How Dems Let the GOP Win on Health Care


The Republican strategy for defeating health care boils down to a game of smoke and mirrors, with conservatives scamming seniors into thinking that reform will be bad for them. In fact, most of the proposed changes to Medicare would be positive. As the New York Times explained in a Sunday editorial, ” the various reform bills now pending should actually make Medicare better for most beneficiaries—by enhancing their drug coverage, reducing the premiums they pay for drugs and medical care, eliminating co-payments for preventive services and helping keep Medicare solvent, among other benefits.”

That’s not to say there won’t be cuts. The Times points out:

The Obama administration and Congressional leaders are hoping to save hundreds of billions of dollars by slowing the growth of spending in the vast and inefficient Medicare system that serves 45 million older and disabled Americans. The savings would be used to help offset the costs of covering tens of millions of uninsured people.

One of the main reasons for the confusion that reigns over all things health care right now is the Democrats’ refusal to make a clear case for reform.They aren’t willing to go after the real enemies of affordable health care for all: drug and insurance companies. And so as usual, the ideological vacuum left by the Democrats is being filled by Republican misinformation and fear mongering.

The result is a series of proposals that are being steadily whittled down in favor of the drug and insurance industries. Last week, Sen. Max Baucus and two other Democrats—Thomas R. Carper of Delaware and Robert Menendez of New Jersey—joined all the Finance Committee Republicans to defeat an amendment by Florida Senator Bill Nelson that would have demanded more concessions from drug companies. Most notably, the amendment would have allowed Medicare to buy drugs for low-income seniors at the same prices as Medicaid.

Meanwhile, Obama’s hands are tied. He can’t stand up for seniors, because he already made a deal with the drug companies. In a June agreement with the administration, Big Pharma promised $80 billion over 10 years towards health care reform. Thinking this was a solid deal, the drug companies began running ads in support of Obama’s plan. Nelson’s proposed schemes of cuts in the form of rebates, according to the New York Times, “would have more than doubled the amount of money to be given up by the industry.” But fortunately for the drug industry, and unfortunately for everyone else, the finance committee senators ensured Nelson’s amendment went nowhere.

 

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  • James Ridgeway is a former senior correspondent at Mother Jones and a 2012 Soros Justice Media Fellow. For more of his stories, click here.