In the wake of the debacle known as the rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA aka Obamacare), everyone has a criticism but folks seem short on solutions. Time for me to write my own legislation. I won’t profess that these ideas are particularly original but they seem to be the right combination of things to cure what ails us, without the complicated big bang blow up of Obamacare. I hereby present the Lawson Insurance Act of 2014.
What should be our goals up front?
- Quality of health insurance
The first element of the plan is the establishment of the Health Insurance Oversight Commission, a government body modeled after the FDA and the FCC that audits and approves all insurance policies issued in the US. Most of us are thankful or take for granted that we have government entities that enforce minimum standards on the food we eat and the drugs we take and the publicly available communications that we consume. The HIOC would serve this purpose in the health insurance realm. Such popular provisions in Obamacare such as no disqualification due to pre-existing conditions would be enforced by the HIOC. The HIOC would also disapprove so-called junk insurance policies.
Some right wing zealots say we should be “free” to buy junk insurance policies if we so choose. This of course flies in the face of the widely accepted role of government in consumer protection. The only one who profits from a junk insurance policy is the insurance company. The folks who buy them, probably because they can’t afford better, don’t understand they are throwing their money away and are not protected from bankruptcy in the event of a serious illness. It is a proper role of government to keep these folks from being played for suckers.
Indeed Obamacare has attempted to do that with the horrific result that millions of folks are being summarily dropped from their substandard insurance policies and offered alternatives that are double or triple the premium. This is the very definition of the road to hell being paved with good intentions. So let’s move on to affordability.
Medicaid, not Medicare, For All
Medicaid is associated with the poor. I would submit the definition of poor in this country has changed. With so much wealth shifted to the top 1% of this country, we now have a whole new class of working poor who live paycheck to paycheck. I suggest that a needs based Medicaid expansion take place with the precise goal of bridging the gap between what people are charged for insurance premiums and what they can afford. With these supplements, we allow people to pay what they can truly afford for health insurance without placing downward pressure on the profit motive of the insurance companies. Call it a socialist buttress to capitalism. The supplements could be handled in either of two ways. We could pay these supplements to individuals who would file their insurance premium bills much as a businessman might file an expense report and then get reimbursed a certain amount based on need. The other method would be to pay insurance companies directly some sensibly calculated stipend which would allow them to pass reduced cost on to their customers. In this way the insurance company basically has two customers — the government who pays them to keep premiums affordable — and the policy holder who pays the affordable premium. Of course, insurance companies who not meet the minimum standards of the HIOC would not qualify for supplements at all.
Stop Protecting Insurance Companies From True Capitalism
Since health insurance is not a brick and mortar consumer item there is no reason for there to be a geographic constraint on its sale. All insurance companies should be required to accept policy holders from anywhere in the country. There should also be a push for a purely private insurance industry with employment-based insurance being completely phased out. There is no Earthly reason why affording health care should be attached to employment at any particular employer. Insurance companies should be exposed to the same risks and rewards of any other company competing in the capitalistic marketplace. We should be seeing health insurance commercials with Anthem battling it out with United Health Care to offer consumers the best quality for the most competitive price.
Did anyone notice I didn’t list universal coverage as a goal? It wasn’t an oversight on my part. I’m beginning to think that it is THAT goal that has sunk the ACA rollout. You can’t believe in capitalism and in the same breath say that EVERYONE can buy (or must buy) a particular product. Unless you go complete socialist on this and demand Medicare for all, then you must give up the universal coverage goal. The goal should be for government to put a bit of juice into the system so that the vast majority of people can afford quality health insurance. The goal should be to exploit the greatest virtues of capitalism (for example, competitive downward price pressure) to get as many folks insured as possible.
OK, the details are a bit fuzzy. I’ll admit that. I’m not a policy wonk or a legislator. I suggest that the above ideas are simpler and more understandable than Obamacare. Now it’s your turn to tweak this, tear it apart, reconstruct it. But there are two things you DON’T get to do.
You don’t get to trash it without your own solution.
You don’t get to settle for the status quo.
So the Iowa pony shows are starting up and at this weekends Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalitions banquet two of the stars were Sarah Palin and Utah Sen. Mike Lee. The former showed she's still little than a loud mouth rhetoric firebrand the latter showing the potential to be reading the tea leaves.
Sarah still stupid may seem harsh but I never liked this woman and like her even less when she opens her mouth lately.
The reality on the ground right now doesn’t change the fact that Representative Joe Wilson is a horse’s ass. However …
When the evil liberal media calls you a liar, Mr. President you’ve got a major problem. Obama told the American people repeatedly that “if you like your insurance you won’t have to change it.”
While Obama defenders split hairs about how many folks WILL have to switch policies the fact remains that Obama’s statement absent of any caveats was a flat out lie and the evil liberal media reports that this time Obama can’t claim ignorance. He knew he was lying.
