Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Health care reform bill 'dead on arrival' at US Senate

President Barack Obama is facing a tough battle to steer health care reform through the US Senate after his bill was declared 'dead on arrival' at the upper house.

Having proclaimed s "historic" approval by the House of Representatives at the weekend of a bill that will extend medical insurance to almost every American, the president consulted his senior advisers on Monday about how to negotiate the next hurdle in a prolonged effort to overhaul the health system.

While the bill passed the House of Representatives by a mere five votes, margins are also extremely tight in the senate, where Democrats will need all their 60 senators to have a hope of passing the legislation through the 100-seat chamber. Just one defecting senator, acting with Republicans, could subject the bill to filibuster - the archaic practice of talking an item off the agenda.

Sen Joe Lieberman, an Independent Democrat from Connecticut, has vowed to filibuster the bill "as a matter of conscience" if it includes a measure to create a government-run insurance company. "I believe the debt can break America and send us into a recession that's worse than the one we're fighting our way out of today," said Sen Lieberman, who supported Senator John McCain in the 2008 presidential election.

Signalling the tough fight ahead, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a friend of Mr Lieberman, said dismissively: "The House bill is dead on arrival in the Senate. Just look at how it passed." Thirty-nine Democrats joined Republicans in opposing the bill, which included the so-called public option and made health insurance mandatory.

Though the president has urged the Senate to hold its health vote this year, Sen Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic Senate Majority Leader, has signalled that liberal-moderate party divisions in the Senate could well see the timetable slip to 2010. "We're not going to be bound by any timelines. We need to do the best job we can for the American people," said Mr Reid.


More Leftist deception

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times has a column purporting to debunk the claim that America's health-care system is the best in the world. But if you scratch the surface, you find that he is misleading his readers. Here's Kristof's claim:
Yet another study, cited in a recent report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute, looked at how well 19 developed countries succeeded in avoiding "preventable deaths," such as those where a disease could be cured or forestalled. What Senator [Richard] Shelby called "the best health care system" ranked in last place.

But if you look at the report, on pages 3-4, you find this:
Among 19 countries included in a recent study of amenable mortality, the United States had the highest rate of deaths from conditions that could have been prevented or treated successfully. The extent to which differences across countries in the prevalence of particular conditions may explain the poor U.S. showing in the recent study is unknown, although studies in which it was possible to adjust for such differences found that the greatest part of regional differences in mortality for certain conditions were explained by differences in disease prevalence.

A recent study comparing the United States and 10 European countries found that the United States had a much higher prevalence of nine of 10 conditions, including cancer, heart disease, and stroke, in its population over age 50.

In other words, Americans are more likely to die of these diseases because they're more likely to get them, not because they are likely to get inferior treatment.

Longtime readers will recall that we caught Kristof playing similar games with statistics back in January 2005, when he claimed that the U.S. infant-mortality rate was worse than communist Cuba's and much worse than European rates. We pointed out that a central reason U.S. rates are high is that American physicians make heroic efforts to save extremely premature infants, who nonetheless have a mortality rate in excess of 50%. In other countries, these babies are simply discarded and not even counted in the statistics.

Almost five years later, Kristof acknowledges his error--sort of: "We rank 37th in infant mortality (partly because of many premature births)," he writes. He still presents the infant-mortality rate as if it were evidence that America's medical care is inferior, when in fact it is evidence that it is superior. This time there is no question that he knows better.

Back in 2005, we observed that Kristof "seems to think it's cute to cast America in a negative light." That hasn't changed. Here are the two closing paragraphs of yesterday's column:
In several columns, I've noted indignantly that we have worse health statistics than Slovenia. For example, I noted that an American child is twice as likely to die in its first year as a Slovenian child. The tone--worse than Slovenia!--gravely offended Slovenians. They resent having their fine universal health coverage compared with the notoriously dysfunctional American system.

As far as I can tell, every Slovenian has written to me. Twice. So, to all you Slovenians, I apologize profusely for the invidious comparison of our health systems. Yet I still don't see anything wrong with us Americans aspiring for health care every bit as good as yours.


Health Care: Not Close to Over

The fat lady hasn't even started to warm up yet

The narrow 220-215 victory in the House on Saturday night was a step forward on the road to a government takeover of the health care system. But as close and dramatic as that vote was, that was the easy part. The Senate must still pass its version of reform--which will not be the bill that just passed the House. Nancy Pelosi was, after all, able to lose the votes of 39 moderate Democrats. Harry Reid cannot afford to lose even one. A conference committee must reconcile the two vastly different versions. And then, Pelosi must hold together her 3 vote margin of victory (if it gets that far). Yet several House Democrats who voted for the bill on Saturday said they did so only to “advance the process.” Their vote is far from guaranteed on final passage. And, House liberals are almost certain to be disappointed by the more moderate bill that may emerge from the conference.

