Massachusetts Offers Both Parties a Window of Opportunity for Health Care Reform

Not that anyone asked, but here’s some free advice to both Democrats and Republicans in Washington: don’t over think what’s happened in Massachusetts. There are as many interpretations of the “meaning,” “message” and “impact” of state Senator Scott Brown’s victory Tuesday night as there are television pundits. And just like paranoids noodling with a conspiracy theory, the facts can be manipulated to prove anything (I’ve heard all of these in the past 24 hours or so): President Barack Obama was too liberal; he tried too hard to be bi-partisan; he didn’t move fast enough on health care reform; he moved too fast on health care reform.

Or that the special election results prove that the Republican strategy of non-cooperation with Democrats is working; that the Republican establishment is out of step with Republican grass roots; that the country is irretrievably locked into blue/red gridlock; that the Republicans are branding themselves up as barriers to progress.

Or that Attorney General Martha Coakley defeat reflects voters feelings about the two candidates; what they think about President Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and/or Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid; that Republicans are assured of victory in November; that Democrats have had a wakeup call and will rebound; or that the results reflect the skill (or lack thereof) of the candidates and their campaigns.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. One could argue that it means all those things and more. Usually, however, the simplest interpretation is usually closest to the truth: voters rejected Republicans last year because they were fed up with political games, hypocrisy and ineptitude. They are rejecting Democrats this year because they are fed up with political games, hypocrisy and ineptitude. The reality is that both parties have shown a remarkable inability to govern this complicated country let alone unify its diverse political viewpoints.

So instead of wasting time trying to squeeze every nuance out of the Boston-brewed tea leaves, my advice to both parties is to take advantage of the window of opportunity that election created between now and President Obama’s State of the Union Address to reinvent yourselves. Because let’s face it, voters don’t like either Democrats or Republicans. And why should they? Democrats lost sight of the reality that this is a centrist country. And Republicans have lost sight of the need to stand for something besides “we’re not those guys.”

Not surprisingly, given the topic of this blog, I think health care reform provides both parties with the chance to prove they deserve votes for something other than being the best of two evils.

Democrats have to stop acting like every member of their party thinks alike. Liberals seemed to think that with 60 votes in the Senate they’d quickly adopt the Progressive Caucus’ wish list. If they’d looked past their own hubris they’d have noticed that some of the folks in their caucus room were pretty darn moderate – heck, some are downright conservative. And they were elected as Democrats, too. Which means their views and votes are just as “Democratic” as those of liberals.

Given that the liberal agenda was never within reach and now is even more remote, think carefully about what you do next. Pass health care reform through some political legerdemain and you’ll only confirm to independent voters that you’re more interested in political games than acceptable public policy. (And remember, it’s independents that will determine the make-up of Congress. Consider: there are perhaps only 50-75 House seats winnable by either party – most Congressional seats are so solidly in one camp the seats are safe for the party who holds them now, assuming the incumbent avoids scandal or indictment).

Instead of passing health care reform in the next 24 hours, promise to take a step back and reconsider some of its elements. Then streamline the bill down to the essentials. What really matters when it comes to health care reform?

