The Alan Katz Health Care Reform Blog

Health Care Reform From One Person's Perspective

Why Liberals Will Be Disappointed By The Health Care Reform Summit

Posted by Alan on February 24, 2010

Americans’ views of the upcoming bipartisan health care reform summit will differ greatly: their ideologies and existing opinions concerning health care reform will color how they view what unfolds at Blair House on February 25th. Those in the center and right will hear talk of new government agencies and programs, new federal rules and the regulations, and wonder why those on the left are so disappointed. Isn’t what President Barack Obama proposing an unprecedented incursion by the federal government into health care? What more could the left want?

What liberals want is a single payer system. Often couched as Medicare for All, liberals hoped last year the new Administration would move forward with a complete remake of America’s health care system. Not they had much basis for such wishful thinking. Candidate Barack Obama made it clear that he would not be pushing for a single payer system if elected. After the election he made clear the private carriers would be a central part of the country’s health care system (single payer advocates would do away with health insurance companies).

In short, a single payer was off the table pretty early. But that doesn’t mean it was forgotten. I was watching Senator Bernie Sanders call for Medicare for All on one of the news stations earlier this week.

As we approach the Amidst the accusations that President Barack Obama is refusing to compromise on his health care reform package, it’s worthwhile  intention to lead a government takeover of health care in the United States Dr. Quinten Young, national coordinator of Physicians for a National Health Program, attacked both the House and Senate health care reform bills as “disastrous.” In a Huffington Blog posting, Dr. Young called on President Obama to “lay out the facts to the American people and provide energetic leadership for this eminently rational proposal.”

Not going to happen. Consider the current status of Medicare’s finances. Representative Paul Ryan, writing in Newsweek magazine this week, notes Medicare “is short $38 trillion of what it promises to provide your parents, you and your kids. In five years, the hole will grow to $52 trillion. Your family’s share: $458,000.” It’s also worth noting that the single payer bill recently passed by the California State Senate (and likely to be passed by the State Assembly then vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger) has a price tag of roughly $200 billion. As noted: it’s not going to happen.

Which explains why liberals are so dismayed when President Obama’s health care reform plan fails to include a government-run health plan to compete with private carriers. Unlike moderates and conservatives who see this (to varying degrees) as a compromise, liberals view the lack of a public option as the elimination of a compromise they already agreed to. They want a single payer system. They were willing to accept a public option. Now that’s off the table, too?

People feel passionate about health care. The issue is personal, political and policy all wrapped into a complex mix of laws, regulations and history. Which is why many observers believe the bipartisan summit will be little more than political theater (I disagree for reasons I’ll put in another post later today). And people will naturally interpret what happens tomorrow based on their own view of health care reform policy and politics. The perspective for liberals seeking a single payer system will be that of an ever shrinking loaf, leaving them with little to celebrate – in their view.

As noted, however, the left’s disappointment is unsurprising, and the fault of their own misinterpretation of election night 2008. Democrats increased their majorities in both chambers of Congress. Democrats won the White House. Progressives interpreted these results as the triumphs of liberalism. They were not. They were triumphs of the Democratic Party – a party that includes moderates and conservatives. Just as all Labradors are dogs, but not all dogs are Labradors, most liberals are Democrats, but not all Democrats are liberal.

No one knows for sure what will emerge from the health care reform summit. But a safe guess is that liberals will be further disappointed.


25 Responses to “Why Liberals Will Be Disappointed By The Health Care Reform Summit”

  1. Spencer,

    Point taken. Okay, Here’s my point of view on the summit. Cons complained about the lack of and asked for more bi-partisanship. When it is offered, many senators, not just the pundits, complain that it is a trap, that they have no interest in hearing anything from the dems…
    How do we move forward? And in the face of any real intention, do you see dems as having any other choice than reconciliation?
    I’d personally rather that the whole thing was scrapped and started fresh.

    what i’d like to see:
    1. no pre-existing condition denials
    2. ability to buy from an exchange that includes buying across state lines and a public option that is available as a pay per ability and not to those with available employer sponsered insurance.
    3. An insurance industry held more accountable to the public.

    Those are my three biggies.

    By the way, I am a liberal. I often hear the pundits, Beck most often, claim there is no difference and that we try to use the terms interchangeably so as to confuse the public. Most liberals started using “progressive” in response to the negative connotation that cons attached to the word liberal. I’ve never stopped, being proud to be a liberal. Most liberals aren’t even aware of the progressive movement as it is described by Beck, et al. I’m know that those “progressives/socialists” do exist, but I’m dubious of the extent to which they do exist and how much influence they have. It is certainly less than the fear mongers would have the public beleive. LIberals as a whole believe that a mixed economy works best by keeping the competitiveness and inovation of the free market AND by protecting socitety from the pitfalls of potential greed associated with capitalism as well as the interests of the unspoken for and weakest among us.

