Spencer Valentine, my colleague and friend at A Loyal Opposition, has implored Democratic Congressman (and all-but-certain U.S. Senatorial candidate) Brad Ellsworth to "follow through" on his prior favorable healthcare vote.
Spencer tells the Congressman that, when he does the right thing and votes yes, we will help him make the case. But, as Spencer does a pretty compelling job making the case now, I figured I'd jump on board and help make the case to the Congressman, courtesy of Slate (arguably one of the best reads in a person's day).
Dear Congressman Ellsworth:
As you deliberate on healthcare reform, I hope you will keep in mind the following:
1. Don't buy the "government takeover" myth. I've written repeatedly that the government won't employee anybody or own any hospitals, clinics, pharmaceutical companies, or medical device makers. All the government will do is provide some people subsidies to buy private health insurance.
Of course, do not fear conceding in the interest of intellectual honesty that America is spending more public dollars on healthcare, but this trend will continue even without reform. In fact, without reform, it might get worse.
As Slate notes, in 1990, health care expenses were split 60/40 private/public. By 2000, that rate had changed to 55/45 (with two years with a Republican President and six years with a Republican House during that decade). During eight years of all-GOP Whitehouse (and mostly Congress) from 2000 to 2008, the rate fell to 52/48 private/public.
As the recession boosts poverty, more people are eligible for Medicaid, and the reduction in payroll jobs has caused losses in job-related insurance. Wellpoint earnings were below expectations yesterday because it estimated it will lose 400,000 individual policy holders this year. And those people are going where exactly? To no coverage? If all 400,000 stay healthy, great (except every healthy person who bails raises the rates for everybody else, making further exodus even more likely).
But what if these folks who abandoned coverage get catastrophic injuries or illnesses? Hasn't "the market" just given us 400,000 possible "free riders?" Most importantly, didn't the "public share" of our healthcare debt get greater with a Republican-supported prescription drug benefit in 2003? But what elected Republican is talking about dismantling Medicare? Not one. As an aside, if a "government-run system" is so terrible, why aren't Republicans talking about giving our veterans private insurance? Don't they value our veterans, Congressman?
America is going to end up in the same place on public medical expenses with or without reform. Democrats just hope to save more people and money through preventive care in the process.
2. "The Market" Won't Stop Insurance Companies From Hosing Us.
Indiana bears a black mark because some of the biggest insurance companies profitting off of rescission practice have roots here. "Rescission" is when a company invalides a policy after claims are filed based on technical violations on the application.
Slate notes that three health insurance companies - Assurant Health, Wellpoint, and the hypocritically-named Golden Rule - saved $300 million by rescinding nearly 20,000 policies based on omissions policyholders made in filling out enrollment forms that had nothing to do with the claims filed. When asked to pledge to stop this practice except in cases of intentional fraud, the CEOs of all three told Congress, "Thanks, but no thanks."
A lawsuit now charges that Assurant Health has engaged in "recission profiling" by launching investigations into fraud among HIV-positive clients. You think insurance companies don't do the same thing with cancer?
3. A holdout for the Stupak Amendment is Stup-id and Intellectually Dishonest. Congressman, there is nothing in this bill that says the federal government will pay for abortion. What the bill says is that IF a person enrolls in an insurance plan that provides abortion coverage, they must pay $1 per month into a separate segregated fund. But anybody who doesn’t want it covered can select an abortion-free plan, and in the Senate version of the bill, every exchange much have at least one abortion-free plan.
Stupak might argue, however, that the bill may commit tax dollars in the form of subsidies to somebody who could then choose to select a plan that provides such services. In other words, not only won’t Stupak and his supporters fund choice federally, they won’t even fund an individual's choice to fund a plan that funds a choice.
There's not only hypocrisy at work here, there's also terribly tortured line-drawing. How many times have you heard a Republican say, "We don't want to take your tax dollars because we trust you to spend it in the right way more than government?" How does that trust evaporate if the government is the one that gives you the dollars in the first place?
There are literally hundreds of ways government puts money into people's hands. Does anybody say, "Hey, we can't give you your crop subsidy, military pension, social security, educational grant, or mortgage interest deduction unless you let us know you won't use any part of those dollars to pay for an abortion for you or anybody you know." Every time I file my taxes, I check that I want $3 to go the public financing of presidential elections. What if one of the candidates favors federal-funding of abortion, and (s)he gets elected and changes the law? Have I just "funded" abortion?
Stupak has said that he won't vote for a bill without his language, but, as Slate's Tim Noah points out, it "can't be shoehorned into President Obama's package, because it's nonbudgetary and therefore ineligible for inclusion in a budget reconciliation bill."
In short, Stupak obviously wants the bill to fail, and so does anybody who clings to Stupak's amendment. In fact, Congressman, I'm starting to wonder if the "Stupak amendment" is a canard for conservative districts where a majority of people (particularly folks inclined to vote for Democrats) would benefit but where representatives are afraid a vote would be unpopular before November, 2010.
While I do not say this is the case for you, how easy would it be for your bluedog colleagues to go home and say to working-class, pro-life constituents, "Boy, I really wanted to do this for you because I know you needed it, but it would have funded abortion! You understand, right?"
Pro-life folk need to take a step back and ask what is more important: symbolic politics or actually reducing abortions? If you agree with the latter, Congressman, you might like to know that if your choices are: (1) kill the bill and do nothing; or (2) expand access to all medical care, including unsubsidized abortions, only the latter will reduce abortion rates.
The New England Journal of Medicine has a study that bears this out. Romneycare provides direct funding for abortions, but two years later, even though non-elderly insurance rates rose six percent, the abortion rate dropped 7.4 percent among teens and 1.5% overall. In other words, you give people access to information and all medical services, and some won't get pregnant in the first place and some will have children because they know medical care will be available.
As Spencer stated, Democrats stand ready to help you.
Give us the chance.