Barbara O'Brien

Barbara O'Brien
New York, USA
October 01
Barbara O'Brien is the author of Rethinking Religion: Finding a Place for Religion in a Modern, Tolerant, Progressive, Peaceful and Science-affirming World, available at Amazon. She is the resident expert on Buddhism at and also blogs at The Mahablog.

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JUNE 9, 2009 9:57AM

Will the Blue Dogs Betray Us on Health Care?

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Certainly President Obama’s health care proposals fall short of what most of us want — national single payer — but at least the proposal includes a public insurance plan that promises to provide coverage for many Americans now locked out of private insurance, either by lack of money or a “preexisting condition.”

Although I expect many Americans would still fall through the cracks and remain cut off from health care, I believe the public option would be a great help to millions who don’t have health insurance now. If that option is removed from the reform package, however, what’s left will amount to feeble tweaks of the current system that would make little tangible difference to anyone but Big Pharma and health insurance executives.

Naturally Republicans are fighting the public plan tooth and nail. Now there’s a “compromise” option championed by “moderates” that effectively would remove the public plan without officially killing it.

My definition of a “moderate” in this context — politicians who vote against the interests of their constituents not because of lunatic right-wing ideology, but because they’ve just plain been bought off.

“Moderate” Republican Senator Olympia Snowe came up with the idea of a “trigger” that would postpone the public plan to some hazy place in the future unless private insurance fails to meet certain benchmarks. Then the public plan option would be taken off the shelf and put into effect.

This means there never will be a public plan, except on paper. Even if private insurance misses the benchmarks, you know that Congress will come up with fine excuses for them so that the public plan doesn’t happen.

As I've written elsewhere, it appears that the purpose of a health care system is not to provide health care, but to support a profitable health care industry.

Ryan Grim reports for Huffington Post that a pack of Blue Dog Democrats are backsliding on earlier pledges to back the public plan and are coming out in favor of the trigger. Although the Blue Dog Coalition (click here for member list) hasn’t officially declared support for the trigger, it may be heading in that direction. If enough Democrats sell us out for the “trigger” option, health care reform is dead.

And, once again, the Democratic Party will have failed us, and once again, special interests and not the people will set public policy.

(An earlier version of this post is published at The Mahablog)

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I think Obama's proposal eventually leads to single payer, though it doesn't start off that way. Most healthy, young people will opt for the less expensive, government plan, leaving sick, older people in the private plans, whose costs rise, causing more people to shift to the government plan, causing prices to rise further until almost everyone is under the government plan except for a small minority who can still afford very expensive private health insurance.

I think Obama believes, correctly, that an *up front* single payer system may not pass Congress, so he's trying to get it through the back door, which is fine with me. I'd rather proceed circuitously than not at all. Excellent post.
Thank you. Yes, "trigger option" is code for no relief from health care profiteering and "moderate" is code for putting profits of well-heeled campaign donors before people one is elected to represent. Republicans, Blue Dogs, and New Dems should recuse themselves from the entire health care debate based on conflict of interest.