    • Dave,

      Very good response and good questions.

      I think that holding a Health Care Summit is a good step and can undo some of the feelings that only one side was pushing for change. Barring a bi-partisan “investment” from both sides, I don’t see any option for the Ds except reconciliation, at least from a political perspective. As with you, I’d like to see the whole thing scrapped and see Congress begin anew, with the full involvement of the Administration. I would prefer to see this tackled after, not before, the economy and economic recovery and jobs and the creation of jobs has been undertaken with substantive results occurring. I’m disturbed by the vast numbers of Americans who continue to be adversely affected by this rotten recession that only seems to be getting worse, taken in its totality.

      What I’d like to see:

      1. Pre-existing conditions eliminated EXCEPT those that could make it difficult to offer Guaranteed Issue, and then a pre-ex period that runs in concert with the condition…Example, Pregnancy lasts (usually) nine months. If a woman applies for coverage on her third month, no benefits for that pregnancy…it’s like insuring a burning home. Full coverage for successive pregnancies as long as she keeps her insurance in force. That is simply offered as an example.

      2. I’m not certain that I agree with the idea of exchanges (I really need to do more research), though I do believe that all companies should be able to compete across state lines as long as they meet Federal regulations (I think that the states have done an abysmal job in developing consumer friendly regulations in a consistent manner). I am not in favor of a public option.

      3. I am strongly in favor of the Industry, and the Agent Community, being held to far more stringent accountability. As a result of my perception that neither the Agent Community, via our trade associations or other venues, and the Insurance Company Community, and via the individual Insurance Departments have done a very poor job in stressing the importance of Ethics and Integrity, Product Knowledge and applicability (when is it appropriate to advise that a prospect purchase coverage versus being sent to the nearest DSHS (Department of Social and Health Services), perhaps otherwise stated as “Appropriateness of Purchase”, I strongly feel that we do need tightly written Federal Regulations governing the development of product, pricing of product (based on realistic actuarial’s…which may not lead to the least expensive of product, but which should do a far better job of containing and maintaining consistent premiums), and of regulating the many in the Agent Community who work in more than one state consistent in their behavior and actions toward the consumer. I apologize for the run-on sentence, this is a lot to cover, and I have only covered a part of what I think needs to be covered.

      I am an “independent”. I have been a registered Democrat (1970-1974), saw the Ds behaving as corruptly as Richard Nixon, and resigned. I was a registered Republican from 1993 until 1999, when I chaired the campaign for a terrific fellow who was a very moderate R, fiscally conservative, voted for Equal Rights for Gays (I hate the term gay rights, it is Equal Rights, as guaranteed in the Constitution), and resigned when he did as I found the Rs to be truly run by and totally influenced by the “Christian Intolerant Right”, and being a Jew I resented being treated as a second class citizen…those “Churchies” have really hijacked the GOP, IMO). I now believe that the movement toward more and more of the electorate becoming “independents” with a small “i” may help save this country from going down the swirling water in the toilet bowl. In declaring myself an independent, I will state that I am a Centrist, a Moderate; I am a Fiscal Conservative to Moderate, and a Social Liberal (very liberal).

      T_C_M, Dave, I appreciate this interchange of thought. Those of us who hope to have some small opportunity to effect change in our system may be of very different political persuasion, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t work together to arrive at a “product” that will benefit the public’s welfare.

  2. Mark,

    You’re right to some degree, but what do you do when one party refuses to come to the table?

  3. The problem with this bill is it does nothing to control cost. It only mandates that people get in on a broken system. Politicians are great for taking the easiest way out. Send them back to the table and tell them we don’t want to hear from them until they get the hard job of fixing a broken system done.

  4. Mark said

    This has begun to sound like Fox v. MSNBC, which goes to Alan’s point. Folks we have to find the middle.

    • Agreed, Mark.

      Getting into a “He said, she said” kind of podium thumping haranguing as those who garner large viewer ratings on MSNBC and FOX only tends to lower the level of debate on a blog as balanced as this, to the level of those Television Political Evangelists, and is unproductive in generating civil and respectful thought.

      In an effort to get us back on track, who thinks that the Health Care Reform Summit, expected to be televised and being promoted as encouraging Bi-Partisanship, will actually produce bi-partisan results, and why?

