Public option still alive: believe it…or not

The fact that there are still believers in the public option, and its inclusion in whatever health bill eventually survives, may say more about the believers than the belief. But Nancy Pelosi hasn’t yet caved, and a few among the many who see this as the only way real reform will happen are still betting on it. Two of those are strategic technology consultant Robert Weiner and his research chief Rebecca Vander Linde who penned an op ed in the San Francisco Chronicle Friday. I’m not a gambler, but I cheer their position.

Opponents’ caricatures have become commonplace – the Republican National Committee video puts House Speaker Nancy Pelosi side by side with James Bond’s villainess, Miss Galore. The Iowa Republican, a party newsletter, on Sept. 18 called Pelosi “inept at her job.” Actor and former Sen. Fred Thompson labeled her “naive.” On Sept. 10, master Republican strategist Karl Rove asked, “How much capital will Speaker Nancy Pelosi have” to pass health care?

Pelosi answered that in a conversation Sept. 29 at House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers‘ 80th birthday party, after the Senate Finance Committee had just rejected the Medicare-like public option for all by a 10-13 vote: “We will not be deterred. We will pass the bill.”

The public option is still viable. The House is set to pass it. It is neither “fading” nor “waning” (New York Times) nor on “life support” (ABC News).

Citing a recent CBS News poll that showed public support for the public option rose from 57 to 68 percent after President Obama’s speech to Congress in September, Weiner and Vander Linde argue that keeping it is the only way to “counter the insurance stranglehold” that makes our current system so dysfunctional — and that Pelosi will keep it in the blended version of the three House bills and eventually see it through.

For those who doubt Pelosi’s ability to pass the bill, know that she has passed every bill she has brought forward, usually with 60-plus margins, since the Democrats recaptured the House in 2006. These include the Recovery Act, Credit Card Bill of Rights, Homeowner Affordability, Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay, Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) and State Children’s Health Program expansion to 11 million youths.

About the Senate…

Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus, D-Mont., said he could not vote for the public option because “I can’t see how we get to 60 votes.” The Constitution and the law require only a majority 51. The Senate amended its rules to require a “supermajority” to end debate. This procedure, called cloture, is a pander to allow special-interest contributors (Baucus has a million dollars from insurance companies) to block bills. Pelosi is right to support Senate “reconciliation,” which would allow a simple majority to pass health reform Americans want.

We believers may turn out just to be dreamers, but we’re still sending e-mails to Speaker Pelosi.

via Public option still alive – believe it.

Safeway carrot-stick plan a boon to reform

There was a little local pride in a key segment of the Senate Finance Committee’s health care bill reported today by Andrew S. Ross of the San Francisco Chronicle:

It’s not every day a local grocery has a congressional amendment named after it. Such an honor has been bestowed on Pleasanton’s Safeway Inc., whose stick-and-carrot health insurance program is the model for a “wellness provision” in a health care reform bill that passed the Senate Finance Committee last week by an unusually bipartisan 18-4 vote.

“Yes, it’s quite fair to call it the ‘Safeway amendment,’ ” said a spokesman for Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., who co-sponsored the amendment with Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del. “He’s a big advocate of the Safeway program.”The provision, designed to “incentivize Americans to lead healthy lifestyles in order to lower their overall health care costs,” would allow companies with self-insurance programs to reward employees with bonuses and/or premium reductions of up to 50 percent if they follow health guidelines, like undergoing regular screenings, quitting smoking, losing weight, taking cholesterol-reducing medications and so on.

While some question the accuracy of reported cost savings, the measure has strong support among key politicians up to and including President Obama.

As a beneficiary of Kaiser‘s “wellness” program — a constant push toward healthy lifestyles and preventive medicine — I hope this piece of the legislation stays. As long as he’s not going to resign, Senator Ensign might as well be doing something useful over there.

via Safeway plan part of Senate health care debate.

End-of-Life Care is Losing to Lies

Here is some of the current worst news on health reform:

The Senate Finance Committee’s health care plan will not include provisions dealing with end-of-life care, now one of the more controversial topics in the health care debate, the committee’s top Republican said on Wednesday.

Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa said in a statement that the committee “dropped end-of-life provisions from consideration entirely because of the way they could be misinterpreted and implemented incorrectly.”

If anyone knows misinterpretation, it’s Senator Grassley. He’s the originator of such enlightened parting phrases as the one he tossed out at an Iowa meeting Wednesday, about not wanting a health plan “that will pull the plug on grandma.” There is, of course, no grain of truth in that phrase, but its repetition does exactly what Sen. Grassley and his ilk wish: whip the opposition to any real reform into an emotional, unthinking frenzy. And they are winning the war against reason one battle at a time.

A Senate Finance Committee aide confirmed that the panel was not discussing end-of-life measures, adding that they were “never a major focus” of the committee’s negotiations.

House committees have passed legislation that would provide Medicare coverage for optional counseling sessions on end-of-life services.

But as people like Senator Grassley, and former N.Y. Lt. Governor Betsy McCaughey who sought fame and perhaps fortune by starting this whole flap, keep the country inflamed with misinformation the chances of decent legislation rising from these ashes grow dim.

The hopeless optimists of the land continue to believe that calls and letters and e-mails of sanity will convince our legislators that the country will rally around a decent bill… but Mr. Grassley and Ms. McCaughey are making optimism difficult.

via Senate Bill Will Not Address End-of-Life Care – Prescriptions Blog – NYTimes.com.