You CANNOT implement sweeping ground breaking legislation and sell it with lies.
The nobility behind the ACA will have a hard time seeing sunlight so long as it’s buried under a pile of incompetence and dishonesty.
Last Wednesday night there was no hiding the joy of the MSNBC anchors at the total and utter failure of the Republican attempt to bring the country to its knees over Obamacare. Schultz had his usual swagger. Maddow took the usual analytical approach and had an index card for every “ransom” demand the Republicans made and lost, reading each one aloud and tossing it in the air with a “didn’t get that” and a grin on her face.
But for sheer over the top drama betraying a clear animosity for conservatives, the prize must go to Martin Bashir. Martin quoted Oliver Cromwell from his address dismissing Parliament in 1653. Martin said the words apply today. I could not find a link to an intact video of Bashir’s closing moment of his show but I did screen capture the text of Cromwell that Bashir read from in his best theatrical British accent.
It is really hard to gauge how one should react to this. I viewed the Republican shut-down tactic as plain stupid. It didn’t really inspire any animosity in me. So at first blush I found Martin’s dramatic recitation absolutely hilarious. But if we bother to take Bashir seriously, then we must conclude he has a real hatred for at least part of the Conservative movement.
In fact, if we look at the entire “drop dead” reaction of the left to the Ted Cruz inspired revolt, one must draw a much bigger conclusion. The days of liberals saying “I’m a lover, not a fighter” appear to be long gone. We have a government in which each side (with exceptions of course) truly hates the other. While the people of this great nation just want to get up in the morning and go to work, our government is engaged in a multi-level civil war — Democrats against Republicans and Old School Republicans against the Tea Party. The only thing we have not yet witnessed (unlike in other legislative bodies around the world) is an actual fist fight breaking out on the floor of the House. At his point, I wouldn’t rule that out in the not-so-distant future.
STEREOTYPE ALERT: I hereby warn the reader that the observation in this post is based entirely on a stereotype. As a black man, I tend to dislike stereotypes but once in a while I find them instructive. My apologies in advance.
Rewind 32 years. The scene is a residence hall at Harvard University called Mather House. It is where I spent three of my four undergraduate years. The place is what I will call “the TV room”, a common area with a large screen TV mounted on the wall. About a dozen of us are assembled, paying attention in varying degrees to what is being broadcast. A nerdy white kid stands up and approaches the TV and says “can I change the channel?” After a second or two of silence, a very serious young black student glares at the kid and simply says “NO!”. The attempted channel changer sheepishly sits back down and the room stops cold with an uncomfortable silence. The decision has been made definitively. No discussion, no debate. I chuckled to myself about it at the time and still do to this day. Typical of most liberal arts colleges, everything was up for debate and the more lengthy the debate, on any subject no matter how trivial, the better. It was a by-product of being “intellectual”. And my brotha was having none of it. It exemplified for me a difference between blacks and WASPs in particular that the former preferred to get down to basics while the latter preferred debate and back-and-forth.
Fast forward to 2013 and the government shut down (and debt ceiling) crisis. After Republicans tried to tie the end of Obamacare as we know it to a continuing resolution to fund the government and keep it running, Democrats in the Senate essentially said “oh no you didn’t!” A loyal reader of this blog posted an excerpt of a story stating that the “no negotiation” strategy, while being mouthed by Obama, is really being enforced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. In fact, according to this source, Democrats want Obama as far from the bargaining table as possible for fear of the concessions he might make. So Harry has taken control and he has not budged an inch.
Republicans have succeeded in making him look a wee bit reprehensible when he won’t even allow a vote on small resolutions that would fund the government piecemeal but at least offer some relief to those currently suffering. But Harry has been a rock. Perhaps a comparison to Israel is better than my white/black dichotomy? Israel refuses to negotiate with hostage takers and their basic stance is “kill them and then we will retaliate but we’re not cutting any deals with you.” Harry simply will not forgive the GOP for their Obamacare stunt and even though there is no longer talk of defunding Obamacare right now, it was this original stunt that poisoned any possibility for deal making. Reid is basically saying, “you came to play like a thug and that is how I am going to treat you.”
To further my original analogy, let’s not forget that Obama spent most of his youth among intellectuals, whether at prep school or Ivy League institutions. Obama has virtually no “street” in him at all. Reid on the other hand was raised by a laundress for a brothel and was an amateur boxer. The quiet demeanor hides an approach much more suited to the street than to the Senate.
As I think back to 32 years ago, all I can say is when Senator Ted Cruz and the merry band of lunatics he inspired in the House asked “can I change the channel?’, Harry Reid glared at them and decisively said “NO!”
Do you look around and think life is starting to look like the distorted images reflected in the amusement park House of Mirrors? If so, you’re not alone. Virtually none of these observations are original — hell, lots of people and pundits are talking about them — but I wanted to get them documented for the record.
