Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 5, 2011

MEDICARE PRIVATIZATION LOOKS DEAD.... We learned overnight that House Republicans leaders appear to be backing away from their plan to end Medicare and replace it with a privatized voucher scheme. Realizing it can't pass, GOP leaders seem ready to drop the plan as budget talks continue.

The reports have generated some pushback this morning, but the Republican plan's fate now appears to be sealed.

The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee said Thursday he has no interest in bringing up House Republicans' proposal to replace Medicare with subsidies for private insurance if it's not going to pass the Senate.

"I'm not really interested in laying down more markers," said Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.). "I'd rather have the committee working with the Senate and with the president to focus on savings and reforms that can be signed into law."

Camp made his remarks to reporters at a Health Affairs policy breakfast.

For those unfamiliar with congressional procedures, the Ways and Means Committee is one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, committee on the Hill. An effort like privatizing Medicare would necessarily go through Ways and Means before advancing, and if the committee chairman doesn't even want to bother, it suggests the initiative really is dead.

And while that's certainly good news, it probably won't come as a relief to vulnerable House Republicans. Remember, they knew ending Medicare would be unpopular, they knew Democrats would never go for it, but they voted for a budget plan that scrapped Medicare anyway. Some of those GOP lawmakers almost certainly didn't want to go along, but they stuck their necks out and voted for this ridiculous agenda because their leaders asked them to.

A month later, those same leaders are moving away from their own idea, leaving their most vulnerable members with nothing more than attacks ads to look forward to.

Update: Boehner is walking away from his party's policy, too. That's not too surprising -- he started distancing himself last week.

Steve Benen 12:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (37)

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Comments

Can we hope that God will tell her to forget about it?

Posted by: Gretchen on May 5, 2011 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

With Harry Reid threatening to bring the Ryan plan to a Senate vote - where it would fail but still put GOP/TP Senators on record as voting to gut Medicare, the pressure was obviously brought down to cut and run on this Medicare thing. History will record that fear of being voted out by Seniors trumped the TeaParty's scorched earth policy on this one.
House GOP/TP members will have the pleasure of watching Dem ads depicting them as MedicareKillers in the next election cycle, while the GOP/TP Senate candidates can breath a sigh of relief until their next crazy idea comes forward.

Posted by: T2 on May 5, 2011 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Since the Ryan budget passed the House, Reid can indeed force a vote on it in the Senate even if the House Republicans repudiate it. Too late. He'd be foolish not to do so.

Posted by: JMG on May 5, 2011 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK


Perhaps not forcing a vote on medicare can be used as a very strong bargaining chip by Reid to get the debt ceiling raised and the FY2012 budget passed on time and without tons of idiotic ideological cuts.

Posted by: winner on May 5, 2011 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Is this so the Senate Republicans don't have to vote for or against it?

Posted by: MobiusKlein on May 5, 2011 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

Hopefully Dems won't blow the opportunity Cantor is handing them by pointing out that the only thing standing in the way of passing Ryancare is Obama and the Senate Majority in the Senate.

Posted by: bcinaz on May 5, 2011 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

The terrorists lost this one.. What a shame..
What's next on the agenda? Reinstitution of Slavery or perhaps Prohibition?? Anyone?!

Posted by: Trollop on May 5, 2011 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

"I'd rather have the committee working with the Senate and with the president to focus on savings and reforms that can be signed into law." - Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich)

Announcing a primary challenger for Rep. Camp in 3...2...1...

Posted by: Curmudgeon on May 5, 2011 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

Bring it up in the Senate. Hammer every R in the House with their vote next year. Dems: don't be your normal pussy selves!!

Posted by: JMG is right on May 5, 2011 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Given the language we're hearing the past day or two -- moving off "firm" positions, looking for a budget compromise, framing a deal -- I'm guessing the business community leadership is applying much more pressure behind the scenes. We know they have little patience for fooling around on the debt issue. The sudden change is telling.

Posted by: Mark on May 5, 2011 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Thank God medicare privatization is dead. The last thing we want is services provided by private companies. That would be like replacing the US Post Office with Fedex, or public housing with Section 8 vouchers. Stupid idea, never happen. Government run programs and bureaucracies, guided by people with no experience in the private sector, is always the best way to go.

Posted by: Mr R on May 5, 2011 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

If there is one thing that these people study carefully, it must be how their votes will affect their chance of remaining in office. And that makes their eagerness to pass the Ryan budget all the more mysterious. Ideological rigidity and malicious indifference to the welfare of others is par for the course. But exposing their own behinds to a really big kick for a cause they had to know would fail is breathtaking stupidity.

I'd be delighted if I didn't know that they are still going to be causing as much trouble as they can for at least another twenty months.

