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Tilting at Windmills

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October 15, 2009

LANDRIEU ON HEALTH CARE AND 'FREE LUNCHES'.... Among Senate Democrats, few have been as conservative on health care reform as Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. Yesterday, she elaborated a bit on her perspective in an interesting appearance on MSNBC.

"I believe in the private sector," Landrieu said, in reference to giving Americans consumers a choice of a public option. "I don't believe in government running every program for everybody," she added, doing her best impression of a Republican.

Asked specifically about polling data showing the public option with strong national support, the conservative Democrat added, "I think that when people hear 'public option,' they hear 'free health care.' Everybody wants free health care. Everybody wants health care they don't have to pay for. The problem is that we as government and business have to pick up the tab, and as individuals. So I'm not at all surprised that the public option has been sold as free health care. But there is no free lunch."

This is pretty foolish. For one thing, Mary Landrieu, as a senator, takes advantage of a very generous health care plan that lawmakers give themselves. "Everybody wants health care they don't have to pay for"? I suppose that's true, but it's odd to hear the comments coming from someone whose coverage is subsidized by taxpayers.

For another, I haven't the foggiest idea why Landrieu thinks Americans perceive the public option as "free health care." What is that based on? I'll gladly concede that there may be some public confusion about the details surrounding the plan, but there's no evidence at all to suggest the public option enjoys broad support because consumers think they'll get something for nothing.

Of course, forgive me to re-emphasizing this all the time, but when push comes to shove, it doesn't really matter whether Landrieu is too far to the right on health care policy or shilling for insurance companies. If she wants to vote against the health care reform bill, she should. What matters is whether Landrieu would partner with Senate Republicans to deny reform a vote on the Senate floor. And on that point, we don't yet know what she might do.

Steve Benen 9:25 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (26)

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Landrieu should get a handle on her disdain of Americans. too many slips like this one and even the people of Louisiana will pick up on it...

Posted by: neill on October 15, 2009 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, here's a crazy idea: if the Republicans, assisted by a few turncoat Democrats, do successfully vote against cloture -- THEN KEEP DEBATING. KEEP TALKING ON THE FLOOR. KEEP BRINGING UP STORIES, STATISTICS. KEEP POUNDING, KEEP FIGHTING, KEEP GOING. Do the Congressional Republicans really think, based on their track record so far, that they have the better case, the better arguments?

Don't let a cloture vote kill this.

Posted by: kevmo on October 15, 2009 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

We know she's venal and self-serving. I've been wondering for a while if she's also dumber than a box of rocks.

Posted by: shortstop on October 15, 2009 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

No free lunches unless they are delivered with your pharma and insurance lobby money or you are a member of Congress. Where do I sign up? I sincerely hope that the next time Mary Landrieu is in front of a camera yammering nonsense, the elastic in her underwear snaps and she trips over her drawers making an exit.

Posted by: DTR on October 15, 2009 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

"But there is no free lunch." Except the contributions I picked up from the insurance, pharma and all kinds of other special interest lobbies. That was almost a free lunch except now Mary must back up the cash with votes.

Posted by: Trollop on October 15, 2009 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

Why doesn't anyone ever point out that almost nobody pays for the health care in this country. Between Medicare, employer coverage and various other government programs, almost all insured people have their access provided with someone else's money. It's totally socialistic already for 80+% of Americans. It's only a "free market" for people who pay for their own coverage/care and the much larger number of people who go entirely without.

Posted by: Jack on October 15, 2009 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK
...but there's no evidence at all to suggest the public option enjoys broad support because consumers think they'll get something for nothing.

Oh, come on. Maybe not "nothing", but there's plenty of evidence just in your own comments section that people have strongly supported the public option because they believe that it will be a) available to them (i.e., it will be available to everyone), b) better coverage than that of private insurers, and c) much less expensive than that of private insurers. That may not quite add up to "something for nothing", but it's close enough.

