Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 20, 2009

REJECTING THE IDEA OF AN OVERHAUL.... Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky was on "Meet the Press" yesterday, talking about his opposition to the health care reform proposal(s). That's fine; he's the opposition leader. Of course he's going to oppose the majority's agenda.

But what I found interesting was the way in which McConnell defended the structure of the status quo.

"[W]e have the finest health care in the world now. We need to focus on the two problems that we have, cost and access, not sort of scrap the entire healthcare system of the United States. [...]

"So let's focus on access and cost and not try to scrap the whole system."

Hearing this reminded me quite a bit of John McCain insisting that the "fundamentals of the economy are strong" just as the economy was collapsing last fall. McConnell argued that the fundamentals of the health care system are fine. He didn't go quite as far as Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who argued we have the finest health care system since the dawn of time, but McConnell continues to think the system is, at its core, fine. A few tax cuts here, a few tax cuts there, throw in some restrictions on lawsuits, and voila, problem solved. There's no need for major change, when some tinkering will get the job done.

McConnell proceeded to complain bitterly about the shortcomings of the Canadian system -- which has no relevance, since the Democratic plan in no way resembles the Canadian model -- and talk about the "billions" we're wasting on "junk lawsuits."

When David Gregory asked about the 47 million Americans go without health insurance, McConnell replied, "Well, they don't go without health care," because they can just go to the emergency room.

In other words, the Senate Minority Leader just fundamentally disagrees with the very idea of overhauling the system. That's certainly his right. But perhaps this should serve as a reminder to the Senate majority -- Republicans don't want health care reform. Making a plan worse just to satisfy their demands doesn't make any sense.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (34)

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Comments

I agree, there's no point in negotiating with Republicans who don't want health care reform. Better to concentrate on Democrats who don't want health care reform.

Posted by: dr sardonicus on July 20, 2009 at 8:09 AM | PERMALINK

What we have here is a failure to communicate.

Posted by: Chopin on July 20, 2009 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately for the progressive elements of American society, on economic matters, the 'blue dog democrats' are the same as the Republicans. There is not a bit of difference between these people; except that theoretically the 'blue dogs' are more moderate on social issues. That is what the country is facing - intransigent conservatism. That is why the government can't act in any progressive fashion on anything.

Posted by: verberne on July 20, 2009 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

Are they REALLY that ignorant? Or do they just pretend to be ignorant on TV because their constituents don't know any better. Is it a responsibility of leadership to provide your followers with good, sound, accurate information? Or will good information merely confuse them and make them more difficult to lead? When they say 'best'--do they mean, best in terms of delivering profits to Corporations, or best in terms of delivering quality of care, availability, and value? If it's the former, they are correct. If it's the latter--then they are talking pure nonsense.

Posted by: c4logic on July 20, 2009 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder how many insured people don't seek medical care because of high deductibles? (That's my personal situation, fwiw. I am insured, and I cannot afford "maintenance" care that would potentially offset complications down the road.

It's also worth noting that many workers simply do not have access to health insurance of any kind.

The Republicans like to frame this as a case of lazy layabouts wanting something for nothing -- analogous to their "welfare queen" meme (& ignoring the fact that the real "welfare queens" are defense contractors). But I'm sure there are plenty of people like me -- nominally insured and terrified nonetheless -- and folks who work damn hard and have no coverage whatever.

If we're such a great country and all that, why are we the only industrialized nation that fails to look after its people?

Posted by: zhak on July 20, 2009 at 8:22 AM | PERMALINK

I want McConnell and the rest of the Republicans to go on the "E.R. Program" of health care.

No more checkups, no doctor visits for minor nagging pains, no help whatever with prescriptions. The only time you see a doctor is when your condition is so dire that it really is an emergency.

And after you've been treated, you're handed a bill for tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars that forces you into bankruptcy. That's some fine healthcare right there!

