents and forty-six percent (46%) of Democrats would be more likely to vote for Harry Reid if he passed a Public Option opposed to thirteen percent (13%) of Independents and seven percent (7%) of Democrats if he didn’t.

Shortly after the poll results were released, Reid announced his support for passage of the Public Option through reconciliation (a majority vote) if the White House and a majority of Senators so choose.

Of course, this doesn’t make passage of the Public Option a fait accompli by any means. Many Senators still fear that its reintroduction could kill HCR altogether despite its popularity with the American people.

Ezra Klein suggests pulling a bait and switch maneuver, substituting the Public Option with an early Medicare Buy-In which is more readily understood by voters and I tend to agree. It is not clear that the Public Option can be passed using reconciliation due to parliamentary restrictions, whereas Medicare expansion can. Clearly, the PCCC considered this option in the above linked poll because the first question, which also demonstrates tremendous support among Independents and Democrats, mentions Medicare rather than the Public Option.

So far, Bill O’Reilly is the only winger who appears to have recognized the dangers inherent to Republicans in telecasting the Tea Party Conference and CPAC. He issued several unheeded warnings to fellow pundits to refrain from criticizing Obama too heavily at the convention. Here he is on teevee chastising the leader of Oath Keepers, a CPAC sponsor, for encouraging individual troops to disobey orders from their Commander-In-Chief.