(O'Rourke) - The View From the Couch: The 80% Solution

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It's clear that President Obama, given his many appearances over the weekend, is putting all his weight behind some form of health care reform. Or, at least, he's putting 80% of his weight behind it. He wants a bill to sign and he keeps saying here and there and everywhere that "we" have agreement on 80% of the potential legislation. Of course, that's no public option, which, I guess, is the 20% that he can't achieve. Why? Well, unfortunately, it's because his administration and the Congress is, like all that have come before — or since 1965 — in the pocket of the health care industry, the insurance companies, the aggregators of capital. In fact, since the triumph of Medicare in the Sixties, it's been the existing public option that has been a target of the Republicans and the complicit Democrats in both Houses.

The Bush "reform" of Medicare, the unfunded Prescription Drug Modernization Act, works this way, according to a CNN report in 2003: "In 2006, Medicare recipients will pay $35 per month with a $250 deductible for prescriptions. The plan will pay 75 percent of costs up to $2,250. The prescription drug provision left out a proposed guideline the president had originally sought -- requiring seniors to join an HMO to be eligible for the benefit.

"The law also allows the importation of drugs from Canada -- where many are cheaper -- but only if the Food and Drug Administration has approved the drugs.

"It also provides subsidies to private insurers to compete with traditional Medicare, giving seniors the opportunity to join managed-care plans, which typically cut costs by restricting patient access to specialists. That provision does not take effect until 2010."

What Bush was attempting to do is begin the process of privatizing Medicare; he was partially thwarted by eliminating the requirement that seniors join HMOs. But it did succeed to put in "competition" with Medicare, allowing seniors to opt for managed-care plans.

Bush wanted to privatize anything he could, in order to continue to pay off his friends and backers. What's wrong with public options and public plans and Medicare is that they don't give politicians huge donations, they don't make friends rich. Bush didn't succeed in privatizing Social Security, but one victory was the privatization of the military, which the Iraq and Afghanistan wars made easy. All that Halliburton and Blackwater contracting fit the bill for privatization insurgency, as well as the other sort. The Bushies don't boast about it, but it is one of the major accomplishments of his two terms. Regarding the Medicare drug plan, since the new mandate was unfunded, it is all to the Bushes benefit if Medicare acquires more hobbling debt. Their anti-government ideology makes them wish for government programs to be saddled with debt so huge they will fail.

Now, the Baucus plan continues this trend. The government will pay subsidies to the uninsured so they can buy private plans. In other words, taxpayers are making direct payments to for-profit private insurance companies. The mandates also herd the sheep into private plans. We taxpayers help pay for all those lucrative donations to Senator Baucus (almost 3 million and counting) and his gang. So, it's not just out with the public, it's once again getting the public to transfer money to private industry. That, so far, has been the hallmark of the Obama administration, giving taxpayer money to Wall Street, etc.

Taxes aren't so bad if they go for something tangible. But what they have been going to is keeping the rich richer. A couple of weeks ago, in early September, the Pfizer drug company agreed to pay a 2.3 billion dollar fine for fraudulent advertising, of all things. Hitherto, it had been Indiana's own Lilly drug company with the record. Last January, Eli Lilly & Co. agreed to a 1.42 billion fine for its marketing no-nos. Notice the amounts. How much profit must drug companies actually take in so they can toss off billions in fines?

Obama's 80% solution may well mean 80% of tax payer subsidies goes into the coffers of Big Medicine. It's no longer a public option, but private options that are to pay off Big Time. That's why some part of the medical establishment is still on board for the likely reforms to come.

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