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Steve Likes to Curse
Writing, comics and random thoughts from really a rather vulgar man
The Change We Deserve 
Wednesday, January 20th, 2010 | 03:40 pm [commentary, politics]
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Last night the Democratic party’s fumbling attempt at reforming the American healthcare system rounded the final turn and began limping toward the finish line. With the victory of Republican Scott Brown in the special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the late Ted Kennedy, the Democrats have fallen short of the 60 votes they needed to preempt a filibuster. We can now reasonably predict the efforts at reform, which dominated the first year of Barack Obama’s presidency, will come to nothing.
The Democrats have no one but themselves to blame. The talking heads deployed by the party to parse the election results have pinned the loss on their candidate pretty much unanimously, but the problem goes way beyond one woman running for a U.S. Senate seat. Martha Coakley was a poor candidate, sure. She was a reluctant campaigner, and she
pissed off Boston Red Sox fans — never a smart tactic in New England. But her blowing a seemingly insurmountable lead in the polls and losing to a pandering dope like Scott Brown isn’t the point. It shouldn’t have mattered. Healthcare reform should have been wrapped up long before now. Hell, if the Democrats had demonstrated a modicum of competence over the last year, this would have come to the floor while Ted Kennedy was still around to cast his vote, and yesterday’s election to replace him would have been a non-factor.
Instead, what might have been a stirring, sweeping transformation of America’s expensive and inhumane healthcare system has become an object lesson in how to fuck up a mandate. The momentum and enthusiasm that swept Barack Obama into the White House only one year ago has ebbed, a year of delays, concessions and compromises reducing a tidal wave to a gentle ripple.
Having lost their 3/5 majority in the Senate, the Democrats now have three options, each just as pitiful as the others. First, they can attempt to maintain their supermajority through some nefarious means — by refusing to seat Scott Brown until after a vote on the healthcare bill, or persuading a member of the Republican caucus to cross the aisle and vote with them. Second, they can water down an already weak bill even further to enable its passage in a Senate with 41 Republicans. Third, they can give up entirely. At this point, I don’t think it makes a difference which way they go. Healthcare reform has been botched so horribly that any pyrrhic victory the Democrats might manage to pull out won’t be worth a hell of a lot more than an outright defeat anyway.
Today the president said that “jamming something through” before Brown is seated ought to be off the table. Congressman Anthony Weiner, one of the few Democrats who openly advocated for true reform — that is, ideally, a single-payer system, but at the very least a low-cost publicly funded insurance plan — has said that the reform effort is probably dead. Part of the responsibility rests with Obama himself, who left the crucial work of crafting healthcare reform legislation entirely in the hands of the infamously inept congressional Democrats, and seemingly made no effort toward achieving the level of transparency that he repeatedly promised for the negotiations surrounding the bills in the House and Senate. A huge portion of the blame belongs with those useless and ineffectual Democrats themselves, who time and again showed more concern for their own political careers than for the people they were elected to represent. Whatever culpability is left over can be assigned to the likes of Sarah Palin, and the Becks and Hannitys and Levins who celebrated and disseminated distortions and out-and-out lies like “death panels” and “they want to pull the plug on grandma” to millions of eagerly gullible rubes.
Two people who don’t deserve much blame are Martha Coakley and Scott Brown. For all their myriad individual shortcomings, neither one of them killed healthcare reform. Thanks to the Democrats in the Senate and House of Representatives, who lacked both courage and convictions, reform was dead long before yesterday’s special election was decided.

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010 | 09:58 am (UTC) - Health Reform
True healthcare reform cannot be addressed by a single-payer system or a low-cost publicly funded insurance plan. Our government should not function as free-market insurance agency. The last thing we need is another agency that pools large amounts of money through small payments made over time by many individuals. These large pools of money drive costs up. Reform must lower costs and increased competition. The government must make it possible for individual consumers to become self-insured (small individual pools of their own money). This will make them responsible for their own healthcare costs, which would make them responsible for their own health. Government subsidies or matching programs could help with the initial buildup of these accounts and legislation could regulate their use. The more responsible the individual is with regard to his/her health the faster their savings will grow. Once fully funded these funds could be used to cover the cost of retirement communities, plastic surgery, or in-home nursing care as they age and remainders of money could transferred to family members upon their death. This would be very much like the healthcare savings account program that George W. Bush implemented. Americans have to be responsible citizens. As long as a band-aid costs $50 in the emergency room of hospitals across this country and no one questions the charge, we will not have true healthcare reform. When was the last time a patient asked their doctor about his/her pricing structure? We never mention price. We just flash them our insurance cards. And, as long as we continue to blame the government rather than realize the effects of our individual actions have on the larger picture, we will not have reform of any type. Less government - more responsibility.
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