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No public option? No problem. Really.

Lieberman with Presidential Candidate John McC...
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I am about to lay my cards all on the table here with regard to health care reform, tell you exactly what I think and have thought for the past 10 months of this debate. But first, I just want to say that Joe Lieberman could possibly be the worst excuse for a human being I have ever had the displeasure of following in politics. This is not a new sense; it’s a renewed one. When he sold Democrats out during the Florida recount in 2000 he earned my lifelong contempt. His big sloppy wet kiss of John McCain during the 2008 election sealed the deal again, and today it was cemented.

I don’t like liars and cheats. I especially don’t like liars and cheats when they insert their lying, cheating ways into my life and the life of my family. Joe Lieberman tops the chart, and it is of deep concern to me that not only has he stonewalled the public option and Medicare buy-in out of health care reform, he’s also done it while giving absolutely NO guarantee that he will not stop chipping away at the Senate bill. It is essential that we not become demoralized and give up, because if we do, the terrorist wins.

Are we screwed?

We are actually exactly where I expected to be. I have always believed the public option would not survive the Senate. That doesn’t mean I quit fighting or I wouldn’t have been thrilled to have it survive so it could be reconciled with the House bill, but it became evident early on that the battle line was drawn very clearly over the public option, and Barney Frank basically tipped the scale in July when the House bill was unveiled and he tossed off his “I certainly hope so” response to a reporter’s question about whether a public option was the entry point to a national single payer system.

It would have been better for Barney to keep that ace in his pocket. Not that people aren’t smart enough to figure that out, but blurting it out that way robbed progressives of a ton of leverage. It simply would have been a point of speculation, but Frank’s spontaneous admission more or less laid down that hand and begged for it to be played, which it was, by teapartiers, conservatives, and conservaDems, to their advantage.

Realizing this, the compromise was a tighter set of price controls and regulatory requirements on insurers, while opening a Medicare buy-in to uninsured people age 55-64. Honestly, this compromise was actually a better deal than the anemic public option Reid originally rolled out. It killed the idea of opt-out, gave another option on the National Exchange, and solved the very large problem people in that age group have getting insurance.

I believe the public option was always intended to be the distraction that kept insurers from chipping away at the lifted lifetime caps and pre-existing conditions bans and conservaDems from chipping away at subsidies. I still believe that.

What reform is: Equality

This is the bottom line, and I will repeat it and repeat it: As long as there is discrimination against any citizen, there is no reform. True reform begins with a level playing field, and that means there can be NO discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions. Access must be equal and fair, and yes, affordable, but first and foremost, equal. Politically, adding a hot potato like the public option to the bill served as a distraction for the larger issue of pre-existing conditions, which has been the insurers’ line in the sand.

Please do not lose sight of that. Discrimination is not reform. Doing away with pre-existing discrimination is reform, not just in form but in substance. By not discriminating, we are stating a national value: The lives of each and every citizen of this country matter more than corporate profit margins. While lots of people reading this might think this goes without saying, it should be obvious by now that it absolutely does not. Just listen to the Republican senators rambling on down on the Senate floor. It’s about dollars and cents; about deficits and budgets. They never, ever, ever express concern for every citizen in this country. Never.

Banning pre-existing conditions codifies the single most important centerpiece of this legislation: Lives matter. We, the people, are too big to fail. We matter too much. As a country, we reject the idea that people who are sick are unworthy of the same access as those who are well. We reject discriminatory practices and embrace the RIGHT of every American to have ACCESS to health care insurance.

Passing a bill with or without a public option that gives every American access to affordable health care is an expression of a deeper and more important value: People. Citizens. Lives.

What good is reform if no one can afford insurance?

That question assumes there weren’t other safeguards built into the bill to control costs. Here are a few:

  • A limit on how much of every dollar can go to administrative fees and salaries serves as downward pressure on costs, as do the reforms to the system itself. Remember, a key part of this effort at reform is shifting attitudes away from illness to wellness, from procedure to lifestyle.
  • Subsidies matter and are two-pronged pressure points: First, they ease the costs for a TON of unemployed, uninsured people. Kaiser Family Foundation estimates 86% of uninsured Californians would be eligible for subsidies. Second, they keep the Federal government (and yes, the damn Congress) on top of what it actually costs to provide health care/insurance to the uninsured.
  • Prevention saves lives AND money. This is not debatable; it’s fact.

Breaking the impasse invites further efforts to shape the system. Yes, it really does. We have fought 60 years simply for the right to have access for all to health care. SIXTY YEARS. Break the hold of insurers first, then come back to refine it.

Yeah, right. Congress is broken

I’ve heard a lot of talk about how that will never happen with the Congress so broken. I agree. But breaking through the discrimination barrier gives the forward momentum for each and every liberal/progressive voter to hold obstructionists’ feet to the fire and bring forward candidates who more closely reflect the values that bring us to true reform.

If health care reform fails, it becomes far more difficult to bring progressives onto the floor of Congress. If it succeeds, it gives the push and motivation to continue the process, to fix what isn’t right in this bill and reshape a system which will always be in flux, and will always be ready to be refined.

In other words, it shatters the status quo, disrupting the landscape enough to invite further change.

My one very big major concern: Cloture votes

I won’t lie. Lieberman’s utter lack of regard for the voters in his state and the rest of the country concerns me deeply. I am mostly concerned that he will continue the pattern of stalling under the guise of compromise in order to chip away at the real issues: pre-existing conditions and rescission. I strongly encourage anyone who believes in health care reform past, present and future to choose NOT to splinter what unity there is around this issue and present a strong front.

One of the reasons there is this constant dripping and chipping is because DEMOCRATS are not presenting the same united front as Republicans. Every time someone blames Harry Reid, or the White House, or Rahm Emanuel, another piece of the bill shrivels and dies. Now is NOT the time to splinter and criticize. It’s the time to stonewall back, hard, united and fast, to stand firm and stand for LIVES.

The time for criticism will come, and be richly deserved. It is NOT NOW. If we do not close ranks and stand firm now, we will see it chipped at more and more and more until we see a repeat of 1994, when all political will just withered and died, and of course, along with that death came the death of a Congressional majority for the Democrats.

There is a cause and effect here. We are millions of people who are too big to fail. We are worthy of health care, of access to health care, and of a permanent end to the discriminatory practices of insurance companies.

Let’s win that, and then begin the campaign for comprehensive reforms, either single payer or a robust public option.

Because truly, we *are* too big to fail. We cannot afford to wait any longer.

Read these, please

Doctor’s orders. Read them. Trust me. You’ll feel better.

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