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Why fight? Because it matters.
This little noted article on Obama Talking Points Memo explains the Health care fight:
Should you care about the flap over healthcare “mandates”? Does it really tell us anything about whether Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama is more likely to deliver healthcare reform?
In yesterday’s New York Times, Paul Krugman said “Yes.” He pointed out that Clinton’s plan favors mandates that would require everyone who can afford the premiums to sign up for healthcare insurance. Low-income and lower-middle income Americans who cannot afford the premiums would receive subsidies from the government, just as they do in Massachusetts. [snip]
Obama, on the other hand, does not insist that everyone enroll. The healthy and wealthy can opt out. As a result, Krugman points out, Obama’s plan “would face the problem of healthy people who decide to take their chances or don’t sign up until they develop medical problems, thereby raising premiums for everyone else.” Obama’s proposal for universal coverage would be extraordinarily expensive, requiring such steep tax hikes that it would never pass Congress.
That’s the issue in a nutshell. The author of the article, Maggie Mahar, explains why Obama’s plan is much more expensive ($4,400 per person) and does NOT cover every American. Hillary’s healthcare plan covers every American at a cost of $2,700 per person.
Mahar, like Krugman and many intelligent and well-versed others further explains the need to get everyone on board, not just the sick and those with high medical bills to pay. The only way to make universal coverage affordable is if everyone– young and old, rich and poor, sick and healthy—gets into the pool together. (And then, over time, we can work, together, to bring down health care costs.)
Mahar reports that under the assault of reason, Obama has been forced to issue flowery words changing his plan:
Unity and solidarity are, after all, major themes of Obama’s campaign. And so it should not come as a surprise when Baker reports that Obama himself has reconsidered his position , and now realizes that if we want national health reform, we need to have everyone sign up for insurance.
Here is his new plan: “Obama has suggested that we have a system of default enrollment, whereby people are [automatically] signed up for a plan at their workplace.” But this wouldn’t be a mandate, Baker explains: “People would then have the option to say that they do not want insurance, so they are not being forced to buy it. However,” Baker adds, “they will then face a late enrollment penalty if they try to play the ‘healthy person’ game. When they do opt to join the system, at some future point, they will have to pay 50 percent more for their insurance, or some comparable penalty for trying to game the system.“
Obama’s latest flips and flops instead of helping, hurt. Mahar explains:
What Baker doesn’t explain is what we will do with families who cannot afford to pay such stiff penalties when they finally decide they need insurance. Would we subsidize the penalties?
If not, and if everyone believed that the penalty would enforced, then how is this different from a mandate? Everyone knows that, eventually, they will need healthcare. And only the very wealthy could afford to pay 50 percent more than everyone else. So threatening free riders with a steep penalty is, in effect, putting a gun to their heads. It’s a mandate by another name.
Krugman knows that Obama has begun to talk about punishing those who don’t sign up, and so his column covered the possibility of an about-face. It won’t work, said Krugman. Obama has said so many bad things about mandates being coercive that he has painted himself into a corner. If he tries to reverse his position now, conservatives will simply quote everything he ever said about how mandates are “unfair.”
Remember the phrase “flip-flop”?
”The Obama campaign has demonized the idea of mandates,” Krugman continued,“most recently in a scare-tactics mailer sent to voters that bears a striking resemblance to the ‘Harry and Louise’ ads run by the insurance lobby in 1993, ads that helped undermine our last chance at getting universal health care.” (The flyer suggested that the Clinton plan would force low-income people to buy insurance that they can’t afford—ignoring the fact that Clinton’s plan would offer subsidies to the working class.)
So now Obama faces a double-bind: “If Mr. Obama gets to the White House and tries to achieve universal coverage, he’ll find that it can’t be done without mandates–” Krugman writes, “but if he tries to institute mandates, the enemies of reform will use his own words against him.
Mahar, generous to a fault, giving Obama the benefit of the doubt on his healthcare plan, hits upon a deeper truth about Obama – Obama pretends to be a uniter but Obama practices the politics of division:
But I do agree that Obama has put himself in a very difficult position. And I am concerned that his original opposition to mandates reveals that he hadn’t thought through the economics of health care reform. He was simply trying to appeal to some of his most loyal supporters: young, well-educated, relatively affluent Americans who might resent having to buy insurance that they feel they don’t need.
Yet that resentment illustrates just the type of division—in this case between young and old—that Obama says he wants to cure. Repeatedly, he has called for “unity” to heal the country’s problems.
In truth, the only way we will achieve meaningful healthcare reform is if we begin thinking as a community. Young and old, rich and poor—we have to watch each others’ backs. I wrote about this last week after talking to Paul Berwick, CEO of the Institute for Health Care Improvement at a Families USA conference. Berwick, who is one of the most respected figures in American medicine, described how we need to re-imagine our healthcare system while re-allocating resources to provide high quality, sustainable health care for everyone. Passionate and eloquent, Berwick combines hope with pragmatism. He ended his speech by saying, “We’re not going to achieve universal coverage by encouraging everyone to ‘pursue his or her own individual self-interest.’”
Conservatives have divided the nation. We need to begin to think collectively– about what is best for everyone.
Obama is practicing the politics of division while flim-flamming Americans with outright Bushism talk about being a “uniter not a divider”.
Paul Krugman starkly outlines the difference between a Hillary Presidency and what Obama wants to do to us:
“If you combine the economic analysis with these political realities,” he continues, “ here’s what I think it says: If Mrs. Clinton gets the Democratic nomination, there is some chance — nobody knows how big — that we’ll get universal health care in the next administration. If Mr. Obama gets the nomination, it just won’t happen.”
The choice is clear. Hillary for Healthcare.