Thursday, March 18, 2010

For Brad Ellsworth: A Slate of Retorts to Anti-Healthcare Claims...Including Abortion

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.



Anonymous said...

Plus on the more pragmatic side, in the eyes of the voters he has already voted for it once. As we know from 2004, claiming "that I was for it before I was against it" just gets a person labeled as a flip-flopper. Yes, the bill has some differences, but it is still health care reform and he voted in favor for it already. Voting against it now just makes Democrats in general look weak without giving Ellsworth any real political cover.

Anonymous said...

The political reality is that the Democratic health care proposals are very unpopular in Indiana. Most of the polls I've seen show over 60% opposed, with nearly half strongly opposed. Ellsworth already has an uphill climb to win a seat in the Senate. If he votes for the health care bill, he's dead.

I doubt there is any amount of party support that could save him under those circumstances in Indiana this year, especially if the House resorts to the Slaughter Rule.

His choice is sad but simple: He can oppose the health care bill and have a chance to win statewide in November, or he can vote for it and commit political suicide now.

Anonymous said...

He can plausibly argue that the House bill he voted for is very different from the Senate bill he's being asked to support now. If he makes that clear after a "no" vote now, he's got a reasonable arguement.

In the end, he has a chance in November with a "no" vote. He's "dead man walking" if he votes for it.

Admittedly, it's not a happy choice.

iPOPA said...

I agree it'll be extremely difficult winning in November if he says yes. But I still want him to do it if his vote is necessary to pass healthcare.

A great story told to me by a guy who worked for Mississippi Senator John Stennis (who died in 1995)....

The Senator was an old dog who wasn't used to the new political methods, but he agreed to take a meeting with some political pollsters and consultants. One guy said, "Senator, to win this, you have to attack your opponent." "Senator, to win this, you have to endorse person A (who was against some of the Senator's positions." "Senator, to win this, you have to vote NO on w and x and YES on y and z."

Finally, the Senator said, "Son, we don't HAVE to win this."

My point? Show me a person who picks the right fight and goes down with the ship, and I'll show you a person who gains more respect than anyone who will follow polls to achieve higher office.

Anonymous said...

I have not seen any polls recently relating to Indian voters and their views on the healthcare vote. What I do know in national polls that the tide has turned. When it is explained carefully and all of the vicious lies told by the republicans rebutted. the voting public seems to be supportive. I think a NO vote by Elsworth may doom him in November.

Anonymous said...

Brad should face it..

1. He won't get any hardcore GOP or teabagger votes...not a single one
No matter what!!!!

2. Failure to vote yes on HCR would keep any progressive from voting for him....not a single one, no matter what!!!!

3. Private insurance companies don't pay for elective abortions. They never have, never will. This has not been brought up as much as I thought.


Anonymous said...

I have written to Congressman Ellsworth. He is my representative. I am an independent an want reform. It is personal for myself and family. Anthem has a lock on the insurance we can get, our premium is now 1770.70 per month. I make just under 50,000 per year----you do the math! We can not afford this. In 5 years our premiums have increased around 120 percent yet our health has not changed to warrant this. I am sure next year it will go up again. I am not sure this bill will help us but doing nothing helps no one. Get a grip Congressman Ellsworth do the right thing! Vote YES!