Friday, October 23, 2009

Who was trying to gut Medicare, again?

The number one insurance industry scare tactic related to health care reform as always been the threat that the government will ration your health care access if any sort of federal health care reform passes. The most recent Republican rallying cry against health care reform has been the notion that Democrats are going to cut Medicare. This trope has been kicking around right wing circles for sometime despite the fact that the only plan that would actually cut or ration Medicare services is a Republican plan whose own sponsor has now abandoned it. Yet the trope has gained a lot of traction in a lot of circles because of the skill of the right wing spin machine in exploiting basic human fears.

All this propaganda aside, Democrats recently tried to pass a bill (originally co-sponsored Republican Senator John Kyl of Arizona) to fix the deeply flawed system which Medicare uses to determine payment to physicians. Congress has, for several years now, been ignoring the system of payment with a series of delaying actions to keep the full damage from being done to the Medicare system. This has allowed 'fiscal conservatives' to claim that money is being saved when, in actuality, the system designed to reduce costs is not being implemented in order to prevent turning Medicare into the same kind of health care ghetto as Medicaid. This is a financial shell game that the Democratic leadership and the White House attempted to bring to and end by simply making the system actually in use the legal system of compensation.

Republicans were having none of that. All but one Senate Republican (Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse) voted against cloture, allowing the anti-reform crowd to filibuster the bill if they wish to do so. Eleven Democratic Senators , unfortunately, joined in them in blocking the bill. The fact that Virginia's two Democratic Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb joined Tennessee's Republican clowns Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker in opposition to the bill was especially galling. I had thought much better of both men. Original co-sponsor John Kyl (see the Malkin link below) voted against cloture and even denied co-sponsoring the bill.

Michelle Malkin, always ready with something nasty to say in such situations, crowed at the failure of 'Obamacare's bribe to doctors.' I understand the GOP's commitment to the rhetoric of fiscal responsibility, but in this case true fiscal responsibility would be to tell the truth to one's selves and the American people about what one is going to spend on health care. A partisan propaganda machine so determined to convince Americans that health care reform is a threat to Medicare and to seniors should probably be supported by a policy machine willing to step up to the plate and do something to secure the stability of medical access for Medicare recipients. When it is not, it shows the truth: the Republican opponents of health care reform are liars who do not care about the cost of human life and economic drain our current system represents. When their actions prove their lies, it is time to stop taking anything they say seriously.

As a brief aside, I should note that there are those who believe the only possible reason the left might have to heap verbal abuse on Michelle Malkin is misogyny. I think it is far more accurate to say that she invites attack upon herself by proving herself to be a lying and unprincipled shill for a morally bankrupt political machine. When one crows about the defeat of a measure intended to clean up a dirty mess, one invites abuse.

Dr. Ron Chusid write a far more incisive analysis of the situation that those offended by Malkin's line of crap should take the time to read.

It should be noted that Republicans alone are not to blame. Democratic Senators Evan Bayh (IN), Robert Byrd (WV), Kent Conrad (ND), Byron Dorgan (NM), Russ Feingold (WI), Herb Kohl (WI), Claire McCaskill (MO), Bill Nelson (FL), Jon Tester (MT), Mark Warner and Jim Webb (VA), Ron Wyden (OR) were joined by Independent caucus-mate Joe Lieberman (CT) in backing the Republicans in this idiotic perpetuation of a corrupt lie. I can only speculate on their reasons. Nelson is the most surprising, as he represents a great many seniors in Florida and was said to be shaky on the Baucus bill because some of its features might look bad to Medicare recipients. So he is willing to vote against properly paying their doctors instead?

More surprising, perhaps, is that Republican-in-Democrat's-clothing Ben Nelson of Nebraska voted in favor of cloture.

Those of you happily polishing your Democratic Party tie tacks should keep this in mind. Not everyone you are voting for is on your side anymore than the Republicans you are voting against. Some of the people choosing to oppose this real fix to a broken payment system were people for whom I had a great deal of respect before seeing the list of votes. Those people have dropped several notches.

All of this goes to show just how deep the tendrils of the insurance companies are sunk into fighting health care reform at all costs. The people claiming to be defending seniors from health care reform stabbed those they claimed to be defending in the back and are crowing about their great accomplishments. Some of those who should have been committed to truly defending seniors from conservative daggers instead helped the right-wingers aim the knives.

What makes my teeth grind the most, however, is Robert Byrd voting against a Medicare fix. I realize he has the full benefits of the Congressional Health Plan at his own disposal, but you would think he'd have a little understanding and compassion for the elderly. All things considered.


democommie said...

Robert Byrd is an ass. Michelle Malkin is the flip side of that.

Chris Richards said...

Well, Byrd made his bones opposing integration of the army alongside Strom Thurmond. So I know he's an ass.

It just pisses me off when so many Democrats (some of whom are allegedly not asses) flip to the no-cloture side over something so important.