  5. Spencer,
    Your belief or disbelief in the Conservative Lie Machine doesn’t change the facts that it does exist. Conservative “think” tanks such as CATO and Heartland put out dail faxes to conservative media lapdogs like Glenn Beck and Limbaugh who spread the intentional disinformation (I know about disinformation, I spent 18 yrs in military public affairs learning about it) and then it is picked up by the internet and repeated and repeated until it is not questioned, or so little that most average americans accept it as fact. Calling the End of Life consultations allowed for in Health Care reform “death panels” is a prime example. It leads the public to believe that they are something other than what they are: simple voluntary consultations with your doctor about end of life treatment when it is called for, which is not now covered by most insurers.
    I am intentionally insulting because it grabs attention and I don’t feel that purposeful lies deserve any better.
    As for my name, it is Dave Jeffries, which is posted in my blog. I don’t hide it from anyone. Many people use nicknames here – mine helps spread my message. I’m tired of the lies going unchallenged.

    • Whoops.
      “think” tanks such as CATO and Heartland put out dail faxes to”

      I meant “daily faxes. That is Grover Norquist’s job – those daily faxes full of talking points, all of them inflamitory and many misleading or outright lies with the intention of swaying public opinion in favor of the conservative point of view. Fine, just stop the lying and misleading.

    • TCL, Dave:

      You make good points in your response. I would like to point out that those “Lies” exist on both sides of the aisle; Limbaugh, Palin, O’Reilly and those of their ilk on one side, Olbermann, Maddow, and Henry on the other, and others. They all create dissension, lies, and pontificate from their “bully Pulpits” to their Kool-aide drinking followers.

      On sites with as balanced a process of debate and presentation of commentary offered for debate as this Blog, insults are unnecessary to draw attention and response, and merely have the action of inciting heated responses. They are not productive. I agree with Alan’s comments yesterday; let’s stick to civil and respectful debate, and address these issues as mature adults, not as the “entertainers” found on MSNBC AND FOX.

      • QNews said

        granted, while Olbermann and O’Reilly may raise a few good points on the side you’re on, they should be watched mostly for entertainment purposes — not for real information.

        That’s the thing, Americans need to learn the difference between infotainment and the real news.

  6. Robert Lehrer said

    I’ve spent a lot of time reading viewpoints from all sides of the Health Care Reform issue. Not unexpectedly, most bloggers and article writers from the insurance industry are dead-set against Health Care Reform. They make no bones about it.

    Alan, of all the insurance industry people who’s articles that I’ve read, yours is the most objective. No B.S. Sound theories and insightful reporting dominate your blogs.

    Thanks for being one of the few voices of reason on either side of this ongoing debate.


    • Excellent comments. I agree. And I also think that there are few voices of reason, on either side. We’re being governed by self-serving egos on both sides, and those who blindly follow them over the edge of the cliff, like Lemmings.

      It seems that the only voices of moderation these days are many of the “independents”, and a few minds of reason like Alan.

      Progressive Democrats, many liberal Democrats, Republicans, Tea-party-ers, Birthers, the “break-aparts” really only represent the extremist views on each side.

      We truly need meaningful campaign and political reform. I doubt that it will ever happen; the Ds and Rs are simply too powerful and rich. Heck, even Jay Rockefeller, holder of many shares of Toyota Stock, refuses to recuse himself from the Senate Committee investigating Toyota:

      “Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia. Toyota sponsored and paid for in part a dinner where Rockefeller was honored last year, and Toyota runs a plan in Rockefeller’s home state that created 1,500 jobs and close to $1 billion in investment.” Rockefeller helped land that Toyota plant for his state. No conflict of interest there…. Is there any integrity left in Congress?

      • Spencer, I find your comments a little hard to follow. I absolutely agree that corporate interests have far too much influence over our government. But then, in your next set of comments, you talk about how government (and your alleged creeping socialism of President Obama) is the real scourge.

        So what is it?

        Should the free market reign, with the Toyotas of the world answerable to no one except their (still surviving) customers?

        Or should government play a role in ensuring the free market play by fair rules (no monopolies, or lying to the public to make sales, or taking something that by definition we need to stay healthy–i.e., healthcare–and making this out of reach for many who don’t work for large corporations?)

        Your strong opinions seem to me to be all over the map.

        • “Should the free market reign, with the Toyotas of the world answerable to no one except their (still surviving) customers?”

          It would appear that you think it must be all one way or all the other. That is what separates extreme points of view from moderate, centrist, balanced thinking.

          It seems to me that Alan Katz has asked for a semblance of civil debate to take place on this blog.

          I am going to do my best to honor that request. You do as you feel you must.

  7. spencer,

    FYI, liberals don’t want to eliminate capitalism or free market, despite what your conservative lie machine says. We believe in a mixed economy.

    • Conservative-Lie:

      I don’t follow or believe in a conservative lie machine, though you clearly do. I do believe in the already proven Democratic Liberal/Progressive Arrogance and Bully Machine that so deeply disjointed the American Public in 2009, and as you seem wont to do, will again promulgate in 2010.

