Wednesday, July 29, 2009

White House Health Care Bullet Points

With even more health care news passing through on Tuesday -- including some really odd nuggets coming from the House of Representatives -- President Barack Obama admitted during an AARP-sanctioned town hall meeting that he was "a little frustrated" that more progress hasn't been made on his top domestic agenda.

A little frustrated, Mr. President? Really? How do you think those of us without health coverage (all 47 million of us), or those who have inadequate coverage, feel? What about Americans who have just lost their coverage because they came down with cancer, even though they always paid their premiums on time?

Sorry, got a little carried away there ... then again, if I were President and my party had a clear majority in both chambers of Congress, I'd be a tad miffed with the lack of progress too. Blue Dog Democrats seem more content to compromise with Republicans and line their pockets with money funneled to them by the private insurance companies (looking at you, Max Baucus ...).

If the private insurers had their way, no bill would pass. Or if one did, it would be so watered-down that it wouldn't matter.

The White House on Wednesday announced that not only would Obama spend the day in North Carolina and southwest Virginia -- traditionally Republican areas -- trying to push his health care reform pitch, he would do so with a more focused message.

Before I get into that, though ... anyone else notice that for the last few weeks, Obama stopped calling it "health care reform" and opted for "health insurance reform" instead? Despite what the champions of status quo might tell you, there is a difference.

Heading into these travel sessions, the President has fine-tuned his message, bullet-point style. Not the catchiest thing in the world, but there are eight points at the focus of his newfound health care reform pitch. The eight points, according to White House aides, are as follows:

-No Discrimination for Pre-Existing Conditions: Insurance companies will be prohibited from refusing you coverage because of your medical history.

-No Exorbitant Out-of-Pocket Expenses, Deductibles or Co-Pays: Insurance companies will have to abide by yearly caps on how much they can charge for out-of-pocket expenses.

-No Cost-Sharing for Preventive Care: Insurance companies must fully cover, without charge, regular checkups and tests that help you prevent illness, such as mammograms or eye and foot exams for diabetics.

-No Dropping of Coverage for Seriously Ill: Insurance companies will be prohibited from dropping or watering down insurance coverage for those who become seriously ill.

-No Gender Discrimination: Insurance companies will be prohibited from charging you more because of your gender.

-No Annual or Lifetime Caps on Coverage: Insurance companies will be prevented from placing annual or lifetime caps on the coverage you receive.

-Extended Coverage for Young Adults: Children would continue to be eligible for family coverage through the age of 26.

-Guaranteed Insurance Renewal: Insurance companies will be required to renew any policy as long as the policyholder pays their premium in full. Insurance companies won't be allowed to refuse renewal because someone became sick.

While many of these points are all well and good -- I've been fighting to get those with pre-existing conditions covered and to stop policy recission for a few months now -- none of the eight points mentions anything about a public option. You know, a government-run, public health coverage option that 72 percent of the American people want. The same public system that members of Congress and the military have. A model similar to Medicare or the VA plan.

Bill Kristol, right-wing blowhard extraordinaire, went on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Monday night and admitted the government could run a quality health care system ... because they already did so for the military. Kristol's point? Regular Americans don't deserve that kind of quality health care.

Thanks for looking out for us, Bill ...

Some Republican members of Congress, Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina among them, are suggesting health care reform would give the government the right to deny elderly people treatment, thus sending them to their deaths.

If that sounds kinda wrong and even more wacky than the conspiracy suggesting our President wasn't born in the United States, that's because it is. Not even a wise Latina could make sense out of the bluster spewing from the Republicans' collective blowholes.

It is worth noting, however, that during Obama's town hall on Tuesday, he twice expressed his support for a public option. The President mentioned last month that he would not sign a health care reform bill that lacked a strong public option designed to lower costs and premiums by competing with the corporate private insurers.

Hammering home this point? On MSNBC's Countdown on Tuesday, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (guest-hosting for Keith Olbermann) spoke at great length about the health care debate, calling Democrat attempts at bipartisanship a waste of time and detrimental to the bill. He also spoke with Wendell Potter, a former private insurance representative who has since turned into a whistleblower for the industry, and Philip Longman, author of the book Best Care Anywhere: Why VA Health Care is Better Than Yours.

Rachel Maddow was also in on the debate, talking to Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders about health care reform. Sanders was not only adamant that health care reform without a public option was not really reform, he tore into the Senate Finance Committee for trying to reach an agreement on a bill that lacked such an option.

There are people on our side -- even if much of the mainstream media would have us believe otherwise. We just have to keep voicing our support on this, and do everything we can to get those who are on the fence to join the cause as well. August is going to be a hard month, with the Republican National Committee spending $1 million to kill health care reform, and the health insurance industry lobbying as best they can to do the same.

Our voices have to be louder. Talk to your Congressional officials during the August recess, tell them what you want. Write the White House; implore the President to make good on his promise and veto any bill that does not include a public option. We have to get this one right ... health care reform has been an on-again, off-again debate for the last 62 years -- since Harry Truman was President.

Isn't it about time we did something for the American people and not the faceless beaurocrats who sit back and count their millions while the rest of us fight to make ends meet and fear being one illness or injury away from losing everything?

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