The Alan Katz Health Care Reform Blog

Health Care Reform From One Person's Perspective

Support for Health Care Reform Gains Support from Left and Middle

Posted by Alan on March 17, 2010

Health care reform is likely to pass the House of Representatives as early as this weekend or beginning of next week. The vote will be close. The methodology may open questions concerning legitimacy. But health care reform is likely to pass.

Consider: Liberals are falling into line. Some may have assumed this was a given, but some on the left oppose President Barack Obama’s health care reform package for failing to go far enough. They want their single payer system or their public option and don’t want to settle for anything less. Unless, it seems, anything less is nothing at all.

That, at least, is the explanation Representative Dennis Kucinich gave today when he switched his position and announced he’d vote “yes” on the President’s health care reform bill. As Sabrina Eaton of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes about her home town Congressman, Representative Kucinich “acknowledged this morning that his choice now is to either vote ‘no’ on principle, and thereby possibly block the biggest (though imperfect) advance in health coverage in decades, or compromise for the good of the estimated 30 million more Americans who could gain insurance.”

More evidence: the opinion shows on MSNBC. Virtually all of the talking heads in their liberal line-up speak of the need for Democrats to pass the current version of health care reform even though it lacks their beloved government-run health plan. Even former Governor Howard Dean, speaking to a pro-health care reform march in Washington DC last week, was arguing for the legislation he often criticized , proclaiming, “We deserve a vote! Are you for the insurance companies or are you for the American people?”

The left, in short, has fallen into place. Liberals will not kill health care reform.

But liberals alone will not pass health care reform, either. That feat requires the support of moderate Democrats. And while centrists may not be rushing to support the current health care reform, at least a few are stepping forward. Representative James Oberstar was among the moderate Democrats who were following Representative Bart Stupak in opposing the Obama Administration’s health care reform bill over abortion language. This group of 12 (now, presumably fewer) Democrats, were holding out for the more restrictive abortion language in the House’s version of health care reform. Representative Oberstar today announced he would support the President’s health care reform bill saying “On balance, it does what we need to do,” according to the Minnesota Independent. Another pro-life Democrat, Representative Dale Kildee, a close ally and friend of Representative Stupak also announced his support of the Administration’s health care legislation today. According to the New York Times, Representative Kildee said “he was satisfied that the provisions in the health care bill passed by the Senate would prevent the use of federal money for insurance coverage of abortions.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and anti-abortion groups like the National Right to Life Committee have been the driving force behind the more restrictive abortion language included in the House bill.  As reported by McClatchy Newspapers, the Bishops believe the Senate abortion language would “open the door to federal financing” of the procedure. But today a group of 60 nuns, leaders of orders comprised of 59,000 Catholic nuns sent a letter to House members urging them to pass the Senate health care reform bill. According to the Associated Press. in their letter, the nuns claim that “despite false claims to the contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions.”

Whether the split between bishops and nuns will be enough turn all of Representative Stupak’s faction into supporters of health care reform is unlikely. But as Katie Connolly notes in her post on the Newsweek magazine, “Having high-profile support from a key Catholic group nudges fence-sitters in (the Stupak) group toward a yes vote. At the very least the (nuns) letter damages the validity of Stupak’s argument.

(What’s ironic about the fight over how health care reform addresses abortion is that, as a practical matter, both the House and Senate versions of health care reform are victories for anti-abortion advocates.)

Passage of health care reform is not a done deal. Momentum is not victory. Patrick O’connor of provides an excellent summary of the challenge Speaker Nancy Pelosi faces in assembling 216 votes to in support of health care reform. And even if the bill passes in the House of Representatives, who really knows what will happen in the Senate? Given the twists and turns of our story so far, anything could happen.

But with liberals falling in line and moderates slowly coming to support President Obama’s health care reform package, passage is certainly more likely today than it was yesterday. For those who consider this the ruin of American ideals, the end of quality health care in this country and the demise of the health insurance industry, my advice is to take a deep breath.

There’s thousands of regulations yet to come. There’s plenty of opportunity for Congress to tweak the reforms for the better. And there’s always the adaptability of American business. Somehow these things have a way of working out. Careers continue. The country endures. Health care reform, 2010 style, is unlikely to be any different.