Among the more contentious issues:

Individual Mandate: This should’ve been low-hanging fruit. Democrats agreed on a mandate early in the process. But it became increasingly plain that a mandate would hit those with insurance as well as the uninsured — forcing people who are happy with their plan to switch to a different, possibly more expensive plan. With this mandate now being seen as a middle-class tax hike, qualms have developed. The House bill contains a strict mandate, with penalties of 2.5 percent of income backed up by up to five years in jail. The Senate Finance Committee, on the other hand, watered down the mandate’s penalties and delayed the mandates implementation.

Employer Mandate: The House bill also contains an employer mandate, a requirement that all but the smallest employers provide insurance to their workers or pay a penalty tax of up to 8 percent of payroll. The Senate, looking at unemployment rates over 10 percent, seems unlikely to include an employer mandate.

The Public Option: The House included, if not a “robust” public option, at least a semi-robust one. But moderate Democrats in the Senate are clearly not on board. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) says that he will join a Republican filibuster if the public option is included. Harry Reid is trying various permutations: a trigger, an opt-in, an opt-out. But as of now there is not 60 votes for any variation.

The Sheer Cost: Fiscal hawks like Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) say they will not support a bill that adds to the deficit or spends too much. But the house bill cost a minimum of $1.2 trillion.

Taxes: The House plan to add a surtax on incomes of $500,000 or more a year has no support in the Senate. At the same time, the Senate plan to slap a 40 percent excise tax on “Cadillac” insurance plans is unacceptable to key Democratic constituencies like labor unions.

Abortion: Conservative Democrats insisted on a strict prohibition on the use of government funds for abortion. The bill could not have passed without the inclusion of that provision. House liberal swallowed hard and voted for the bill, despite what they called “a poison pill” anyway with the expectation that it will be removed later. If the final bill includes the prohibition at least a couple liberals could defect. If it doesn’t, conservative Democrats won’t be on board.

Immigration: The Senate Finance Committee included a provision barring illegal immigrants from purchasing insurance through the government-run Exchange. The House Hispanic Caucus says that if that provision is in the final bill, they will vote against it.

As if these disagreements among Democrats wasn’t bad enough, public opinion is now turning against the bill.

President Obama has called for a bill to be on his desk before Christmas—the latest in a series of deadline that are so far unmet. It is hard to see how Congress can meet this one either. The Senate has not yet received CBO scoring of its bill and is not prepared to even begin debate until next week at the earliest. That debate will last 3-4 weeks minimum, assuming there are 60 votes for cloture. That means, the bill cant’ go to conference committee until mid-December, even if everything breaks the way Harry Reid wants. Privately, Democrats are now suggesting late January, before the State of the Union address, is the best they can do.

The fat lady can go back to sleep—this isn’t over yet.


Senate Should Torpedo ObamaCare Abomination

Now that the House has passed the $2.1 trillion ObamaCare abomination by the slimmest of margins, the scene shifts to the Senate. There, members will be put to the test as to whether to pass the single largest redistribution of the wealth in U.S. history.

Or whether to torpedo it to the icy depths of the Abyss--never to reawaken.

Only 50.5 percent of Representatives voted in favor of the government takeover of health care on Saturday. The final vote was 220 to 215. If the same pattern holds in the Senate where 60 votes are needed, the road left-alone to socialized medicine could run awry in 2010.

Especially since a full 54 percent of voters oppose it and only 42 percent support a bill that will ration care away from seniors, reduce quality, increase taxes by more than $780 billion, and increase the unsustainable burden of the national debt by substantially exploding entitlement spending—adding more than 36 million to the taxpayer-subsidized health system.

Unlike the House, however, the Senate now needs 60 votes, and it is going to be harder to get. Then, even if they do pass their own version of the bill, it would still have to go to conference. Pressure on House and Senate targets to vote “No” on the conference report and to mount a filibuster on the conference report will be the game. So, there is still a long way to go before the left is allowed to turn the world’s leading health care system into yet another entitlement program.

The House version of ObamaCare was pushed to give the embattled Administration a "win." The elections were harsh and the mood of the public is not good. Everything was turning against them. This was meant as a way to stop the bleeding and give some guys a "pass" vote.