Ted Cruz in Need of Remedial Reading
During his 21 hour filibuster on the floor of the Senate, Ted Cruz of Texas read “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss. I think I read somewhere that he was really reading it to his kids who he thought were watching him on C-SPAN, as a bed time story. The great irony is that in the middle of a filibuster about rejecting Obamacare before it has even taken effect, he read a story about a creature who refuses to try green eggs and ham but in the end DOES TRY THEM AND LIKES THEM. Could the moral really be that Obama is “Sam I am” and Obamacare is Green Eggs and Ham?
Russia and America Allies (Sort of)
Regardless of how much you might distrust Vladimir Putin’s motives, the bottom line is that both Russia and the United States are getting what they want by Putin poking his nose into the Syria chemical weapons thing. Now, if Putin would just deport Edward Snowden, things might really be cozy.
Detente with Iran
Regardless of how much you might distrust Hassan Rouhani, the new President of Iran, the optimist in me says it is good that he is at least talking a good game. After years of Ahmadinejad talking like a madman, Rouhani is a bit of fresh air. Quite frankly, Netenyahu’s immediate rejection of him, calling him a wolf in sheep’s clothing, only further enforces my suspicion that Bebe is not the least bit interested in peace. Wouldn’t it take the wind right out of Benjamin’s sails if Iran finally decided that a vibrant economy was more important to it than nukes? One can only hope.
Is the Pope Catholic?
In recent weeks Pope Francis has said that the church over-obsesses about abortion and homosexuality. He has suggested that God loves homosexuals much as He loves others. He has even gone so far as to suggest that atheists who “follow their conscience” will be in God’s good graces. All this is not quite enough to make me convert but it sure makes it harder for me to be critical. This Pope serves the purpose that I believe religion should serve in every day life — as consolation to the downtrodden and spiritual nourishment to those faltering. 34 years ago my college roommate asked me “do you love?” I replied “yes”. He shot back at me “then you believe in God.” What a beautiful notion of faith — that it is overwhelmed by love of self and others. This Pope seems to be on that trip, and my hat is off to him.
Why Don’t We Care About Each Other Anymore?
A few weeks ago a woman called me on my job very upset that her dog was locked in her car. Assuming that some public agency could get help to her faster than I could, I put her on hold and called the police, the fire department and even animal control. NO ONE WOULD HELP. That’s right, not a single public agency representative gave a flying fig that this woman’s dog might die in her car from the heat. The good news is that while I searched in vain for help, she was able to get help on her own. As an aside, she assumed the worst about me and reported me as negligent despite the fact I had done everything I could to help her. The public agencies thought she was worthless and she in turn thought I was worthless.
A couple of weeks ago, a man walked into the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. and shot the place up. The top two questions that the media focused on were “how did someone with his psychological profile get security clearance to work at the Navy Yard?” and “how did someone with his profile get a gun?” While both were reasonable questions, the most important question was asked almost as an afterthought. This man told authorities he heard voices in his head. He did not receive help. Were folks just too busy? This man essentially asked for help because he knew that he was a danger to himself or others. Why didn’t anyone care enough about him to get him the help he needed? That was the fundamental question that should have been asked. Why didn’t someone intervene in this man’s life to help him?
On the flip side was the story of Antoinette Tuff, a school book-keeper who calmed down a mentally ill man who had entered her school with an AK-47. In her short encounter with the man, caught on a 911 tape, she probably showed him more respect than he had received from anyone in a long time. When he agreed to give himself up she said, “I want you to know I love you and I’m proud of you, It’s a good thing you’re just giving up. Don’t worry about it. We all go through something in life.”
This true hero met danger head on with compassion. In that moment, she convinced that man that someone cared about him. That made a difference and I believe it makes a difference in everyone’s life. I have had the good fortune of always having someone in my corner, whether it was my parents, or a teacher, or my wife and precious daughter. I’ve always known that at least someone cared about me.
There is so much anger in this country right now. Why don’t we take a page from Miss Tuff? She is right. We all go through something in life. Why don’t we help each other get through it?
On the twelfth anniversary of the devastating attacks of 9/11 Russian President Vladimir Putin penned an OP-ED in the New York Times discussing the ongoing crisis in Syria. The irony of Putin writing about a peaceful world is as thick as pea soup.
Yet the part of the piece that has drawn much criticism from both right and left was his closing paragraph.
My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.
Clearly Putin did not need to go there to make his point about Syria but I am so glad he did.
Finally someone has told us in public to get some humility and stop the holier than thou crap we’ve been spewing for decades now. Our arrogance as a country knows no bounds. We have sufficient problems in this country from self inflicted economic depression to social unrest that we should not be lecturing anyone about anything. We have our own house to clean up big time.
The editorial should not have been titled “A Plea for Caution”. It should have been titled “America, Get Over Yourself”. I salute Comrade Putin for saying in public what so many countries must be saying about us in private.