Tag Archives: Paul Krugman

Max Baucus’s Healthcare Reform Bill – Is it better than nothing?

It’s nearly unanimous.  The Healthcare Reform Bill presented by Max Baucus and the Senate Finance Committee is not a good bill. 

No matter what the bill said, you knew the Republicans would rally against it.  That is what obstructionists do.  Republicans don’t even pretend to be bi-partisan.  This bill is fantastic for the insurance companies which, doesn’t fully eliminate pre-existing conditions and even introduces co-operatives.  All Republican backed these ideas though they are still coming out against it because just the mere fact that a bill passes into law with the words ‘Healthcare Reform” attached to it and it will be perceived as a Democratic Party victory.  Forget that this bill would be a victory for their corporate love interests.

Meanwhile, liberals and most progressives like the idea of a single-payer Medicare for All plan.  Anything short of that is failure.  They will bash whatever plan is out there (as I did with Baucus’s plan).  Their argument is that the Democrats control Congress and the White House so let’s just come up with the real liberal bill.

Blue Dog Democrats (or as I like to call them Moderate Republican) are in favor of many of the items in the Baucus bill.  That said, I still haven’t read one story of someone coming out in favor of the bill other than Max Baucus.

What surprises me is that Olympia Snowe (R-ME) is against this bill.  I figured that since it had co-opts in there, she would have approved.  Looks like she too is putting party before country. 

Don’t get me wrong.  Baucus’s bill doesn’t put country first.  It puts corporate interests first which is just as bad. 

Paul Krugman published an op-ed Thursday that further analyzed the reaction of this bill. 

“You see, it has been clear for months that whatever health-care bill finally emerges will fall far short of reformers’ hopes. Yet even a bad bill could be much better than nothing. The question is where to draw the line. How bad does a bill have to be to make it too bad to vote for?”

I disagree that a ‘bad bill’ is better than nothing.  This bill is good for the insurance industry and really doesn’t help people.  It doesn’t lower cost as it actually will cost more and it doesn’t offer better access.  It penalizes those who do not purchase coverage.  If pre-existing conditions are permitted for even one day, Americans would still suffer the risk of financial ruin.  Besides, who determines what exactly is a pre-existing condition?

“Now, the moment of truth isn’t here quite yet: There’s enough wrong with the Baucus proposal as it stands to make it unworkable and unacceptable. But that said, Senator Baucus’s mark is better than many of us expected. If it serves as a basis for negotiation, and the result of those negotiations is a plan that’s stronger, not weaker, reformers are going to have to make some hard choices about the degree of disappointment they’re willing to live with.”

Mr. Krugman said that this bill was better than he expected.  What kind of garbage was he expecting?  J

Krugman’s op-ed also provided examples of countries with universal coverage that utilize the private insurance system to achieve their goal.  He also cited the Massachusetts health reform that – though flawed – is far better than what currently exists in the U.S.

Krugman outlines the 3 major areas of inadequacy of the Baucus bill:

“First, it bungles the so-called “employer mandate.” Most reform plans include a provision requiring that large employers either provide their workers with health coverage or pay into a fund that would help workers who don’t get insurance through their job buy coverage on their own. Mr. Baucus, however, gets too clever, trying to tie each employer’s fees to the subsidies its own employees end up getting.”

“That’s a terrible idea. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, it would make companies reluctant to hire workers from lower-income families — and it would also create a bureaucratic nightmare. This provision has to go and be replaced with a simple pay-or-play rule.”

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, if my company offers me a less than adequate plan, I should be able to opt into the public option.  Without it, there is no incentive for my company to offer me any quality coverage. 

Additionally, if I were to opt out into the so called public option, I would expect my company to have to supply my employer contribution into the plan.  If they are permitted to keep the money, it would mean huge savings for my company. 

In my case, my employer contributes roughly $7,000 for my health coverage.  If they are not required to contribute it to the public option, they will save $7,000.  I work at a large corporation with more than 10,000 employees.  Let’s say 10,000 employees opt out, my company will save approximately $7,000 for ten thousand employees.  You do the math.

“Second, the plan is too stingy when it comes to financial aid. Lower-middle-class families, in particular, would end up paying much more in premiums than they do under the Massachusetts plan, suggesting that for many people insurance would not, in fact, be affordable. Fixing this means spending more than Mr. Baucus proposes.”

This plan is stingy when it comes to assisting the Americans who need it the most yet it calls for $349 billion in cash raised through taxes and fees. 

Look at Krugman’s last line in this paragraph – ‘fixing this means spending more than Mr. Baucus proposes.’  In my post from September 16th, I pointed out that this estimate is inaccurate predicting an estimate closer to $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion.  If Mr. Krugman is correct in his thoughts, the concern I have is that the final number may push past the $1.5 trillion mark. 

Third, the plan doesn’t create real competition in the insurance market. The right way to create competition is to offer a public option, a government-run insurance plan individuals can buy into as an alternative to private insurance. The Baucus plan instead proposes a fake alternative, nonprofit insurance cooperatives — and it places so many restrictions on these cooperatives that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, they “seem unlikely to establish a significant market presence in many areas of the country.”

Mr. Krugman is correct here.  From 1986-1991 I worked for the federal government.  Each year, for open enrollment, I entered the cafeteria to a plethora of insurance companies each seeking my business.  I spoke to representatives of the companies and brought home documentation to read describing each plan.  I selected the plan that best suited my needs at the time – a single man in my mid-20’s with no children.  I rarely needed the plan, just as I expected but when I did, it performed exactly as I needed it to. 

That is what we need.  If we cannot run with full Medicare for all, then the only other alternative is the Public Option for all.   Plans offered by insurance companies but managed and regulated by the government.  Insurance companies will still make nice profits, all Americans will receive coverage, all Americans will have choice through competition thus driving down price. 