Posted by: tamiasmin on May 5, 2011 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

A month later, those same leaders are moving away from their own idea, leaving their most vulnerable members with nothing more than attacks ads to look forward to.

I loooove the smell of roasted wingnuts in the morning!!

Posted by: TCinLA on May 5, 2011 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

MEDICARE PRIVATIZATION LOOKS DEAD

Harry Reid shot it in the eye.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on May 5, 2011 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

as dr mccoy would say. 'it's dead, jim."

Posted by: dj spellchecka on May 5, 2011 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

MEDICARE PRIVATIZATION LOOKS DEAD.

Oddly, it's Republicans who don't want to release pictures of that corpse.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on May 5, 2011 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Too bad they decided to spit out that Suicide Pill so soon.

But don't worry, they'll try again later, especially if they control the government. And don't bet that they won't succeed.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on May 5, 2011 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

And the beltway media collectively just had to change their suddenly full DEPENDS ...

Posted by: stormskies on May 5, 2011 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

Absolutely, Mr. R! Private companies that are always looking for ways to shave a few pennies off costs (and quality be damned) because their only obligation is to share-holders and their own CEO's bonuses are just who we want running medical insurance, so that people can be cut loose just when they need the benefit (say, for a stent or a cancer treatment) because they neglected to mention an acne attack when they were 14. Sure, let the guys who built all those facilities in Iraq that are falling apart after 3 years take over Medicaid.

We know that the free market* is the answer to everything: if you die because your hospital did a lousy job you can shop for a new one next time.
And a corporate bureaucrat is sure to be more flexible and compassionate then a government one.

That's in the universe you live in. I'm in a different one, and so are most of the rest of the human race.

BTW, when will someone answer this: who collects John Galt's garbage?

*if it were free; in fact it's free only to cut corners (see Massey DEnergy's latest), collude to raise prices and/or create artificial shortages (same effect) (see Enron) and enable people with far too much money to spend intelligently to spend even more on 50-room mansions, 100-foot yachts, and diamond-encrusted Patek watches. Meanwhile we peons can starve and die because obviously we don't deserve better.

Posted by: jrosen on May 5, 2011 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

We know that the free market* is the answer to everything: if you die because your hospital did a lousy job you can shop for a new one next time.

Only if you're a Hindu masochist!

Posted by: Trollop on May 5, 2011 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

I don't understand what the GOP was thinking. They had to have poll tested their budget and knew it was going to be politically unpopular. My only thought is that maybe the GOP was drinking the koolaid and thought the electorate would take any GOP alternative over Obama's budget no matter how draconian it was.

They couldn't possibly have thought their budget would be popular.

Posted by: Archon on May 5, 2011 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

Mr R: "Thank God medicare privatization is dead. The last thing we want is services provided by private companies....Government run programs and bureaucracies, guided by people with no experience in the private sector, is always the best way to go."

It seems to be the way to go in health care, at least. Mr R can't explain why just about all of our peer nations, which use a variety of public and private mechanisms, get comparable health care results to the US, cover everyone, and spend far less than we do. Markets work well in most instances, but it doesn't seem to work very well when it comes to health care.

But evidence doesn't seem to matter to Mr R.

Posted by: dsimon on May 5, 2011 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

Good answer to Mr. R, jrosen.

Another addition to your litany: Section 8 vouchers!

I daresay Mr. R has never had to try to use a Section 8 voucher to actually find a place to live. If he had, he would already know how there's far too much need for Section 8 housing, but too few private sector landlords who will accept them. After all, the landlords can usually make more money off "regular" tenants (even though they're guaranteed to receive rent checks from the government in exchange for the vouchers). If those who have vouchers can't find places to live, well then, let's just pay for those families to live in motels - or on the street.

Posted by: blondie on May 5, 2011 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

Is it dead? Cantor's spokesman says no, saying that "the starting point" for budget negotiations was still the Ryan plan. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/04/eric-cantor-medicare-reform-report_n_857851.html

So I don't know if the Republicans have a unified position here.

Posted by: dsimon on May 5, 2011 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Before the Senate votes on the Republican Plan to Kill Medicare, I think we ought to have a few weeks of Senate hearings on the Republican Plan to Kill Medicare.

Posted by: ragbatz on May 5, 2011 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by: dsimon on May 5, 2011 at 1:41 PM

"Mr R: "Thank God medicare privatization is dead. The last thing we want is services provided by private companies....Government run programs and bureaucracies, guided by people with no experience in the private sector, is always the best way to go."

"It seems to be the way to go in health care, at least."

Yes, what would we have done in here in the poor old USA without the contributions to medical science of the USSR, Cuba, North Korea, and the People's Republic of China. Now I see what you mean, these are the models we need to follow here in the US: government run health care. I'm really looking forward to getting my next operation from an MVA clerk. Thanks for your help, I think I understand now.

