The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

What Do They Want?

First, it was Sen. Landerieu’s nonsense. Now we get this from Sen. Joe Lieberman.

Enough is enough. When Democrats start parroting Republican talking points, they are showing us who they are. We need to treat accordingly. Especially when their take on health care reform is pretty much the same as the GOP’s, in terms of outcome.

For the Republicans have finally come up with some semblance of a plan for health care reform. I’ll give them credit, though. I, among others, had derided them for failing to come up with anything.

Steve Benen asks a question about the Republican health care reform plan — or lack thereof — that I’m certain I’ve seen answered already.

The House Republican leadership “guaranteed” that they would offer an alternative health care reform bill. If my count is right, that was 134 days ago.

Asked about when Americans can expect to see the GOP plan, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said it’s “pretty difficult” for Republicans to come up with a “solid plan,” because the minority caucus is “not quite sure how the majority intends to proceed.”

I’m not sure what that’s even supposed to mean. Republicans started putting together their health care reform proposal in June. They’ve had plenty of time to meet behind closed doors and craft the superior plan that will prove the seriousness with which the GOP takes this issue. What’s the holdup?

Boehner wants to know first how Democrats intend to proceed? Well, here’s a tip for the Minority Leader: Democrats will probably hold a vote on the reform bill they’ve spent the last year putting together. The question is, how does he intend to proceed?

The answer is that they don’t intend to proceed. Because they can’t proceed.

A solution is necessary only if there’s a problem to be solved, and conservative politicial philosophy kind of prohibits them from perceiving a problem. Thus the don’t have a solution because they can’t come up with one that: (a) actually solves the problem in question by guaranteeing everyone access to quality, affordable health care and (b) rigidly adheres to the tenets of the political philosophy.

But they finally did it.

Republicans haven’t released full details of the party’s bill, but Boehner said the legislative proposal would be made public in the next couple of days.

The bill would allow insurance firms to sell policies across state lines, permit small businesses to pool together to bring down costs they face, implement changes to medical malpractices, and give state governments more flexibility to pursue rule changes in their states.

The absence of a requirement to end the practice of insurers being allowed to deny coverage to people who are already ill or have pre-existing conditions would be a significant difference between Democratic and Republican health-care overhaul proposals directly impacting the insurance industry.

(This article appear briefly on the Wall Street Journal website, then mysteriously disappeared.)

The bill apparently does more than preserve the status quo, it actually makes it worse.

Specifically, he points to the kind of high-risk pools that many states have established for those who find themselves uninsurable as a result of a serious illness. That is not a new idea–some states have had these pools for three decades–or a solution for many. These pools already exist in more than 30 states, but they tend to be too expensive for those with limited means to buy into. And often, people cannot get into them for as long as a year after they apply.

When my brother developed kidney disease and his health insurance refused to pay to treat it, I looked into Texas’ high-risk pool and discovered it would be far out of his reach, with premiums that typically run twice as expensive as regular insurance policies. California’s high-risk pool has been a disaster, covering only 2% of the medically uninsurable.

A lot worse, perhaps.

“A House Republican health-care bill wouldn’t seek to prevent health-insurance companies from denying sick people insurance,” the first paragraph of the Wall Street Journal’s preview of the latest Republican health-care reform alternative says. “Republicans also wouldn’t prevent insurers from ending policies once an individual becomes seriously ill,” reads the fifth. On the bright side, the Republican bill would allow insurers to base themselves in whichever state has the weakest regulatory standards and then sell policies built around those rules nationwide. If you’ve ever thought that your insurance was too comprehensive, too straightforward, and contained too few loopholes that you didn’t learn about until you feel terribly ill, then this is the plan for you!

I’m tired of doing this. I’m tired of pretending that political documents are the same as policy documents. Republicans have not released a plan to reform the health-care system. They have released a plan (pdf) to have people stop bugging them about releasing a plan to reform the health-care system. The two are not the same thing.

But, according to Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats, covering the uninsured was never the point — which may be why Republican leadership can’t even say how many people their “plan” would cover.

The point of health care reform, apparently, isn’t to cover people like Anne Johnson.

Anne Johnson lost coverage for herself and her 18-year-old son in February when she lost her job as a secretary at a solar energy company, where she was earning about $25,000 per year.

Shortly before she was laid off, a cardiologist told her she needs her aortic valve replaced, but without insurance she can’t afford the surgery. She is supposed to get checkups every six months, but that is also too expensive – so she has put them off. Her last visit to the cardiologist was in January, so she is already three months overdue.