7 Responses to “Support for Health Care Reform Gains Support from Left and Middle”

  1. npg said

    thanks again, Alan, for helping to dig the graves of the careers and livelihoods of all of the thousands of agents and brokers (and their employees) out there, and stabbing us in the back with your cheerleading for this abomination…thanks again for your support of a bill that will soon be the death knell for us…hey everybody, go back and read the “about” link for this blog….that you have “long been a strong advocate for agents”…!!!!!…what was it you said? oh yeah, we agents will need to “find new ways to bring value” to the marketplace”, something like that? (i.e., “let them eat cake”)…after all, you made your wad already years ago in this business right? and got out just in time?…as the old saying goes: “I got mine, Jack”!

    • Npg, I don’t understand the tone of your criticism here. What has Alan done to offend you? Can you point to inaccuracies in what he has reported? Of do you believe what he has written is accurate but not to your liking, and you think Alan could have, should have laced his prose with more enmity for the events that are now transpiring?

      Do you believe he is powerful enough to somehow sway the argument one way or the other merely through his attitude?

      Or are you angry at fair and remarkably predictive analyst of a highly complex political-social-economic sea change in the potential making?

      If you just want a cheerleader to inflame what you want to believe, I am sure you can find plenty of web sites and Fox News analysts happy to cater to your tastes.

      I have enjoyed Alan’s blog greatly because it is not just another rant on one side or the other, marshalling only a select set of “facts” that sells a given product.

      If part of your career and livelihood depends upon helping people like me get coverage we can afford, and such either does not exist or is constructed with so many holes in it it’s not worth buying in the first place, perhaps you should realize that your value not just as a broker, but as a decent human being, would not have persisted much longer anyhow. The overlords you serve were determined to weed many of us out of the coverage world entirely. You were the handmaids of monsters, and that’s no way to live.

  2. Mark Goodman said

    So I am wondering how insurance costs will be controlled. Let’s assume someone buys the least expensive policy and dutifully pays the premium. Then they have a serious accident or get bad news from their doctor. Can they then switch to a more expensive plan with richer benefits? I could see this becoming a huge problem in managing the insurance cost.

    I am all for reform because we need a starting point and regardless of efforts on either side of the aisle or within each party there will never be a perfect solution. With each solution comes a new set of issues. We have to keep pulsing the bar forward.

  3. Ron Masters said


    To expect that there would be any semblance of partisanship from the Democrats has been been subject to much folly. The number of lies and deceit used by the majority party to get this mess passed is repulsive to the majority of Americans.

    Here some issues that may or may not hae been discussed,,,,

    Is health insurance expensive? You bet.
    Is health care expensive? Even more so and this overhaul does nothing to rein it in, but will exacerbate the problem.
    Do Americans currently lose their health insurance when they leave their jobs? No, thanks to COBRA and Obama has created a subsidy of 65% to health premium payments.
    When they move from one job to another are they subject to pre-existing condition limitations? No they are not, thanks to HIPPA
    Do insurers make a practice out of canceling coverage when one is ill? Not in CA or most States.
    Are there problems with some care being covered and questioned? Yes, and if it was not, the costs would even be higher for everyone.
    Are there programs to provide Health Care for low income or the indigent? You bet, at last count there are about 46 of them in California alone.

    Having retired after 40 years in the in the insurance industry, marketing and managing large employer mainly health plans,I have been a vocal critique of insurers for over 23 years. I was asked and made a presentation to the CEO council of what is now AHIP in 1989 and told them all they will be out of business or at the very least regulated to the point of strangulation within 10 to 20 years SHOULD THEY NOT WANT TO TAKE SOME OF THE BAD WITH THE GOOD. It has taken almost 23 years.

    Should this pass, and it appears the tactis of the majority may prevail to do so, the private market will go away for the most part within 5 years, the real objective of this reform. One needs to only look at the high premium increases of late,,,they are not necessarily due to sound underwriting and risk analysis but protection from what is about to happen. Insurers have reacted this way before.

    Only history will tell us if this overhaul is public policy to be sustained,,,,,of course there is the ballot box next November as another tool.


  4. dave said

    The main mistake Obama, Hillary, and Edwards made way back in the beginning of the election cycle was that they pretended that health care in America is not in dire straights. That is to say they failed to mention 4 important words that best describe health care in America today………they are…UNSUSTAINABLE..WASTEFUL….UNFAIR…AND DEADLY.