Posted by: Domage on July 20, 2009 at 8:22 AM | PERMALINK

And why is the leader of a rapidly shrinking, increasingly irrelevant party invited onto network TV to say what amounts to nothing?

A discussion of healthcare in all its permutations among qualified players and affected parties would really advance the issue and be watched with much interest.

Why does that get pushed aside to let a bloated, obstructionist liar speak?

Canadian system...you wish!

Before you can fix your healthcare "system", you Americans need to fix your political system.

Posted by: henry lewis on July 20, 2009 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

No they are not ignorant; they are evil! Of course their ignorant base eats it up as long as they attack, queers, niggers and aliens. (excuse my French, but it is necessary!) The traditional Republicans only care about not paying taxes. For McConnell and his ilk they are getting their equivalent of 30 PIECES OF SILVER.

Posted by: Captain Dan on July 20, 2009 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK

"Just go to the emergency room".

What an ass hole. Gregory too. Just go to the emergency room for your chemo treatment. Just go to the emergency room for your new knee, just go for your ______________(place your own treatment here). Boneheads. Nauseating...

Posted by: stevio on July 20, 2009 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

What McConnell and his ilk are REALLY saying to their constituents:

Them Godless Commonists in Washington want to tax you into the poorhouse, take away your guns, and force your daughter to have an abortion.

And then make her go to school with- oh, they already done that, back in the 1950's. . .

As a librul yankee, I say let's defend our borders, get that fence built! Only this time, we'll put it on the Mason/Dixon Line. . .

Posted by: DAY on July 20, 2009 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

exactly stevio.

perhaps mitch ought to go to the er and have a heart transplant.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on July 20, 2009 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe my countrymen really do want to be led by the McConnells and the Nelsons, or at least ensure that enough of them are in the mix to stifle needed change. Maybe they really don't care for other people at all outside of people they know. These dunderheads they keep voting into office don't want to really help the people at all. Maybe there are simply more of them than us? Are we fighting a losing battle?

Posted by: terraformer on July 20, 2009 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

I wish hospital administrators across the country would rise up and decry Mitch McConnell's utter stupidity about using emergency rooms as a safety net.

ER's are one of the cost centers driving many hospitals, particularly urban hospitals, to the brink of solvency. You can't say on the one hand that privately run hospitals are the solution to our nation's health care delivery and on the other hand impose impossible-to-meet unfunded mandates on them.

Mitch McConnell is the blind socialist here, not Obama.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on July 20, 2009 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

All you complainers out there - where have you been for the last 30 years as the healthcare industry has been changing? Now that the GOVERNMENT wants to get involved, there is a political aspect to medical care that will only irreparably damage our way of life. Why should we pay taxes to the government for our healthcare? Why not rale and rant to the private hospitals, healthcare systems, and pharmaceutical companies that can actually do something about the cost, access, and service? What is this "entitlement" attitude that the government should "take care of its people?" We are guaranteed the right as individuals under the constitution to pursue a life of our choosing - supply and demand dictates that if the price is too high we can choose to go elsewhere and we settle for the lesser NOT the best - you get what you pay for - and as citizens of this great nation, we WILL pay for the so-called reform in many, many ways. All I hear is complaining about what is WRONG with our system, NOT what is RIGHT! There are a lot of dedicated, caring, and capable individuals who are and will take care of your loved ones, even you, at one time or another - you gonna' complain and yell at them for the high cost - or are you going to want the best possible care? Seems to me the focus is always on the $$ and in the end, we will always pay more and get less if the government stays involved in this PRIVATE enterprise. I read the first partial draft of this proposal and all I saw was the need to tax, assess fines and penalties for NOT obtaining healthcare and all those fines and penalties will go to the government to repay their HUGE deficit - THINK ABOUT IT!

Posted by: CJ Newsome on July 20, 2009 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

A few tax cuts here, a few tax cuts there, throw in some restrictions on lawsuits, and voila, problem solved.

