Thursday, July 23, 2009

Blue Dogs & 'No Hogs'

Were I a member of the US Congress, I 'd probably be known as something of a 'Blue Dog' Democrat, but loosely so because of my independent streak that resists being controlled by anything other than my own analysis and carefully weighted conclusions.
But, that would not affect my determination to achieve progress on issues of major importance, like meaningful national healthcare reform.

It is sad that so many of the current minority party allow themselves to be controlled by narrow partisan edicts that are more designed for political games than for necessary action on national policy that matters.
And, its hard to understand the value system that allows that habit to persist.
Maybe these folks are so secure in their heavily gerrymandered districts that they have little worry about re-election.
Or, maybe they see their jobs more narrowly than is in the nation's best interests?
I don't know, but I do care.

And, I'm concerned with any mentality that rationalizes it is not part of a problem, and therefore doesn't need to be a part of the solution.
But, I guess these folks have always been around; you know them best as 'crown sympathizers', draft-dodgers, tax evaders, non-voters, and all manner of other self-satisfied lazy louts with attitudes.

Maybe that dynamic -in reverse- is what causes many other elected officials to waffle, wait and sometimes become co-opted into positions they may or may not wish to support.
There are times when all these dynamics come into play with a vengeance, like now -on healthcare reform, but that itself can be healthy, because better ideas are generated, compromises conceived, and a sense of urgency generated.

Some have expressed concern with deadlines, and hate being 'rushed'. [as in Limbaugh?]
But, without deadlines, is it reasonable to expect any predictability or progress?
How about things like our reaction 9/11?
Or approving annual budgets?
Or making Supreme Court appointments?

Sometimes what people call being 'rushed', simply means they don't want to do it.
Have you noticed?

The broad outlines of what seems desirable for healthcare reform have been pretty clearly known and stated for months.
Some are harder to articulate, determine sustainable financing or make compatible with other programs, but that is the main exercise that is underway -at least among those with legitimate interest in change.
Those who are proud to be 'No Hogs', prefer to block any meaningful change or progress, and leave that burden to 'others', as has been done for 61 years.

So, the 'Blue Dogs' must act as the sounding board for what reform will likely occur, and I'm good with that, because I do believe meaningful compromise is achievable.
But, the Blue Dogs need to not take such a hard line that the impression is left that failure is imminent.
The 'sausage-making' of legislation is always ugly and subject to compromise, meaning no one gets everything they want.

A few ideas that deserve serious consideration are these -maybe more:

• establishment of an independent body of healthcare professionals with the power to review any national program annually and recommend adjustments.

• achieving equity between States in Medicare reimbursement rates.

• continuously examining equitable and sustainable funding methods for national healthcare, so that the goal of NOT creating more federal deficits over time is achieved.

There is even something for the 'No Hogs' to think about:

If there is such a need for change in the existing system that an amazing array of stakeholders agree, and that enormous cost savings -maybe 2/3 of the estimated additional cost- how can this be so simply dismissed?

Think about it.
Continuing the 'status quo' just insures that substantial healthcare costs will be continued to be just wasted!
One would think it's more normal for so-called 'conservatives' to want to cut excesses and use funds more efficiently.
What has happened to that?
And, what has happened to intellectual honesty?

I do believe the Blue Dogs will find a way to responsibly compromise and find ways to pay for the anticipated additional costs of healthcare reform and make the measure 'deficit neutral', which I believe is possible.
Maybe that will take a leap of faith in the form of a commitment for periodic supplemental funding votes.
Some of those options may entail eventual elimination of healthcare cost exemptions from income tax.
Other ideas are also possible, but will require time to identify, quantify and implement.

The so-called 'August deadline' may or may not be met, without extending the legislative calendar.
All that means anyway, is that bills can be reasonably prepared for debate and passage later this Fall.
For an issue so important, it would seem some unusual measures are justified.

President Obama's Press Conference last night pretty much outlined the parameters that would be acceptable for him to sign any bill resulting from Congressional action.
And, his decision to let Congress discuss the various options before imposing any preferred bill of his own is the right way to go.
But, now time is passing quickly and the deadlines required must be respected and if possible, enforced.

If Congress misses its August break, tough luck!
If no unanimous result is possible, then a more narrow and more partisan passage is OK.
Additional delay is not justified, nor is it helpful to the hoped for eventual result.
If members of Congress are uncomfortable with making such a difficult decision, too bad!
They need to get off the fence, or out of the kitchen.

Now is the time for Healthcare reform to happen.
It is too important an issue to 'kick down the road' again, as it largely has been since Harry Truman advocated it in 1948.
We can do better than that, and this is the time!

My neighbor and I are both retired and over 70.
Both of us did not look forward to joining Medicare.
Both of us has been very wrong in our unfounded fears!
Medicare has been the easiest and most efficient healthcare program either of us has ever had.

The only reasons I decided to buy expensive secondary healthcare insurance were (a) fear of Medicare Parts A & B, and (b) fear of Medicare Part (d) -'the donut hole'.
I no longer have any doubts about Medicare Parts A & B.
I do have concerns about Medicare Part D, because the prescription coverage is full of holes and unknown costs.
Perhaps these will be addressed in a new Medicare plan, and if they are, my wife and I will be able to save about $7800 per year in SECONDARY INSURANCE costs.
[not Supplemental Insurance of the sort promoted by so-called Medicare Part C Plans]
Think that's not a substantial savings?

But, I'm not just thinking of me, I'm thinking of the millions of Americans who will benefit from a the availability of a national healthcare plan option.
There is nothing wrong with the way the US Government administers Medicare, and much that is right, including efficiency and low costs.
It may be the best deal around for those of us who are retired or 65.
And, remember, its only been around since 1965, when another Democratic American President with courage, foresight and political clout dared to buck entrenched special interests and get it implemented.

Now, 44 years later, maybe its time for President #44 to expand it into a true national program!

A few related links:

NYT:Timothy Egan

NYT:David Brooks & Gail Collins

NYT:Health Care Sausagee


NYT:History of Health Care Reform

Ever wonder how many Republicans have the names Sally, Straw or Rush?

The term 'Aunt Sally' is in limited use as a political idiom, indicating a false adversary or Straw Man, set up for the sole purpose of attracting negative attention and wasting an opponent's energy.