    Instead we got the,”you can keep your exisiting policy, nothing will change” lines. This implies that if nothing will change why are we running around demanding change? Obama then tried to say that we could insure 30 million Americans without raising the deficit, through cuts in a program that will be broke in 8 years.

    Had the Democrats said over and over and over the truth, which is that the current system is UNSUSTAINABLE, UNFAIR, AND INEFFICIENT, then he could follow that with his solutions.

    Instead we get happy talk and promises that will NEVER occur.

    The guaranteed issue has been tried in 4 states with disastrous results. In Mass. they are having problems with people who fail to buy a policy, pay the fine, then end up in an emergency room with a serious ailment. THEN they get their subsidized policy.

    The main problem I have with Obamacare is that the clowns in Wash. DC ie. congress and HHS and CMS will now get to manage this giant new program and how can we expect better results? Medicare runs a conservative ten percent fraud rate, documented fraud rate. Thats about 40 billion a year. Why dont they just clean up Medicare and Medicaid first?

    The plans in the bill are sound, well intentioned, and just might work if only a smaller more accountable authority was running it. Sadly congress does not manage things well, and the bureaucrats who run those programs really have no accountability so they slack off, as I would if I worked for congress.

    Obamacare will insure more, but will be much more expensive than planned. The reforms will be ineptly ran and will not slow down cost increases much. The republicans will tinker with the program and we will have this sorry debate all over again for the next two decades as heatlh care gobbles up all our raises, and makes America less competitive in the world. It could have been so much better………..but

  5. There has been, and likely will continue to be, a Kafkaesque quality to the machinations afoot here.

    Thanks, as always, Alan, for your ability to see through the fog and present the Big Picture of a fast-changing situation with clarity and insight.

    Your suggestion that, come what may, our country will weather the storm and adapt to whatever the new situation becomes is a reassuring and welcome note of sanity.

    I do believe that powerful interests on all sides of the debate have been doing their best to stir the pot as much as possible, in the process causing all our nervous systems to throb and jangle, regardless of which side we are on.

    To my frequent sparring partner in these comments, Mr. Spencer Lehman, I do not think you have to worry that the quality of coverage you receive from Medicare will be significantly lessened, nor do I think your taxes are going to take a tremendous hit. (If you are currently making over $1 million a year, maybe you should worry a little. But most people who make that much–according to one poll from several years back–have said they wouldn’t MIND paying more if it would help reduce the deficit.)

    I do not in any way wish either of these outcomes (reduced care or burdensome taxes) upon you or anyone else who has been paying into Medicare for years and years.

    On the other hand, I am certain that you, Spencer, and the others here who find the prospect of “Obamacare” so disconcerting, similarly have no wish that any of your kids or grandchildren will someday find themselves unable to obtain health insurance because it is either prohibitively expensive, or they have some sort of pre-existing coverage that excludes them from coverage. In my heart of hearts, I do not believe you would wish kids of any sort–minority, illegal aliens, Muslim–who are in our country should be denied basic health care in extremis. And if you looked into the eyes of their parents, I doubt you would truly want to deny this to them, either.

    I know Alan works in California, and I suspect some of the rest of you do, too. I read yesterday that 2 million more Californians have lost their health insurance in the last couple years, and that California is likely a bellwether for the rest of the nation. On MSNBC last night, one commentator suggested that 1 out of 3 Californians between the age of 18 and 64 are currently not insured. One out of three!

    Call me a Bolshevik if you must, but I am on the side on the nuns here. Those that have made fortunes in our country, whose income disparities compared to their underlings have soared during the various Bush 1, Bush 2, Clinton, and Reagan years, can afford to give something back to the country that allowed them to prosper more than a thousand King Tuts.

    It’s time for the pendulum to shift, if only just a little, back towards the middle class.

    You might think I’m nuts, but it’s in everybody’s interests, even the super rich.

    • Nosedoc said

      I don’t believe that the Senate Bill, or any variation of it, will do much to make health insurance more affordable to my children or grandchildren. The costs are skyrocketing along with the per-capita consumption of health services. Without changing the overall business model through which Americans receive their health care to one that is sustainable, we will be revisiting the health care reform question again and again. Perhaps as insurance premiums continue to climb, the impetus will be provided for a fresh idea, a new business model in which patients are cared for in a timely, efficacious and cost-effective manner. This is where my hope currently lies, maintaining the faith that American ingenuity will give birth to invention in the presence of great public need. I do not see invention coming from our government however. This has never been its strong suit.

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