“The insurance industry, of course, loves the Baucus plan. Need we say more?”

Of course they do.  The industry loves it – Republicans are afraid to support it – liberal Democrats hate it. 

Where Mr. Krugman thinks this should be a starting point, I believe we should start by shredding all 1000+ pages.

“It would be disastrous if health care goes the way of the economic stimulus plan, earlier this year. As you may recall, that plan — which was clearly too weak even as originally proposed — was made even weaker to win the support of three Republican senators. If the same thing happens to health reform, progressives should and will walk away.”

Mr. Krugman is spot on here.  Democrats are working very hard to appease Blue Dog Republicans Democrats and win over the love of Olympia Snowe.    That is a bad idea and I agree – progressives need to run away.

“But maybe things will go the other way, and Mr. Baucus (and the White House) will, for once, actually listen to progressive concerns, making the bill stronger.”

“Even if the Baucus plan gets better, rather than worse, what emerges won’t be legislation reformers can love. Will it nonetheless be legislation that passes the threshold of acceptability, legislation they can vote for? We’ll see.”

Read:  Baucus and the Threshold

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McCain – Palin and their ‘Blizzard of Lies’

Paul Krugman wrote an excellent commentary for the New York Times about the barrage of lies coming out of the McCain – Palin campaign.  He does a great job in comparing this campaign with that of the Bush – Cheney campaign of 2000. 

That on the surface is scary enough.  Krugman takes it further by discussing what we’ve been hearing most of the year –that how a candidate campaigns tells you about how they would govern.  Again, he uses the 2000 Bush – Cheney campaign as the example.

Judging by how McCain has run this campaign and if Krugman is correct (and I suspect that he is) we better watch out. 

 

Blizzard of Lies

By PAUL KRUGMAN

Did you hear about how Barack Obama wants to have sex education in kindergarten, and called Sarah Palin a pig? Did you hear about how Ms. Palin told Congress, “Thanks, but no thanks” when it wanted to buy Alaska a Bridge to Nowhere?

These stories have two things in common: they’re all claims recently made by the McCain campaign — and they’re all out-and-out lies.

Dishonesty is nothing new in politics. I spent much of 2000 — my first year at The Times — trying to alert readers to the blatant dishonesty of the Bush campaign’s claims about taxes, spending and Social Security.

But I can’t think of any precedent, at least in America, for the blizzard of lies since the Republican convention. The Bush campaign’s lies in 2000 were artful — you needed some grasp of arithmetic to realize that you were being conned. This year, however, the McCain campaign keeps making assertions that anyone with an Internet connection can disprove in a minute, and repeating these assertions over and over again.

Take the case of the Bridge to Nowhere, which supposedly gives Ms. Palin credentials as a reformer. Well, when campaigning for governor, Ms. Palin didn’t say “no thanks” — she was all for the bridge, even though it had already become a national scandal, insisting that she would “not allow the spinmeisters to turn this project or any other into something that’s so negative.”

Oh, and when she finally did decide to cancel the project, she didn’t righteously reject a handout from Washington: she accepted the handout, but spent it on something else. You see, long before she decided to cancel the bridge, Congress had told Alaska that it could keep the federal money originally earmarked for that project and use it elsewhere.

So the whole story of Ms. Palin’s alleged heroic stand against wasteful spending is fiction.

Or take the story of Mr. Obama’s alleged advocacy of kindergarten sex-ed. In reality, he supported legislation calling for “age and developmentally appropriate education”; in the case of young children, that would have meant guidance to help them avoid sexual predators.

And then there’s the claim that Mr. Obama’s use of the ordinary metaphor “putting lipstick on a pig” was a sexist smear, and on and on.

Why do the McCain people think they can get away with this stuff? Well, they’re probably counting on the common practice in the news media of being “balanced” at all costs. You know how it goes: If a politician says that black is white, the news report doesn’t say that he’s wrong, it reports that “some Democrats say” that he’s wrong. Or a grotesque lie from one side is paired with a trivial misstatement from the other, conveying the impression that both sides are equally dirty.

They’re probably also counting on the prevalence of horse-race reporting, so that instead of the story being “McCain campaign lies,” it becomes “Obama on defensive in face of attacks.”

Still, how upset should we be about the McCain campaign’s lies? I mean, politics ain’t beanbag, and all that.

One answer is that the muck being hurled by the McCain campaign is preventing a debate on real issues — on whether the country really wants, for example, to continue the economic policies of the last eight years.

But there’s another answer, which may be even more important: how a politician campaigns tells you a lot about how he or she would govern.

I’m not talking about the theory, often advanced as a defense of horse-race political reporting, that the skills needed to run a winning campaign are the same as those needed to run the country. The contrast between the Bush political team’s ruthless effectiveness and the heckuva job done by the Bush administration is living, breathing, bumbling, and, in the case of the emerging Interior Department scandal, coke-snorting and bed-hopping proof to the contrary.

I’m talking, instead, about the relationship between the character of a campaign and that of the administration that follows. Thus, the deceptive and dishonest 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign provided an all-too-revealing preview of things to come. In fact, my early suspicion that we were being misled about the threat from Iraq came from the way the political tactics being used to sell the war resembled the tactics that had earlier been used to sell the Bush tax cuts.

And now the team that hopes to form the next administration is running a campaign that makes Bush-Cheney 2000 look like something out of a civics class. What does that say about how that team would run the country?

What it says, I’d argue, is that the Obama campaign is wrong to suggest that a McCain-Palin administration would just be a continuation of Bush-Cheney. If the way John McCain and Sarah Palin are campaigning is any indication, it would be much, much worse