Good morning, and welcome to one more in what seems our endless series of town hall Q&As. Yeah, they are kind of boring, even for me.
This time, instead of trying to field your very worthwhile questions, I’ll give you the answers in advance. Yup, I’m going to make a speech . . . and try to dispel some of the nonsense that’s obscured the real issues in healthcare reform.
Instead of coming up with a prepackaged reform program, like the Clintons did, I put forth some important objectives and left the legislative aspects up to Congress. This was clearly Mistake Number One. This time, I thought, Congress had to have the major role in the effort.
I should have realized that the committee process was the surest way to dilute all my major objectives into weak tea . . . or medications whose service dates have expired. HR-3200 has been called “an arrogant, tone deaf and yet oddly cowardly bill.” That’s exactly right. Sorry, fellow Democrats, we have got to do better.
Mistake Number Two: Instead of framing the issue in terms you folks could understand, I got wonkish and spoke too much about budgetary and legislative details . . . and not enough about what reform must accomplish. In my defense, I had trouble selling reform because there was no concrete plan yet to sell.
So we’ve spent the past month and more watching four Congressional committees give birth to four tepid markups, all of which are compromises with the big stakeholders: the insurance industry, the medical-industrial complex, their lobbyists, and the CBO. All of these have bona fide, convincing reasons for not reforming healthcare. Or, should I say, reforming it their way.
Mistake Three was trusting the Republican opposition to help me achieve a bipartisan outcome. Instead, they have gone on to attack every aspect of the reform measures that emerged. Everything from Medicare reimbursement to accusing me of promoting euthanasia. They call the bill fiscally irresponsible, when most all the costs are accounted for and paid in advance. This from the folks who passed George Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy, which will balloon to a $3.9 trillion cost over ten years. Please . . . don’t get me started on these hypocrite bastards.
Just as they did in ’93-94, the other side is using every kind of scare tactic to kill reform. We talk about the benefits; they twist and distort the costs. We tell how insurers deny coverage; they accuse the government of rationing. They dodge or ignore the incredible inflation of healthcare costs and how that has come to dominate our economy.
Let’s be clear: You cannot work with people who have so little conscience and who, finally, are captive to the very forces they are supposed to regulate and govern. So here’s what we’re going to do.
We are going to draft a new healthcare reform bill that reflects the real needs and priorities of our nation. It will build on the eight-point bill of rights for consumers we released this week.
It will be designed on a single-payer model, after Medicare but embodying the lessons learned these many years in executing and managing that program.
It will address all issues of costs—front-end and back-end, present and future—in detail. We will pay for the program, not by a tax on the wealthy but by increased taxes on unhealthful products and activities, plus reasonable taxes on the healthcare industry, meaning hospitals, providers and big pharma. They can afford it.
These folks have seen fit to spend some $133 million on lobbying in just the past three months to defeat reform. And that doesn’t include money spent by professional associations like the Chamber of Commerce.
We will make clear that the new healthcare model benefits both the uninsured and those who have insurance; not only the under-insured and the insurance-denied, but the folks who are being made insurance poor.
I will make this case to the people, not just to unify our party in support of fairness and equity but because it’s so clearly the right thing to do. Liberals, Blue Dogs, all of us have got to stop fighting over details and come together on principle.
This will be a grass-roots campaign and a new start for the kind of real healthcare reform we all need and deserve. Yes, it will take more time, but remember, I told you change was our mantra.