Thursday, December 17, 2009

Not over 

Very good stuff from SEIU. A key, key point: rejecting the Senate bill is not saying "fuck it." It is saying that the fight is not over. The bill can still be changed. The final outcome can be changed even after the Senate bill is passed. But Obama-Lieberman will have to be forced kicking and screaming.

This is from the FDL post on the SEIU statement about the Senate shitpile:

Andy Stern, the President of the SEIU, published a letter to his membership on the union’s website today, saying that they cannot accept the Senate health care bill without fighting to improve it.

...He weighed the pros and cons, and agreed that the coverage expansions and insurance regulations are worthy goals. But he wasn’t blind to the negative aspects of reform in the Senate bill:

And while it is not entirely clear what the Senate bill will look like, it is becoming clearer that for many people, care will still be too expensive to afford. Some of you would face an additional burden because your health insurance benefits would be taxed. [Note: the major way to pay for the bill is taxes on supposedly 'luxurious' health-plans that are not really luxurious; they have often been won through years of collective bargaining, at the cost of pay raises; and many of the so-called 'luxurious' plans are essential in high-cost areas like the Northeast U.S. The companies would pay the tax for these programs, a cost which would immediately be transferred to people who use them, and to others whose premiums would rise. --speakingcorpse]

The first point is really key. Health reform is starting to look like a way to make coverage attractive to those least likely to use it, while making those most likely to use insurance – such as older customers, who would have to pay rates four times what the young pay, with no sense of where that age-banding begins; or those with pre-existing conditions, who would get charged 50% more – unable to afford it. As Jon Walker put it, “This sounds like a recipe to price out the old (nonprofitable) and force only the young (profitable) to buy insurance.”

Mcjoan had a host of other points to make on the weakness of the insurance regulations, including the most important fact, that there’s no regulatory framework created at the national level to actually enforce these rules.

On the excise tax, this is obviously a key concern for unions, and the best practice would be to enact a carve-out for those who arrived at their health benefits through collective bargaining. The White House is trying to defend the excise tax by saying that it only impacts 3% of all health plans, but with health inflation not expected to end with this bill (perhaps slow down if everything goes well), that 3% number will grow. The CBO score tells you the number will grow. That’s why reformers like it, because it raises more revenue than health inflation! [R.J. Eskow, a good moderate longtime professional healthcare analyst who writes for HuffPo, makes a key, key point: 3% of healthplans is misleading, because there are only a few plans, and some of them are big. 3 % means a much larger percentage of actual customers -- Eskow has it at 20%, many who have sacrificed pay-raises to get these healthplans; and the number will most certainly grow; the premiums which determine the tax are going up $ thousand+ yearly. --speakingcorpse]

...After laying out the particulars, Stern says that his organization will fight for improvements – and he calls on a certain DC resident to fight as well:

President Obama must remember his own words from the campaign. His call of “Yes We Can” was not just to us, not just to the millions of people who voted for him, but to himself. We all stood shoulder to shoulder with the President during his hard fought campaign. And, we will continue to stand with him but he must fight for the reform we all know is possible...

...This is one of the first times that any union has publicly called on President Obama to actually use his power as President. It’s significant, in that context.


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