Yes, it's true that over the last two months most people here and elsewhere in the liberal blogosphere very slowly learned what the public option really was. But this group is the most informed demographic. It seems to me that there's good reason to believe that among the far less informed demographic of average Americans, "public option" means something very much like "health care for everyone that the government pays for".

All that said, other than being defensive about the unfortunate truth that people, including those on the left, are generally ignorant on the details of health care reform, why is this specific thing that Landrieu said objectionable? The whole point of reform is that the current system sucks and that a reformed system will provide better care at less cost. Of course that's what people want, it's rational for them to want that. Of course people want essentially free health care—it's unrealistic and uninformed, but it's still rational. And when you account for the irrational influence of scare words/phrases such as "socialized medicine", "government-run health care" and the like, the bottom line is that Americans are pretty friendly to the idea of a single-payer or nationalized system. People like Landrieu hate this, and they probably mock Americans for it, but it's true. And it's a good thing for progressives.

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on October 15, 2009 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

Jack, if you don't think we are all paying for health care in this country, I know this bridge in Brooklyn that is for sale, cheap.

One of the problems is that people are shielded from the true cost of health care by their employers or the government. The sad thing is that most people realize their take home pay has been static for the last 10 years and their health care coverage has been reduced, but don't realize that one of the biggest reasons (maybe the biggest) is their employers haven't been able to afford raises trying to keep up with the rapid escalation of their health care costs which has also lead to the downward coverage spiral.

My concern is that the free market (how can a market be free when it is a subsidized monopoly?) has done nothing to rein in rapidly escalating health care costs. The public option is one of the best tools on the table to give insurance companies the incentive they need to address the real health care cost issues.

Posted by: Ron Byes on October 15, 2009 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

It would be nice if after each health care story you would mention how much money the individual(s) are receiving from health care related lobbyists.

It makes a big difference, one way proves she is a shrill for the health care industry, the proves she is dumber then a rock. I wouldn't mind knowing.

And Ms. Landrieu there are plenty of free lunches out there, just ask Big Banking and the politicians they legally bribed via lobbying firms.

Posted by: ScottW on October 15, 2009 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

shortstop: no need to wonder! i actually wanted to post in order to say that mary landrieu is an exceptionally dumb person, although hardly the dumbest senator.

Posted by: howard on October 15, 2009 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK
Between Medicare, employer coverage and various other government programs, almost all insured people have their access provided with someone else's money. It's totally socialistic already for 80+% of Americans. It's only a "free market" for people who pay for their own coverage/care and the much larger number of people who go entirely without.

There's some truth to what you say, but it's a pretty big overstatement.

On average, employers certainly don't pay all the insurance premiums, they probably pay something close to only half. I don't know where you've worked, but at the best jobs I've still paid a hefty insurance premium. And that's not counting deductibles, copays, and limits. Same thing even with Medicare—it is partly funded from the payroll taxes which are withheld during a person's working life, and then there are monthly premiums for it, as well. And relatively hefty deductibles.

Finally, you're right that the only thing close to a "free market" is that minority who get their coverage privately, or pay-as-they-go for their health care. But it's those cases which are the most dysfunctional from a public policy point-of-view! They're poor examples for the free marketeers to point to. And, really, there's lots of economic analysis that show that health care can never be a functional market because consumer incentives for choosing health care oppose healthy functioning of a market.

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on October 15, 2009 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

jack, keith m ellis has responded to much of what you said, but let us turn to the core point: this "free market" of which you speak.

you know what a free market is, right? it's where multiple vendors of non-differentiated goods and services with low barriers to entry compete to sell to multiple informed buyers.

any of that sound like health insurance? or any kind of health care coverage? the fact is, we don't have multiple sellers, we don't have non-differentiated products, and we don't have informed buyers, so we don't have the preconditions for a free market.

this is hardly a new insight - people have been noting for decades this very fundamental point - although it's obviously news to you.

Posted by: howard on October 15, 2009 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

I'd wager that the entire public support for healthcare reform is based on the public's notion that they will get universal healthcare.

