Monday, August 3, 2009

Oh Snap!!! K.O. Delivers a K.O. to Insurance Co.'s/Republicans/Blue Dogs

Here's tonight's especially awesome "Special Comment" by Keith Olbermann on his show, Countdown.

Did K.O. just call Senator John Thune (R-SD) a dirty whore???  Hells yes he did!

...What was that one statement worth to you in contributions from the Health Sector, Sen. Thune?  Five thousand dollars? Ten? We know what you are, Sir, we're arguing about the price.

Don't worry, he doesn't stop there!  Keith calls out many of the Republicans blocking much needed health care reform, as well as some of the "Blue Dogs" who have sold their votes to the insurance lobby, leaving their constituents uninsured, under-insured, or otherwise screwed by these soulless-vampires-making-money-off-human-pain.

Here's the full Special Comment for your viewing pleasure.


Anonymous said...

I think sometimes there's something to be said for the idea that a politician has been "bought" by a certain industry. But I think this sort of argument can easily be taken too far. It can even be used hysterically as Olbermann uses it.

I think the most important consideration is whether a policy is a good one or not. The motives of the people voting for policies are a secondary issue. After all, if some corporation lobbies a politician to support a progressive cause (which often happens, because large corporations know they often can deal with the costs imposed by government regulations better than their smaller competitors. See: Walmart's recent switch on health care.) would it cause you to complain? Probably not. Secondly, it's hard to know why someone does something, unless you're a mind-reader.

Regarding the first point, I think a pretty good argument can be made for having no public plan. Indeed, a good argument can be made that our high health care prices have more to do with misguided public policy over the last 60 years or so than with the greed of insurance companies. In a competitive market, there is an incentive for companies to provide service at the lowest cost possible. And indeed, it's not uncommon to see goods and services become more affordable over time. (e.g. airline tickets, computers, etc.) Corporations are self-interested, but they can often perform quite well. So, if a public plan would be a bad idea (e.g. it could add to the deficit), this whole debate is moot.

Regarding the second point, one might be able to explain politicians voting patters by what their own constituents want in many cases. Certainly the uninsured will not be a majority of voters in many districts. It may not be necessary to posit any corruption or conspiracy theories at all.


ShamRockNRoll said...

All the recent polling on a public option shows that yes, their constituents do want it. Obviously this won't be the case in every district, but the national numbers I've seen are so supportive of it that it would likely translate into many of these "blue dog" districts supporting it as well.

Bill said...

I think that it is often the case that lobbyists identify members of congress who are supportive of their interests and they then fund their campaigns to try to ensure that those members of congress keep their jobs. I would agree that politicians don't make these decisions based purely on who gives them money.

Still, a whole lot of money in campaign contributions should at least be able to make some difference if a politician is on the fence on an issue. It's up to the voters to try to sway him in the other direction, if, as polls would suggest, the majority of their constituents want a public option.

Most politicians aren't in it purely for the money. They could easily make bank off of quitting their jobs and working as lobbyists themselves. Most of them were already rich before they ran for office. It's not about the money, it's about the power. These people don't want to lose their positions of power. Winning elections costs money, and these guys don't want to be spending their own money on getting reelected if they don't have to.

ShamRockNRoll said...

Well put, Bill.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's as overwhelming as you say.

E.g. "Among the unaffiliated, 35% are in favor of the Democrats’ health-care reform initiative, and 60% are opposed."

"Specifically, 63% of voters agreed with the president earlier this year when he said, “We must make it a priority to give every single American quality affordable health care.” Yet while they agree in theory, only 28% are currently willing to pay higher taxes to achieve that goal."

The Blue Dogs may well be watching the polls.

There are arguments in favor of a single-payer system or an expanded public system. But the biggest reason is that, IF the government used this power to set low prices or curb demand for health care, we could see prices level off or go down. However, Obama et al. have shown no political will to do such things. They seem to be interested only in more largesse. That's why I don't think they are credible when they talk about cutting costs and the plan paying for itself. It's going to cost money, on top of the already huge problem that Medicare spending was going to be anyway.

I think there are two ways, that I know of, to fix the budget situation. Government can start backing out of the health care business OR it can go in a European direction and fix prices and ration care, etc. There are arguments for both of these solutions. A problem with the latter, however, is that we would have a completely different health system. E.g. doctors might get paid about 1/3 of what they are paid now (look at Europe).

Btw, Obama is not suggesting either of these plans.


Bill said...

These are poll numbers from over a month ago, and they directly relate to the public option in particular. The poll you cited would suggest that the people haven't necessarily soured on the public option, but only that they do not favor the Democrats' initiative. They may have more to do with people's lack of faith in the Democratic Party to deliver on reform than anything.

Anonymous said...

I saw that there were some polls from June, but I didn't think they were any longer relevant. And anyway, the first link you give has the public split 47-44 on the public option. And most of the independents opposed it in one of those polls (51%).

So, I don't think it's odd for a Democrat from a moderate or conservative district to oppose a public plan.

ALso, what do you guys think are the merits of the public option? It will clearly cost quite a bit, and if it ends up being popular, it will cost even more, because more people will join it. And we already have $1.8 trillion deficit. How would you propose to pay for this public option?

If you read about health care economics, you will see that the main argument in favor of a public health care insurance system is that it can be used to cut down costs by cutting the use of health care (by restricting various treatments), paying drug companies less, paying doctors less, etc. The government would have a "monopsony" on health services.

But this is not really how the Democrats are selling their plan to the public.

Another argument I had heard was that Medicare has lower administrative costs than private insurance, and therefore is more efficient. I found out that this is bogus. In fact, the Medicare administrative cost per patient was higher than for private insurance. The Medicare administrative cost as a % of their total budget was lower, but that's only b/c they tend to spend an enormous amount per person on health care (think about it, old people are going to need a lot of health care). But the latter is not a good measure of efficiency. Analogy: NOtre Dame saying they spend less on food as a % of their budget than Podunk U. does. But it could turn out that ND spends $5,000 a year on food per person, whereas Podunk spends $1,000. But if ND spends $50,000 on non-food items, and Podunk spends $4,000 on non-food items, ND will indeed spend less of its budget on food, percentage-wise, but it's an irrelevant statistic.