  • Restraining costs. There’s some interesting cost containment ideas buried in the current health care reform proposals. Paring the legislation down to its essentials will allow Democrats to make these ideas more prominent. Add some stronger malpractice reform language for good measure. Sure defensive medicine’s impact on costs is perceived as being far greater than it is, but let’s face it, Democrats have a perception problem. Pushing malpractice reform takes a talking point away from Republicans, shows independents that Democrats can stand up to trial lawyers, and can become a symbol for how serious Dems are to tackle runaway medical costs.
  • Unshackle Consumers with Pre-Existing Conditions. In America today, if you don’t get coverage through your employer and you have an existing medical condition, you’re out of luck. You may want to buy health insurance. You might be able to afford health insurance. But if you don’t already have coverage, you’re not going to get it. And if you do have coverage you’re stuck with it. Carriers can raise the rates, lower the benefits or both and you’ve got nowhere else to go. Most voters know someone in this predicament. Many voters are in it themselves. Require carriers to accept all applicants (what’s called “guarantee issue.”) But do so responsibly. Either require everyone to buy health insurance (called an “individual mandate”) or impose a meaningful penalty for failing to do so. Otherwise, costs will skyrocket as everyone waits until they need coverage before they purchase it – the equivalent of buying auto coverage from the tow truck driver hoisting your car after an accident (what’s called “adverse selection”). The problem is that Republicans have painted individual mandates as the devil’s work, forcing consumers to buy policies they may not want. So let the carriers provide the discipline: if a consumer fails to purchase coverage within a specified period of time after becoming eligible for it (for example by becoming too old to be covered as a dependent on their parent’s policy or losing employer-sponsored coverage) allow carriers to exclude pre-existing conditions for 12 months and to charge a 10 percent higher premium for two years. This makes those who choose to self-insure accountable for their decision while still allowing themselves a path back to responsibility.
  • Reduce the Number of Uninsured and Underinsured. Most Americans acknowledge there’s something wrong with America’s high number of uninsured. Whether the actual number is 47 million uninsured (greater than the population of California) or some lower number, the fact is it’s too many. Those with coverage pay a tax to support the uninsured, estimated at roughly $1,000 per year in higher insurance premiums. So expand Medicaid. Close the doughnut hole in Medicare prescription benefits. Offer subsidies to Americans who cannot afford premiums, but fail to qualify for government programs. Just don’t create new bureaucracies to do it. Voters know new agencies generally do more harm than good. Why feed the suspicion?
  • Reduce the Cost of Health Care Reform. If a reform package sets in motion medical cost containment, makes coverage portable, and reduces the number of uninsured – and that’s about it, the cost will be far less than what’s currently contemplated. Put on the table a tax on the wealthiest Americans (removing the tax cut President George Bush gave those earning more than $1 million per year. Then offer to replace the tax with revenue provisions Republicans offer. If they object to any revenue increases of any kind, then they will have fully embraced their branding as the do nothing party.  That’s a recipe for turning their current momentum into failure.

Which brings me to advice for Republicans. Waving a sheaf of paper at a presidential address on the floor of Congress is not proof of a Republican plan. Introduce a plan that the Republican caucus in both the Senate and the House can support. Submit it to the CBO for scoring. Treat it like a real bill. Demand hearings. Declare it a starting point for negotiations and then set up a time and place for a meeting to negotiate. If Democrats don’t show up Republicans will have enough political fodder to last two, maybe three, election cycles.

Sure, Rush Limbaugh won’t like it. He wants President Obama to fail and wants Republicans to fight every step he tries to take. But independent voters want America to succeed. They don’t care about who gets the credit, but they do care about appropriate progress. And they know achieving this means legislation that both President Obama and Republicans consider acceptable. So put together something that can gain votes beyond a Chamber of Commerce luncheon (see the above for some ideas). Remember, obstinacy is not a rallying cry. And if the GOP is not not careful, someone will remind voters that Republicans controlled Congress and the White House for six years, but never even considered meaningful health care reform. Voters don’t want the wrong health care reform, but that does not mean they don’t want any health care reform. The status quo is imposing hardship on more and more Americans. They need and deserve help. If Republicans want voters to return them to power in 10 months, they need to demonstrate leadership today.

As far as changes go, please get real. Allowing plans to sell across state lines undermines state’s rights. Republicans are for state’s rights, remember? Telling voters in California that policy makers in South Dakota will determine what’s adequate consumers protections when it comes to health insurance is lousy public policy. Republicans should go through their various proposals and cobble together a coherent package. And they should make it clear they want to pass some kind of health care reform. Proclaiming the status quo as adequate is unlikely to fly as a platform for very long.

The Massachusetts Senate race is the story of the week – and then some. Yes, it will have long term political ramifications, but eventually it will be yesterday’s news. Some other issue, scandal, disaster or discovery will take its place. For now, however, Senator-elect Brown’s upset gives both Democrats and Republicans a chance to prove they’re the party of the future, not the party of the left or of no or of, worst of all, the recent past. Whether either will choose to seize the opportunity is anyone’s guess. What’s yours?

Of course, what’s significant about the Massachusetts special election is not what I think it should mean, but what the actual impact it has on health care reform. Which I’ll be writing about as soon as the crystal ball clears a bit.

