Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Election in Massachusetts

I'm not surprised at the election results in Massachusetts. It's true that Coakley ran an amazingly bad campaign, but the Dems would have been in trouble anyway. After all, Obama hasn't done any of the things that those who voted for him thought he'd promised. (As I've often said before, he didn't really promise most of those things, but I've beaten that one into the ground.) But what has he done? Put the people responsible for the financial crisis in positions of power and authority. Handed a lot of money to the people who brought us the financial crisis. Sent the military to places they shouldn't be. Done nothing to alleviate the foreclosure crisis--after all, that might make the bankers mad. Done very little to deal with the crises for ordinary people caused by unemployment--loss of housing, medical insurance etc. And then there's that awful, dreadful, appalling health insurance "reform."

The plan solves a few problems. It puts medically indigent adults back into Medicaid. (The Democrats dumped them on the public hospitals in 1978.) It prevents insurers from refusing to insure those who have pre-existing conditions, which protects middle-and-upper income people who can't get insurance at all. But it doesn't do much more than that. What it does do is force moderate-income families to buy insurance that they won't be able to afford to use. Moderate-to-middle income families wouldn't be able to afford the gold or silver plans, and would be forced into what I call the plastic plans. Those are the ones that will require people who can barely meet the premiums to haul out their plastic to pay the co-pays and deductibles. These plans pay only 65% of costs. A serious illness would bankrupt them just as surely as going without insurance entirely.

And people figured this out, even though the Administration and the Democrats sought to hide the actual costs. Had they believed that this was something worth supporting, they'd have done what the sponsors of Proposition 186 did in California. The curious could use their calculator to see what the insurance cost would be, given income and family size. Obfuscation is not a good way to convince people that your plan will help them. Indeed, even those who would benefit might oppose it if they can't figure out how it works.

What people did notice was that the lobbyists were winning--that Big Pharma and the health insurers were getting everything they wanted. There was no reason to do this. After Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, it's hard to find a more detested group of industrial leaders than health insurers. Even people with good insurance have horror stories. But the Democrats didn't have the sense to exploit this, to force the Republicans into bed with Blue Cross, and so ended up with Blue Cross in their bed. Not so bright, obviously.

Alexander Cockburn suggests that the health insurers and Big Pharma might try to push health insurance "reform" through anyway. They've invested so much in it, and get so much from it, that they might be able to find some Republican support. Then the Dems could create a calculator showing how much this will cost most families.

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