“Right now I have no idea what type of condition I’m in,” Johnson said.

Nor is the point to cover people like William Koehler.

In 2003, William Koehler of Pittsburgh, Pa. lost his job as an electronics technician. He lost his health insurance, too, but he’d been lucky enough to have the defibrillator battery in his heart changed just the previous year. No insurer would cover him except for one company which refused to cover anything related to his arrhythmia, says his sister.

He survived as long as his battery did, dying on March 7, 2009 at 57. His sister, Georgeanne Koehler, has become an activist, telling the story about how her brother died to anyone who will listen. On Thursday, she traveled to Washington, D.C. from Pittsburgh to join a protest outside a conference for America’s Health Insurance Plans, a lobbying group for the insurance industry.

“I blame insurance companies, I blame his doctor, and I blame politicians,” Koehler said to a gaggle or reporters asking about her brother’s death after the protest.

In an interview with the Huffington Post, she explained that after he was laid off, her brother found part-time work delivering pies for Vocelli Pizza, putting in about 30 hours a week. In 2007, as he was closing up shop, he collapsed. His coworkers called an ambulance, and his sisters joined him at the hospital.

“The doctor said that the defibrillator battery was extremely low, and he needed studies done, but not as an inpatient,” said Koehler, who is 63 and works as a unit clerk at a hospital in Pittsburgh. Asked if he needed to pay for treatment upfront, her brother’s doctor said he would, and that it would cost thousands of dollars.

“I’m a pizza delivery guy, I don’t have insurance,” Koehler recalled her brother saying. She said the cardiologist walked to the side of the bed and asked her brother if he put oil in his car. When he said he did, the doctor told him that’s what he needed to do for his heart.

“You’re talking about a $8.50 can of oil and my battery’s going to be ten thousand dollars,” Koehler recalled her brother saying. “The doctor said, ‘Get your priorities straight and you’ll come up with the money.'”

Instead, the lesson William Koehler took from the episode, his sister said, was that “You have to have money to have your health.” Over the next two years he’d have episodes where he couldn’t catch his breath but he always shrugged off going to the hospital.

Koehler — a lifelong Republican — didn’t have money, so he didn’t or couldn’t have his health. Two years later, he died on his way home from work.

The point isn’t to cover people like Johnson and Koehler, and so nothing in the Republican plan guarantees them coverage. They might get coverage, or they might not. It might be affordable, or it might not. It might cover them when they get sick, or it might not.

If the point was — as they say — lowering costs the question remains: For whom? The beneficiaries of the status quo are the insurance companies. The beneficiaries of the Republican plan are the insurance companies. That much they can guarantee.

Either way, the health care status quo is unsustainable. So keeping it and allowing it to get isn’t much better than legislating and deregulating it into getting worse. As it is, the status quo is bad enough.

When Lieberman first started making noise about filibustering health care reform, I asked myself, “What does Joe Lieberman want?” If I were feeling particularly cynical, I’d say he wants to keep the money rolling in.

If Democrats are disappointed by Joe Lieberman’s threat to filibuster any healthcare reform bill that includes a public option, they shouldn’t be. Despite all of his past promises to support universal healthcare, nothing was more predictable than the Connecticut senator’s fealty to the insurance and pharmaceutical lobbyists.

…The Lieberman family’s financial ties to the health industry are no secret, yet their full extent remains unknown. During her husband’s 2006 reelection campaign, Hadassah Lieberman’s employment as a “senior counselor” to Hill & Knowlton, one of the world’s biggest lobbying firms, briefly erupted as an issue, especially because the clients she served were in the controversial pharmaceutical and insurance sectors. Exactly what she did for those clients has never been disclosed.

At the time she joined the public relations and lobbying conglomerate in the spring of 2005, she expressed the touching hope that she would somehow be able to help those in need. “I have had a lifelong commitment to helping people gain better healthcare,” she said in a press release. “I am excited about the opportunity to work with the talented team at Hill & Knowlton to counsel a terrific stable of clients toward that same goal.” Less than a year later, having pocketed $77,000 in salary, she quit without explanation — just as her husband was facing a tough primary that he would eventually lose. Throughout the campaign, Hadassah Lieberman, her husband and their spokespersons explicitly refused to discuss her professional activities, except to note that she had not been required to register as a lobbyist.

And what better way to do that than to make sure your benefactors — your real constituents, the insurance industry — are the chief beneficiaries of your efforts? After all, if they get what they want, you get what you want.

And the rest of us get? What, exactly?

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