Why shouldn't they? They democrats have been promising it for 40 years now. Now they have a super-majority and the whitehouse.

I really don't think some of you realize how damaging even a bill with a public option will be when people realize that all you did was make them buy health insurance.

Posted by: soullite on October 15, 2009 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

actually, soullite, there is zero evidence that the "public" thinks the way that you do: how did you come to that conclusion? did you speak to the 299,999,999 who aren't me?

Posted by: howard on October 15, 2009 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

What if health care had been reformed in ~1994, taking effect in ~1997?

We would have had 12 years to get it right and ease the burden on our economy.

Instead we got stone-walled by...you guessed it!

Even if we reform health care we're still looking at a 2012, 15 years
after the last chance to do so.

To stall now will extend beyond a generation (1997-2017).

No wonder progressives are angry.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on October 15, 2009 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

Don't let a cloture vote kill this.

Amen.

The teabaggers and corporate shills don't have the stomach for an extended insurgency. They've got bigger guns, but the pro-reform people have more bullets and better aim.

Keep the debate going. We'll get a decent public option before the year is out.

Posted by: lobbygow on October 15, 2009 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

Does this idiot believe in private sector flood control? If the government put up levees, wouldn't everyone think they were free?

Posted by: Tigershark on October 15, 2009 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

Landreiu is right now, just like she was right to reject FEMA's assistance for her state. She's nothing if not consistent.

Those lazy fucks expecting free disaster relief. Well, not in Louisiana. Not on Landreiu's watch. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and pony up some cash for those trailers. No free lunch for you.

And on that point, we don't yet know what she might do.

I do. She'll join Lieberman, Nelson, and Bayh and the Republicans in a filibuster.

Posted by: doubtful on October 15, 2009 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Let's see IF some people think that "public option" means FREE health care whose problem is that? She's a frigging senator, isn't she...what would prevent her from doing some EDUCATING? We know our media has no interest in actually informing the electorate...might it NOT behoove her to engage in some of that educating herself? When was FREE ever attached to public option? BY REPUGLICANS OF COURSE!!!! And, who counters this misinformation...DUH!!!! Give it up this country was turned into a disgraceful mess during BUSHCO and Obama would need a broom too large for anyone to wield to make the necessary CHANGES (especially with everyone tapping their foot for it to happen YESTERDAY)...

Posted by: Dancer on October 15, 2009 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

Soulite has no credibility on this issue because he thinks that paying $250 a month in health insurance premiums on a 30K a year income will be an enormous and unjust burden on him.

What this indicates is that he is and has been one of those "free riders" of the current system who is young, healthy, has gone without insurance when he didn't have a job with generous benefits, and so either wants the status quo or a single-payer or nationalized system paid for by general taxation such that he and people in his income bracket personally pay very little.

Now, to be sure, I'd like the latter, too, and probably so do most progressives. But that's not on the table and has never been on the table.

But the problem with the status quo is that among the uninsured, people like soullite are the exception, not the rule. (Though conservatives like to claim the opposite.) Most of the uninsured need health insurance...getting health care is not an option for them, as it necessarily is for soullite. They are older, or have medical conditions, or have families. The point is that if soullite had actually needed health care, he'd know two important things.

First, that paying out-of-pocket for health care can easily average to more than $250 a month. For example, I have a single prescription that most pharmacies typically charge insurers something like $40 or so (and I pay a copay of about $20) but will charge self-paying customers $200 for. This is common especially with recent generics of popular drugs. Most people aren't aware that both health care providers and pharmacies charge self-paying patients much more than they charge insurance companies...because they can. The self-paying have no bargaining power. (Incidentally, for those whom this applies, I'll mention that Walgreen's is among the worst offenders, and Costco—who allows non-members to use their pharmacies—among the best. Costco has a set, minimal mark-up of all its generics to its self-paying customers, meaning that I can get that prescription I mentioned from them for $40, while Walgreen's charges me $200.)