Posted by: Mr R on May 5, 2011 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

re: Mr. R

Or Canada, the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, and a host of others who provide better health care at a lower per capita cost than the US. Hope you like the operation you get from the private insurance company clerk being paid to make sure you get as little as possible.

Seriously Mr. R - that the best you got? Implying that a government clerk actually is going to provide your direct health care? And you are overlooking the fact that most private insurance companies have even higher ratios of employees working to deny you coverage - since that goes directly to the old bottom line.

Posted by: Butch on May 5, 2011 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

Mr R: "I'm really looking forward to getting my next operation from an MVA clerk."

First, most of our peer nations to do not have "government-run" care, but much more regulated care. People in France don't have their operations done by MVA clerks. Second for many maladies you'd be better off statistically getting care in many of our peer nations. Got colorectal cancer? You'd be better off getting treatment in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2009/06/17/business/17leonhardt.graf01.ready.html But if you want to decrease your chances of successful treatment while paying a lot more just to satisfy your "no big government" jones, go right ahead.

"what would we have done in here in the poor old USA without the contributions to medical science of the USSR, Cuba, North Korea, and the People's Republic of China."

The French, Germans, and Japanese have had no trouble pioneering many medical advances.

But again, when you're secure in your ideology, facts don't matter.

Posted by: dsimon on May 5, 2011 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by: Butch on May 5, 2011 at 2:18 PM

American health care, Butch, is the best health care in the world. There's no doubt about that, and there's no doubt about why. It's because American health care is private.

Of course, the big drawback here, for liberal Democrats, is that one is expected to pay one's own way. And that's the real deal killer for the typical Democrat, who wants some one else (i.e, "the rich") to pay for it.

Posted by: Mr R on May 5, 2011 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by: dsimon on May 5, 2011 at 2:21 PM

"The French, Germans, and Japanese have had no trouble pioneering many medical advances."

The vast majority of medical advances, and anything else technological for the last 150 years, for that matter, comes from the US. Anyone who knows a whit about history knows that, and knowing that, generally knows why. Read "A History of the American People" by Paul Johnson if you want to know why, which I doubt.

"But again, when you're secure in your ideology, facts don't matter."

Funny, that's what I think about you leftist, statist cultists. You ignore all empirical facts in your devotion to the religion of statism.

And as proof of this, I offer that this post will soon be deleted by your ideological minders. You folks can't face facts. Your proof will arrive soon.

Posted by: Mr R on May 5, 2011 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

"Best health care in the world"?

Sorry Mr. R. Most expensive in the world per capita - yup. Worst actual coverage of any first world nation - yup. Best outcomes - not in a lot of areas. Good if you have LOTS of money to burn without care - yup. Keep playing though - you're real amusing.

Posted by: Butch on May 5, 2011 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, France was rated #1 in healthcare.

Canada has private healthcare, but it's funded by the government which reduces costs (buying power, you should be familiar with that phrase, yes?) Why did the GOP disallow government negotiating for cheaper drug prices? The US pays more for drugs than any industrialized nation.

Yeah, it's us TOTALLY ignoring empirical data.

Buh bye now.

Posted by: MsJoanne on May 5, 2011 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

I have read Paul Johnson. He's a right-wing fanatic who thinks John Maynard Keynes was the greatest villain of the 20th century.

Posted by: wvmcl2 on May 5, 2011 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

Mr R: "American health care, Butch, is the best health care in the world. There's no doubt about that, and there's no doubt about why. It's because American health care is private."

Actually, by just about any metric, we're not the best in the world, while we pay a lot more. Read T.R. Reid's book "The Healing Of America" which discusses international comparisons, get some facts, and then get back to us.

And I guess you didn't bother with the link I included showing that for many maladies you'd be better off getting care elsewhere (while paying a lot less, too).

If you're not going to look at facts, there's no use arguing.

Posted by: dsimon on May 5, 2011 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

Steve: "I'm going to keep banging this drum."

Good!!!

Posted by: Chris on May 5, 2011 at 9:41 PM | PERMALINK

I believe Boehner will truly understand the consequences of tampering with Social Security/Medicare. Republicans are not openly working on Social Security/Medicare, but will attack! They are attacking through the budget the Health Care Act of the last Congress. The Health Care Act has already had a positive impact by requiring insurance companies to keep children on parents insurance through college age, cannot deny due pre-existing conditions, small business tax credits, seniors get "Donut hole" rebate, no life-time caps, plans must include preventative care, insurance transparency and medical care coverage to rural areas. These are just some of the positives, yet the Republican, GOP and TEA parties are fighting imposition of this act by not funding provisions or budget cuts

Posted by: Rudy Gonzales on May 6, 2011 at 7:18 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: Reita Bliske on May 6, 2011 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK
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