Yeah-- why won't someone ask these nimrods outright how, even if we completely eliminated federal taxes on all six-figure incomes and made malpractice litigation only an option as the civil result of a criminal murder charge (hey, logical extremes), an office visit could ever go down to a manageable $25 from $150 or so?

Posted by: latts on July 20, 2009 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

If our gubment can't afford to pay for health care then we should stop paying for ALL health care, except for active duty enlisted personnel.

Then we will see if Mr.McConnell still thinks we have a great system.

Posted by: Ned Pepper on July 20, 2009 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

Nice concern troll CJ.

All the health "providers" do is send us bills and send us to collections. Ask them for anything, and they ignore you - "we only provide that information to the HMOs".

Ask the HMOs and they do nothing - they've already got your money. Want to switch to another one? Tough, you got it through your employer.

Want to go harass your employer to change plans during a recession. Hope you're ready to be unemployed. And don't worry, all small businesses will either drop coverage for their staff, or go under (due to costs, or skilled staff wanting to work for them without health cover).

Don't have an employer. Don't expect health care, you won't be able to afford it. Go and hope the line at the free clinic is less than your life expectancy.

In short, there's nothing the average person on their own can do to fix any of this (you could boycott - about as effective as a hungerstrike except they won't force feed you).

So what does that leave - oh, that's right, getting together as a bigger group of people, and choosing representatives to do something on behalf of all of us. We already have something like that, called the Government (of the people remember).

Seriously CJ, how stupid are you? Go away.

Posted by: royalblue_tom on July 20, 2009 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

The RepuGs love this ER argument; never mind the facts of being billed for much higher fees than those with insurance, never mind bringing one's deed to the ER to sign over; never mind bankrupting hospitals.

They, also, are against law suits, yet, tell victims of accidents to sue and all will be OK. A young lady, who is starting law school near Portland, OR, was struck in a cross walk while riding her bicycle. She was on her way to work as a cashier at a grocery store which, luckily, provides insurance to those who have worked there for a minimum of 90 days. She had completed that time and was insured. She was hit by an unlicensed, uninsured wanna be drug dealer (just try to find his cash). Her medical costs approached $100,000, but, her out of pocket costs were only $3,000. So many of her age assume they do not need any medical insurance. Yeah, Mitch, she could have just sued nothingness and gone to ER, where her uninsured costs would have approached 150 grand. No law school for her and no future.

Had she worked for a larger grocery chain, closer to her home, she would not have been covered as they require a year of full time employment. Work a year, but, fail to achieve the needed number of hours, and you are not covered. If you have dependents, they have to wait an additional year. Have a domestic partner and they are not covered. Freddies is no different than Safeway as they have made insurance far harder to achieve for new employees. But, yes, Mitch, we do indeed the "Most Wonderful Medical System in the Entire Galaxy".

Posted by: berttheclock on July 20, 2009 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

All you complainers out there - where have you been for the last 30 years as the healthcare industry has been changing?

I can't speak for other 'complainers' but I spent most of the last 30 years rendering care, either in the field of on in-hospital trauma teams.

Now that the GOVERNMENT wants to get involved, there is a political aspect to medical care that will only irreparably damage our way of life.

Hyperbolic bullshit. How is something that benefits the citizens of every other industrialized country going to 'irreparably damage our way of life'?

Why should we pay taxes to the government for our healthcare?

Because people pay insurance premiums and still end up bankrupt over relatively minor, fixable health issues.

Why not rale and rant to the private hospitals, healthcare systems, and pharmaceutical companies that can actually do something about the cost, access, and service?

We do - through government regulators.

What is this "entitlement" attitude that the government should "take care of its people?"

Because that is a basic tenet of the social contract.

We are guaranteed the right as individuals under the constitution to pursue a life of our choosing -

Horseshit. Tell it to all the people in prison for consensual or victimless crimes.

supply and demand dictates that if the price is too high we can choose to go elsewhere and we settle for the lesser NOT the best - you get what you pay for - and as citizens of this great nation, we WILL pay for the so-called reform in many, many ways.

