Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 8, 2009

THE BEST SYSTEM SINCE THE DAWN OF TIME.... There's a script Republicans lawmakers are supposed to stick to on health care. They're encouraged to engage in anti-government demagoguery, but they're also not supposed to defend the status quo. After all, if there's one thing most Americans agree on in this debate, it's that the current system is a mess.

It's why I found Sen. Richard Shelby's (R-Ala.) remarks on Fox News yesterday pretty interesting.

"One, we don't know how much [a reform package is] going to cost and who's going to pay for it," he said. "Secondly, it will be the first steps in destroying the best health care system the world has ever known."

Really? The current U.S. health care system is the best, not only in the world, but in the history of the world?

I haven't seen this quote generate much in the way of attention, but Shelby's remarks yesterday strike me as a possible opportunity for Democrats. Here we have a prominent Republican senator defending the status quo as the best system "the world has ever known." Do the tens of millions of Americans with no coverage agree with that? How about the Americans who've had to declare bankruptcy because they couldn't afford their health care bills? Or the workers who've seen their premiums quadruple? Or the families who wait in long lines for care? Or the businesses who struggle to compete because of health care costs?

It seems like a fairly difficult position to defend -- Republicans think the dysfunctional status quo, which costs too much and covers too few, is "the best care system the world has ever known."

Seems like a loser for the GOP, should Dems try to capitalize on this one.

Steve Benen 10:10 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (45)

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Comments

Best health care SYSTEM: laughable; maybe best health care for the lucky few.

Posted by: longhorn on June 8, 2009 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder what metrics he's using. Insurance industry political contributions, perhaps? Somebody should ask him how he measures health care quality.

Posted by: dr2chase on June 8, 2009 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

"...should Dems try to capitalize on this one?

Yes!

Posted by: Chris on June 8, 2009 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

This is an attempt to link the health care issue to the patriotism issue absent any actual connection between the two. "USA! USA!" It's totally dishonest, of course, but since when has that ever mattered to these assholes?

Posted by: Lee Gibson on June 8, 2009 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

And again, someone needs to ask the Republicans in Congress:

Why do you support SOCIALISM instead of purchasing your health coverage from the free market like a good American?

and

Why do you impose inferior health care on your family and allow a government bureaucrat to determine your family's care?


Posted by: SteveT on June 8, 2009 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

Most people who have employer-conveyed private health insurance now know that their doctors are no longer permitted to accurately diagnose or effectively treat them. This is the only argument that should be used.

Posted by: Frank Wilhoit on June 8, 2009 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

And there is that minor detail of US scoring lower than almost all other members of the industrial world on a number of health indexes.

But it's not like health matters in a debate about the healthcare system.

Posted by: thorin-1 on June 8, 2009 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

Obvious cheap shot: 'best health care ever'? Maybe for the Senator from Alabama.

I wonder how the rest of Alabama is doing.

Posted by: leo on June 8, 2009 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

We've been trying this insurance system for close to 300 years, and we still have tens of millions going without coverage. It's time to try something else. I find it strange that we think nothing of paying policemen to protect us from being robbed, or paying firemen to protect us from burning, but if we are injured during a robbery or burned in a fire we can still lose everything because doctors, nurses, and technicians aren't considered important to the community.

Posted by: Bobo on June 8, 2009 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

"It seems like a fairly difficult position to defend"

Since when have these folks tried to DEFEND their positions? Why should they? They just trot them out as facts and repeat and repeat and repeat. The media eats it up - far be it from THEM to ask questions!

Posted by: Ralph Kramden on June 8, 2009 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

Shelby's argument is not completely frivolous, although he may not understand it himself. The American health care system may well be the best in the world for those who have insurance. Our world rating is dragged down because so many do not have access to the system. The conservative argument is that socializing medicine would cripple medical research, which is probably also world-leading. But the answer to this is that really productive research is done with government support anyway - see for example Dean Baker at TAP and CEPR.

Posted by: skeptonomist on June 8, 2009 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

But it's not the best system, even for those who have access to it. Look, when 98,000 people die a year as a result from their care--directly due to medical error--that's a system in need of some vast improvement.