The same is true of doctors and laboratories, though often not quite so extreme.

The other thing that soullite doesn't know, because he's never needed health care, is that even people like him are charged monthly premiums in the private market at twice or more of that $250 amount he finds so objectionable. And that's young, healthy people. For older and less healthy people, the premiums can be a couple thousand a month...if they can get health insurance at all.

Also, if soullite were a health care consumer, not some young healthy guy who wants free health care just in case, then he'd know that everyone who has insurance in this country has to deal with denied claims, refusal of coverage for some "pre-existing conditions" and even rescission of coverage. So there are those (among many more) much-needed benefits to the majority of Americans that reform will bring.

Basically, if soullite actually had needed health care, he'd know that just being able to get health care for a $250 monthly premium on a 30K income is much, much better than the status quo. I have a congenital disease, a lifelong illness. For almost all of my twenties, I worked at jobs where no health insurance was offered. I couldn't buy health insurance on the private market at any cost. In my late twenties, I began to make salaries in the range soullite is—around 30K—and I was working IT contracting and, again, didn't have employer sponsored insurance and couldn't get it at any cost. I easily could have afforded $250 a month...that was less than I was paying out-of-pocket. Now, I'm completely disabled and live on social security disability at less then poverty level. I have Medicare, and a comprehensive MA plan, but my total medical expenses are still about one-third of my income. I have zero sympathy for soullite and people like him who have the option of not paying at least $250 a month for health care. Not to mention the fact that because he's not in the insurance pool, those who are, are paying more as a result.

What soullite wants would undoubtedly be better for everyone than what the current health reform is proposing. Maybe we'll get there someday. But what current health reform is proposing is also undoubtedly better than what 95% of the people out there currently have.

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on October 15, 2009 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

Jack, others have partly responded to your comments. But in our family we pay $350 a month to cover me (self employed) and our younger son (student) to my husband's workplace health plan. Hubby hasn't gotten a raise in two years, partly I'm sure, due to insurance costs. (In fact, he makes the same money he did 11 years ago, even in the same field.) Our married son gets no health insurance at work even though he works full time, so he and his wife buy their own.

What I'm wondering more and more, is why is health care a marketable commodity? Is it a right or a privilege? If we believe it's a right, as most Dems/progressives do, then let's just go to single payer. That's "payer", not free.

Posted by: Me on October 15, 2009 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

I will hate doing it, but I will support Rethugs before I ever vote again for a Democrat who kills this health legislation.

Posted by: candideinnc on October 15, 2009 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

What a bloody idiot. She clearly didn't take advantage of a good "free" public education, and intends to keep herself sanitized from such tiring intellectual efforts.

But is she more an idiot-human or an idiot-parrot repeating lines she hopes will sound good to some of her addled and confused health-care deprived tea-bagging constituents?

Posted by: manfred on October 15, 2009 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

Okay, so if Senator Mary "believe[s] in the private sector" then she must be in favor of repealing the anti-trust exemption enjoyed by the insurance industry and let them sink or swim in a truly competitive market. Right?

Posted by: Chesire11 on October 15, 2009 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

Let's see, before she was getting taxpayer subsidized healthcare in her own right, didn't she grow up with the same healthcare given to her father, who I am told was in a federal position.

Posted by: JS on October 15, 2009 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, Landrieu again manages to be stupid and offensive in just a few sentences.

Hey Mary, we pay over $650 a month for a frikkin' major medical plan with a deductible of $2000 per family member. Do you think we want something for nothing when we desire a public option that is more in line with what one would expect a major medical plan to cost ? For Christ's sake, it's practically a life insurance policy for us, except that a real life insurance policy would cost about 1/6 of that. The insurance company has never paid a single claim for us in the 4 years since we've been forced to switch from a full plan due to cost, and the only benefit we see is the insurance company rate for all doctor visits, tests, and procedures.

Posted by: OhNoNotAgain on October 15, 2009 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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