Okay, I tried for a second to diagram that sentence, and now my head hurts. This argument makes me nuts - you idiots who act like a person with a compound fracture or in the throes of an MI or a CVA ought to get on the phone and call around for the best bargain. (Heart attacks are on special this week at St. Lukes, while Menorah is offering 15% off on hip replacements! Get yours now!)

All I hear is complaining about what is WRONG with our system, NOT what is RIGHT! There are a lot of dedicated, caring, and capable individuals who are and will take care of your loved ones, even you, at one time or another -

Just go tp the ER! Have you maybe noticed that we are the ones who have been screaming the loudest and the longest for a complete overhaul, before the whole fucking thing comes crashing down, collapsed under it's own weight.

you gonna' complain and yell at them for the high cost - or are you going to want the best possible care?

No, the person who works in accounts receivable for ten bucks an hour will be the one who gets that phone call. Those of us who render the actual care get cookies and treats brought to the ER by grateful family members and patients themselves after the danger passes.

Seems to me the focus is always on the $$ and in the end, we will always pay more and get less if the government stays involved in this PRIVATE enterprise.

It is about $$ in the end - $$ that insurance companies want to keep coming in in the form of premiums and denying care for needed procedures.

I have worked in civilian and the DoD/VA system and seen it from the inside out. The latter is simply the better model. Period.

Posted by: Blue Girl on July 20, 2009 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

The ER room ? The actual reality is that all Emergency Room charges the highest possible fees TO THOSE THAT HAVE NO INSURANCE. That's right. Different rates for those that have insurance, and those that do not. The ones that already CAN NOT AFFORD HEALTH INSURANCE GET CHARGED THE MOST. That's the actual reality of your country.
And the best health care in the whole world ? Really ? Then how is it that between 350,000 to 500,000 people who go into your hospitals end up with diseases or death that otherwise would not have had those diseases or procedures that have lead to their wrongful death ? That's the best, eh ?
How about infant mortality rates ? Your great system is actually number 50 out of all the countries in the world in terms of infant mortality. The best ?
It a fucking 'sin' to have a health care system that is based ON MAKING PROFITS FOR THOSE THAT ARE SICK. The best ?

Posted by: stormskies on July 20, 2009 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

"What is this 'entitlement' attitude that the government should 'take care of its people?'"

Well, uh, CJ, a rather well-known founding document of this country talks about fundamental human rights, which include "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." The right to life, contrary to some rhetoric, isn't something that ends at birth. It's pretty hard for a person to continue enjoying his or her right to live when a for-profit insurance company denies life-saving treatment that the individual can't afford.

I know that one of the most popular talking points on the right these days is that providing government fosters dependency and therefore, ultimately, dictatorship. Tell me, do you feel enslaved whenever you drive on an Interstate highway? Would you take rural side-routes in order to avoid dependency on this tyrannical government program?

Look, let's get real. Directly or indirectly, you will pay for the medical care for people who can't afford it. If poor people get their care from emergency rooms, where they don't usually go until the condition is too far gone to be treated except with very expensive intervention, then the cost will be passed on to you. Or you can accept the notion that in a civilized society, everyone has to contribute something to the common welfare, and that one of the most important things tax money can do is to ensure decent health care for everyone.

Posted by: T-Rex on July 20, 2009 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

No one is talking about a Canada-like health care system here in the US, so McConnell's claims aren't relevant. His claims are also false, as he repeatedly cites false information about health care in Canada.

http://meanlittlepoodle.blogspot.com/2009/06/canada-fights-back-against-false-health.html

Posted by: Dr. Insouciance on July 20, 2009 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

Ask me about the MRSA in the NICU at one of the Frist family's hospitals. That is a panicked moment, looking into the scope and seeing that, and knowing it's critical newborns who are the sources is a sick feeling like no other.