Posted by: Chocolate Thunder on June 8, 2009 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

The Bestest The World Has Ever Known? Yeah, and Leonard Cohen is a superb Tenor.

Posted by: berttheclock on June 8, 2009 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

Oh yes, best ever ... right.

A person making less than $17k per year (gross) to live on, with BC/BS "insurance," faced with a $5k per-year up-front deductible before BC/BS will pay anything. Yep. That's a really a lot of help. I was supposed to get an MRI to deal with a seriously bad back, and BC/BS would not help. The entire cost ($1,500.00) was on me to pay. Needless to say, I don't have it, so no MRI, no help for the back ... just more pills for the pain (which I don't even want!).

Don't get me started on this crap. We need a single-payer national program (like medicare or whatever) so we can DUMP these greedy "insurers" who keep all the money and prohibit us from getting anything in return. That's not "insurance," that's robbery.

Posted by: Otolaryx on June 8, 2009 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

Conservatives have this weird tension between braying how wonderful our nation and its institutions are per se, but also how horrible the government is. Sure, I accept there's a debatable realm over how much and how well the G can do versus private enterprise, yadda, but that's still a disconnect.

Posted by: Neil B ♪ on June 8, 2009 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

I think that the executives of the healthcare and medical insurance companies (and quite a few of the more successful doctors) will agree completely with the senator's opinion.

Posted by: Charles on June 8, 2009 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder what metrics he's using

Ha, we don't need no stinkin' metrics.

We say it therefore it is. Jeebus, they've been saying it for so long, Shelby thinks it's demonsteably true.

What a Doocy er I mean douche.

Posted by: TJM on June 8, 2009 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

It's all part of The New Way Forward for American conservatism.

Posted by: JM on June 8, 2009 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Given that many "important" elected Dems are in the pockets of insurance companies, I do not think the health care "reform" will be much of a reform.

Mr Benen, at some point, you really need to distinguish what's happening here, especially since you're a smart man. We have elected officials at the national level who do their best to protect: the wealthy and big business. Somewhere along the way, the middle and lower classes have lost true representation at the national level & now we're just seeing the system break down. & yes, that is the case, even with the grown-ups in charge.

Posted by: zhak on June 8, 2009 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe no direct here yet on the curious contradiction in below post "IT'S A FEATURE, NOT A BUG....":

[C]ritics argue that with low administrative costs and no need to produce profits, a public plan will start with an unfair pricing advantage. They say that if a public plan is allowed to pay doctors and hospitals at levels comparable to Medicare's, which are substantially below commercial insurance rates, it could set premiums so low it would quickly consume the market.

Posted by: Neil B ☺ on June 8, 2009 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

It's important to keep in mind we are talking about Richard Shelby here; he exists in a foggy netherworld of stupidity so profound that it really ought to be studied and categorized.

Posted by: electrolite on June 8, 2009 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

They say that if a public plan is allowed to pay doctors and hospitals at levels comparable to Medicare's, which are substantially below commercial insurance rates, it could set premiums so low it would quickly consume the market.

Notice the gaffe (that is, the unintended statement of truth here): to the insurers, the purpose of the market is not to benefit consumers. The purpose of the market IS the market, and I assume specifically the few pampered individuals running it.

Posted by: ericblair on June 8, 2009 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

I haven't seen this quote generate much in the way of attention...

Thanks to the right's concerted, decades-long campaign of hyperbole, outrage, lying and bluster, statements like Shelby's no longer register with our media deciders. The default setting now is one where Republicans can lie about virtually anything without being called on it. It's just what they do. I think they learned it from Chuck Daly and the Detroit Pistons; if you foul on every play, all the time, the refs just can't call them all.

Posted by: jrw on June 8, 2009 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK


"the best health care system the world has ever known."

is that why americans are traveling to other countries for cheaper surgery and alternative care?

Posted by: mr. irony on June 8, 2009 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

So, Shelby thinks he is the new Bill Lambeer?

Posted by: berttheclock on June 8, 2009 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

Sen. Shelby's Federally provided and tax payer supported health care that insures him till the day he dies, with no chance of being revoked and no insurance hoops to jump through, IS THE BEST HEALTH CARE IN THE WORLD.