      Turning the insurance profession into a public utility (read « Obama Health Care Reform Plan: Part I) will most eliminate “capitalism and free market” from that segment of our economy, and given what we are already seeing with banks and automobile makers, nationalism is only a short couple of decades away. Try reading some books on economics. They may, possibly, give you an education, if you remove that blinding screen from your progressive liberal (socialist) eyes.

      BTW, I can exhibit at least a small level of respect in responding to your insulting post by spelling your “Pseudonym” (afraid of revealing the real you? Isn’t that rather cowardly?) with a capital letter. Not only do you demean others comments, you hide from accountability as well. That is so like an ultra liberal, aka progressive democrat.

      So, how about removing that bag from your head and letting us know who is really writing your words?

    • Why, T_C_M:

      I never said “liberals”, I said “Progressives”. Typical of Progressives, write what you want and damn the truth or the facts.

      You run a blog, write for that blog, and expect folks who follow you to believe you only state the facts? Shame on you; you write just like any other super ultra-liberal, aka Progressive, and ignore facts.

      FYI, Progressives are…oh, why bother, you know what progressives think.

      • Alan said

        OK I think we’ve gone far enough here.Let’s agree that lots of folks feel very passionately about their beliefs. And that generally that’s a good thing. In my experience, there’s nothing typical of progressive or independents or liberals or conservatives or right wingers that isn’t equally typical of the others on that list.

        But this thread IS proving my point: we all see the same events through our own personally tinted glasses. The same will be true of how we interpret the health care reform summit. Fortunately in this country, just as everyone is entitled to their own opinion, everyone is entitled to their own interpretations. So let’s move on and deal with the substance.

  8. Alan,

    A well written, well stated analysis of the ongoing Health Care Reform issue, in my opinion.

    While clearly falling on the progressives’ deaf ears, they should truly be very careful for what they wish. While their segment of the Democratic Party appears to be synonymous with “Democratic Socialist Party”, their seeming desire to eliminate the philosophies of “Free-Market” and “Capitalism” from the American Society could only result in a disastrous end for America’s ability to compete on the world stage, and for many other countries not led by dictators, who are dependent on the American Economy to fail as well.

    That we need change and reform in many areas of our society is not arguable. That said, the desire of some to totally eliminate those components of a free society that provide incentives for those who wish to excel beyond the norm and accomplish great things, whether in the areas of health care, health care funding, education, technology, or the manufacturing of toys for children is ludicrous to the point of folly.

  9. “There’s a bad moon on the rise.”

    –John Fogarty

    • How did this rate a thumb’s down?

      You don’t like the song?

      I have misquoted?

      You think the future is bright and feel I have interjected a metaphorical bummer into the discussion by quoting the lyric?

      I can see not giving this comment a thumb’s up. But what did it do to merit an active downwards pointing thumb?

      • Jim,

        While I certainly did not give you a “Thumbs down”, and cannot imagine who did (frankly I didn’t know “There’s a bad moon on the rise” was a song), I don’t think that you need to be so sensitive. Perhaps I’m naive, but I thought that you simply meant that we’re in for another difficult, no-bi-partisan period. That’s an accurate thought, IMO.

        However, I find it interesting that for one who doesn’t mind addressing others in a seemingly sarcastic and acerbic manner, certainly your posts can seem “demanding”, you are sensitive to someone giving you a “Thumb’s Up or Down”. Who cares? None of us need agree on this or any other blog, or on this or any other issue and some find that they can more easily “give” their opinion, not in words perhaps, maybe they don’t feel articulate enough to compete in the written word, but in the “action of the thumb”.

        Generally, those who post on blogs such as this, where the posters, for the most part, exhibit a higher than normal level of intellect and passion, seem to be used to having their heads above the sand and realize that a bullet or two may zing past their nose. Let ’em shoot. They’re only metaphorical bullets and can’t cause harm, other than leaving the recipient with a bad feeling for a moment. Screw the thumbs. It’s what you say that only really counts.

        • Spencer,

          I wasn’t offended or sensitized just curious. I know you know this song, though perhaps not by title. Check it out.

        • Jim,

          Thanks for embedding this song. Yup. I know it well, used to enjoy some…used to really enjoy listening to it. 🙂 Jeez, I grew up on CCR!

          Great song! CCR was a fabulous group! I gave you a Thumb’s Up on this one!!! And I don’t do Thumbs…middle finger salutes, sometimes, maybe…

          Thanks, Jim.

  10. Why liberals will be happy:

    -It’s a big fat middle finger to the right
    -It’s a place to start.

    The Reasons we won’t be happy:

    -No single payer
    -No govt. option.

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