MRSA spreading through the NICU - one of the most tightly controlled areas of the hospital, if not THEW most tightly controlled - happens one of two ways: Either nurses are not washing their hands properly between patients, or housekeeping - excuse me, environmental services - is not properly cleaning the isolettes. And in both cases the reason is UNDERSTAFFING.

Ask me about the night the agency nurses at one of HCAs big inner-city hospitals refused to clock in because staffing numbers were so fucked up that night that they were unwilling to risk their licenses with a patient census that high and a staff that thin. We were getting ready to transfer patients and close the ER.

Understaffing kills people. That is a fact. And for-profit medicine is notorious for it.

Posted by: Blue Girl on July 20, 2009 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

How does this ass get reelected? Large numbers in his state don't have insurance. Large numbers in his state can't get insurance.

Posted by: Tigershark on July 20, 2009 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

Best in the world, eh? The actual, ya know, statistics beg to differ.

Posted by: Blue Girl on July 20, 2009 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

Evidently, McConnell, has had some success in the past with the notion tying the notion that caring for fellow Americans equates with losing personal freedom. It's all part promoting an ideology of "I've got mine; go Cheney yourself if you want any of it." Definately not an appeal to our better angels, but it seems to sell well to the rubes, or has in the past at least.

Posted by: sparrow on July 20, 2009 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

The whole point of McConnell's comment wasn't to express his actual beliefs about our health care system -- it was to put the notion that Obama wants to "scrap the whole system" out where it could trickle down to the low-information voters that are his stock-in-trade.

Who knows what McConnell actually believes, if he believes anything? That's not important. His role is to lie to, propagandize and engrage the portion of the electorate that he can thus manipulate into doing what he wants, whether or not it is really in their best interest. That's how he got elected and re-elected, and how he has power.

He's also using a typical "MIRV" argument - there are so many bogus things to take issue with that they can't all be stopped- the counter-arguments get overwhelmed. While people get caught up with debating, like Gregory, about the uninsured, or about whether it makes sense to use the ER to manage diabetes or high blood pressure, or comparative world health statistics, McConnell scores, because the suggestion that the Democrats are trying to scrap the whole system (the most absurd but politically powerful meme) gets by uncontested.

Posted by: biggerbox on July 20, 2009 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

i wish "Obama wants to 'scrap the whole system'" had some germ of truth, mitch...most of us would be better off if he did....

Posted by: dj spellchecka on July 20, 2009 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

Most people, let alone most Republicans, just don't get it.

I had a Doctor appointment Friday and there was an unusually long line for lab work. One impatient patient stormed out to complain to the practice's Office Manager and she returned announced to everyone waiting "welcome to national healthcare." I reminded her that our wait was happening with the current "best system in the world" and not any "government" healthcare reform. Her only reply was "well, it'll only get worse."

Proponents of health care reform need to do a better job of educating those who currently have healthcare that other countries manage to provide high quality, comprehensive health care and that the US could too if reform is done correctly.


Posted by: Bob on July 20, 2009 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

The greatest gift I have in this life is the ability to give.

Posted by: EC Sedgwick on July 20, 2009 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

Bob, the followup question you probably didn't know to shoot back at her would have been along the lines of "Who pays the bills after you submit them faster? Medicare or private insurance companies?"

Posted by: Blue Girl on July 20, 2009 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

If cost and access is the true issue, seems to me there would be a great financial savings if we just stopped funding Federal health planes all together and let them fend for themselves in the marketplace like the reset of us.

Is it legally possible to start a petition or some other process with which we can eliminate at least the Congress and Senate's health care for ever?

Posted by: Michael on July 20, 2009 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

Mitch McConnell was discharged from the military just 10 days after serving - he refuses to release his military records.

Inquiring minds want to know what he is hiding.

Rumors abound that he and Lindsey Graham are closeted Gays, and suspect this will be the next door to be kicked open!!!

Posted by: annjell on July 20, 2009 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

Good Morning!!! www.washingtonmonthly.com is one of the best informational websites of its kind. I enjoy reading it every day. Keep it that way.

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