It's his health care that the rest of America wants and deserves.

Posted by: Jeff In Ohio on June 8, 2009 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

"the best health care system the world has ever known."

Looks like you latte-sipping liberals just don't get it. This is the best health care system the world has ever known for private insurers, period. And private enterprise is the backbone of any first class system.

Qed.

Richard S.

Posted by: SRW1 on June 8, 2009 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK


Perhaps Senator Shelby was referring to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, in which he is eligible as a member of Congress. The FEHBP offers something like 9 different plans from multiple vendors and has options ranging from high deductible plans to rich benefits plans.

Senator Shelby's employer, the US Government, covers 75% of premiums up to a bit over $9,000 per year. I don't know which plan the good senator has, though I doubt it is the high deductible plan. However, even if he has the most expensive plan available, his portion of the premium for family coverage amounts to less than 3% of his Congressional salary. Additionally, he has access to physicians within the Capitol itself and a Pharmacy (for an additional fee).

So, in fact, Senator Shelby does have access to the best health care system the world has ever known. And he doesn't want anyone screwing that up for him.


Posted by: Bob on June 8, 2009 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

What an asshat to make such a ridiculous statement! I think it's time to recuse Mr. Shelby's health insurance..

Posted by: The Galloping Trollop on June 8, 2009 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

My question to Shelby....if the American health system is so good, how come the average American lifespan is down around where Mexico's is? After all, most people consider Mexico a third world country, not first world like the US.

Posted by: ted on June 8, 2009 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

"The best health care system the world has ever known." Let's compare: Canada, the UK, Switzerland, Germany, Austria,Belgium, Italy, Spain, Greece, the Netherlands, Israel, the nations of Scandinavia -- all have socialized health/medical insurance. According to the CIA World Factbook, they also have a higher life expectancy and a lower infant mortality rate than the US. On the other hand, we have Uzbekistan, Vanuatu and Burkina Faso beat by a country mile. Of course the US has the most advanced medical technology in the world, but that doesn't mean very much if we have a health care delivery system that doesn't deliver.

Posted by: Kuyper on June 8, 2009 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

They say that if a public plan is allowed to pay doctors and hospitals at levels comparable to Medicare's, which are substantially below commercial insurance rates, it could set premiums so low it would quickly consume the market.

Oh noes! Obama is destroying America by bringing it low premiums... what do we do with all those extra money in our pockets??? Someone save us!!!

Posted by: Ohioan on June 8, 2009 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

I can see Shelby's problem. He does have the best health care in the world. It's government financed (in fact, you and I pay for it), and he can't be denied treatment. He's just fine with it. He simply doesn't want to let you or me have anything like it.

Posted by: Slideguy on June 8, 2009 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Best or not it needs improvements before we all go bankrupt.

Posted by: MarkH on June 8, 2009 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK
Look, when 98,000 people die a year as a result from their care--directly due to medical error--that's a system in need of some vast improvement.

Posted by: Chocolate Thunder on June 8, 2009

ditto

Posted by: MarkH on June 8, 2009 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK
if the American health system is so good, how come the average American lifespan is down around where Mexico's is? ...

Posted by: ted on June 8, 2009

ditto

Posted by: MarkH on June 8, 2009 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

You'd think they'd be more grateful to FDR, Truman, and Johnson for setting up the best health care system ever.

Posted by: g on June 8, 2009 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

The public option health care proposed by Obama is a mask for same-old, same-old and a sop to insurance companies. No triggers and no second chances. Insurance companies have proven what matters to them and it isn't the health of Americans, it's the bottom line.

Single payer is the only legitimate answer to the health care problems in this country. Don't settle for less and let Washington know you won't.

Posted by: impartial on June 8, 2009 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Shelby's fantasy world needs to be exposed. Our system is so broken it "demands" reform. Without single payer or not for profit public option...there is no reform.

All the senate seems to be doing is trying to find a pacifier so the profiteering will continue. They want to find a way to subsidize private ins carriers with tax dollars so they can continue profiteering from denying health care while getting taxpayers to cover those without coverage.