But at the end of the day, the House action may only make matters worse for them. U-6 unemployment has steadily climbed past 17.5 percent. The past two most recent major votes in the House have been on two key jobs-killing measures: the national energy cap and tax, and now the push for a government “public option”.

In short, the health care and energy tax bills will weaken and destroy the American economy, increase premiums and prices across the board, and put further stress on the American people, many of whom are barely staying afloat financially. Foreclosures continue to mount, and inflation is looming.

The Senate has yet to vote on either measure. Nor will they vote this year, indicates Harry Reid—himself in deepening election troubles in Nevada. The political tide for the majority is still running out while the Hard Left fringe in its party pushes an agenda of ever-expansive entitlements, bailouts, favors, kickbacks, and handouts.

Last Tuesday’s results clearly gave 39 members of the House Democrat caucus pause when they voted against the health bill. It followed a similar pattern wherein 44 Democrats voted against the Waxman-Markey bill capping carbon emissions—these vulnerable members of the House majority are under considerable pressure from their constituents.

The public’s outrage at incumbents has been—and will continue to be seen—throughout the year at tea parties and town halls. It’s alive in communities where individuals who never have before been involved with the political process are standing up and speaking out against members of Congress. These national issues have awakened a national anger that will not quickly or easily subside.

What’s worse for House members is that the Senate may never vote for these controversial measures as the election year politics change the landscape. Suddenly, polling in particular states and districts will become key decision-makers.

The influence of party leadership on member votes will continue to wane as the public becomes the greater arbiter.

For the Democrats in 2010, the only way to assuage the public’s anger and save their seats may be to deep-six the Obama agenda for contracting wealth and expanding welfare. As the results in the House clearly indicated, it may be an alternative increasing numbers of Democrat office-holders are eager to embrace.


It's a Surreal Day in the Neighborhood...

It certainly is a surreal day in the neighborhood and I don't think it has got anything to do with Rush Limbaugh criticizing the President, as David Axlerod, one of the President's advisor's would like you to believe. What I find surreal is all the attention being paid to the Public Option as well as Al Sharpton's assertion on This Week with George Stephanopoulos that Liberals are the real conservatives. Yes, he actually said that with a straight face. That line was about as surreal as it gets, boys and girls.

Back to the Public Option. The public option argument is no different and just as silly as me arguing with my wife that the pin-stripping should be gold and double lined on our Ferrari Enzo. What makes these arguments different is my wife and I both know we joking, whereas Al Sharpton's conservative wing of the Democratic Party is deadly serious. What makes the argument surreal is that we know we can't afford what we want and so do they, but that is not stopping Al's pals.

It gets even funnier when they begin to explain how they will afford the unaffordable. They want you to believe that they are going to cut Medicare. Let me say that one more time, only slower.

The Democrats in Congress lead by the President are going to cut Medicare.

The idea that this Administration is going to cut spending is laughable. The notion that they will take a meat cleaver to Medicare and hack 50 billion dollars from it's budget each and every year for the next ten years is a side splitter. A solemn pledge of fiscal prudence from the leader of the gang that is projecting Trillion Dollar Deficits for as far as the eye can see isn't all that reassuring. But it's comforting to know that their lack of fiscal discipline has some limits, or does it?

Their spin on the deficit is every bit as surreal as their foolish public option debate. The President says he won't sign a bill that will increase the deficit. That's pretty rich, don't you think? What he means to say is get ready for big tax increases, both the direct and indirect kind.

Forcing, excuse me, mandating (that's more PC) that everyone must purchase health insurance while at the same time imposing a tax on medical device manufacturers is merely a stepped transaction. It is a tax increase disguised as a fee extracted from the medical device manufacturers, which they pass on to the insurance company in the form of higher prices, who then passes it on to you through higher insurance premiums. Raising the top marginal rate by 5% is well, it's just a tax increase. Hey good thing that recession is over and the economy is surging ahead, cause we all know that raising taxes in a recession is a recipe for disaster!

What they want you to believe and what is reality in this debate occupy positions that are polar opposites on the reality continuum!

Reality: government programs always cost more than originally projected. Congress has an abysmal record when it comes to cutting spending and raising tax rates, never produces anywhere near the amount of tax revenue that Congress believes it will.

Surreality: Congress can provide quality health care for everyone without bankrupting us all along the way.

Congress should do what I did when I realized that I couldn't afford the $1,000,000 Ferrari. I settled for just the pinstripes instead. Now I'll be the first to admit they don't look as good on me as they would on that Ferrari, but they don't look that bad, and on the plus side I won't need to hire a bankruptcy attorney.


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