There is no alternative that is viable no matter how they try to disguise it. Those who oppose single payer or the public option will be seen as bought and bribed by private ins simply because nothing else will correct or fix this very broken system.

When the majority of health care providers came out to support single payer and the voters began demanding it and its success is guaranteed for only a small percentage of what we currently pay...opposing it only has one motivation...but Shelby is among those none too bright senators whose fantasy mentality is exposing his hypocrisy and he doesn't even see it.

Posted by: bjobotts on June 8, 2009 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

Used to be Americans just wanted to hear "America is the greatest" and telling them that got you elected. But Health care INS. affects too many on a personal level and we "know" better.

In MO. Blunt dismantled medicaid at exactly the same time my friend had to have O2 at night because his level dropped severely when he slept. He had become unemployed and disabled but even though he started receiving SS disability, Medicare would not kick in for 1yr due to a waiting period. So my friend could not afford to pay for the oxygen. 1yr later his echocardiogram revealed an extremely enlarged right side heart due to lack of O2. Now he will be put back on the O2 at night along with his beta blocker now covered by Medicare hoping to avoid having to have a pacemaker implanted as pulse now stays in the 50s.

Unplanned for health problems should not have to be denied care for any reason...certainly not an inability to pay...or left up to disaster care like ER when preventative treatment can prevent such disasters from occurring.

Posted by: bjobotts on June 8, 2009 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

When, precisely, has Dick 'The Dick' Shelby been covered by health insurance that was not risk-pooled as part of a state or federal plan?

My guess is "never".

He was a city prosecutor in Tuscaloosa, then a US magistrate, then a state attorney general, then a member of the Alabama state senate, then a US Representative, then a US Senator.

There is no US health care "system". Though if you've been a beneficiary of public health insurance your entire adult life, it's presumably easy to overlook it, especially if you're a selfish bastard like Shelby.

Posted by: pseudonymous in nc on June 8, 2009 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

Seems like a loser for the GOP, should Dems try to capitalize on this one.

Why would they? Most Dem elected officials are just as much in the pocket of insurance and drug companies as their Republican rivals. They don't want reform either.

Posted by: Shalimar on June 8, 2009 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

I write about a single-payer public option, in specific terms, and this is the pablum response I get back:

"Dear Mr. xxxxx:

Thank you for contacting me to express your support for universal health insurance. I appreciate the time you took to write and welcome the opportunity to respond.

I believe that there is much room for improvement in our nation's healthcare system. I am deeply concerned that so many individuals and families in our country do not have access to quality healthcare. This is a problem that touches every community and must be addressed at many different levels including the Federal, State and local government.

I recognize that the large number of people who lack health insurance is a critical problem facing our country. I find it unacceptable that 47 million people in our country are without health insurance. This problem is especially acute in California, where nearly 7 million people are uninsured.

The escalating cost of some premiums continues to make obtaining health insurance difficult, if not impossible, for many Americans. I am working hard to remove existing barriers to health care so that all Americans have access to the services they require. There is no excuse for the inaccessibility of health care, and insurance should be available for all people. Please know that I will keep your comments in mind as I review health care reform proposals in the Senate.

Again, thank you for writing. If you have any further questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-3841. Best regards.

Sincerely yours,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator"

You blew it, DiFi. Very, very, wrong answer. Sounds like a bought & paid for "give it all to big corporations" reply to me. Public Option, DiFi. No triggers, no split it into regions, a viable, price-negotiating, public insurance plan for ALL of us! If it doesn't happen, there's gonna be some real CHANGE at the ballot box next go around!!

Posted by: Otolaryx on June 8, 2009 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

Otolaryx: as Di might say "Please know that I will not keep your comments in mind as I review health care reform proposals in the Senate as some flack read your letter and sent you my standard "aint healthcare grand" response that wouldn't piss off any voter no matter what they thought about the issue. Thanks for taking the time to write. Please buy a table at my next fundraiser if you want me to even hear what you're saying."

Posted by: Frak on June 8, 2009 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

ALL discussions of health care reform must start with the question, "How is the proposed system different from that enjoyed by today's Congressmen and Senators?"

Posted by: Bob Knisely on June 9, 2009 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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