29 thoughts on “Massachusetts Offers Both Parties a Window of Opportunity for Health Care Reform

  1. all private health plans with high deductibles (over $1500, e.g.) should immediately be HSA compatible…all people who pay their own premiums should be able to deduct them ABOVE THE LINE…ALL out of pocket copayments should be deductible ABOVE THE LINE…if employees are so poor they have no taxible income against which to offset, they should have tax credits to get refund of premium,…this gives them incentive to buy policy…HSA accounts deposit limits should be greatly increased, and expanded uses including health clubs, anti smoking, etc., to encourage good health practices…do this through tax incentives, not federal mandates….employees who go to work full time should be required by the States to buy a minimal health private plan…no interstate (federal) regulation….this proof of health insurance is required just as auto insurance proof is required…it is blasphemy now to opine that this should not be under federal regulation, but that doesn’t make this mass opinion correct

  2. Can I be the first one to make to officially make the call…HEALTH REFORM IS DEAD. I am a health broker, who deals with small businesses, individuals and medicare advantage plans. The exact target of HCR, that would have made me unemployed in about 3 years. The ineptitude of the Dems is utterly mindboggling, on so many fronts (we’ll start with Hillary blowing the election, move on to Obama showing zero leadership w/HCR, move to the bungling dems in congress, and the nail in the coffin being losing the bluest dem senate seat in the country). Unfortunately, what is getting lost in all of this is our country’s desperate need for MEANINGFUL healthcare reform. Without meaningful reform, the future cost of healthcare/insurance will simply be completely crushing to individuals, businesses large and small, and to our state and federal governments.
    Perhaps there will be some piecemeal reform???

    • Alan,

      Based on the reports and comments I’ve been hearing today, I think you’re right. Thankfully, this poorly researched, poorly developed, Democratic Administration and Congress controlled experiment in attempting to socialize the American system in less than 12 months, failed.

      Unfortunately, it has cost the taxpayer of this country mega Billions of dollars in hard cash and wasted effort. Our Senate has accomplished little, same with the House. The numbers of uninsured who are not Illegal Aliens or those who choose to go without any coverage not included, will not be given an opportunity to access coverage, thank you Democratic Congressional Leadership, thank you Barack Obama! There is absolutely no one to blame for this incredibly expensive fiasco except those who demonstrated no leadership abilities and an arrogance only matched by the most cold of dictatorships in history.

      The victims are the American taxpayer, the American working poor, and the American poor who must continue to rely on the ER method of access to coverage if they are not on Welfare (don’t you love that euphemism, “Medicaid”?). The victims also include those whose physicians have left Medicare practice because they simply can no longer afford to stay in this seriously ignored area of health care funding. I would dearly love to see President Barack Obama standing side by side on a dais with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to simply say to the American Electorate, “I am sorry.” Of course, that won’t happen, any more than anything else of positive consequence has happened this past year.

      Yes, we do need some reforms. Insurance Reform is essential, to prevent those who have purchased medical coverage from being canceled due to claims history as many group insureds have experienced. We need a system of acceptance of all applicants, regardless of medical history, with a system to denote those who “gamed” the system and waited until they had ” a little bit of cancer”, or are three months pregnant, before they attempt to get coverage and cause harm to the rest of a risk pool, making certain that those who choose to gamble hoping to lay it all on the rest of us pay their fair share, in one manner or another.

      It is time for this country to begin rewarding those who have accepted their “Individual Responsibility” and not reward anti-social behavior in providing “Societal Welfare-ism” (a philosophy apparently held dear by the lawyers among us, as I haven’t seen a single attempt to reform lawyers, or the law, just everyone else, in this entire experiment).

      We, and those whom we elect to “Represent US” must grow up and act like responsible adults, instead of behaving as we have seen over the past 12 months.

      The denouement of this arrogant, emotionally wearing, time consuming, financially exorbitant, budget destroying exercise in the powerful few ignoring the will of the masses in order to jam their concepts down the throats of those they think they control does not leave us with a good feeling, only one of relief that this pain may soon be over. We will still need to address the issues of affordability and accessibility to proper healthcare for American citizens. Perhaps, we can also start seeing some positive movement in 1) getting our country back to work, 2) strengthening our ability to withstand terrorism, 3) properly regulating and enforcing those regulation in our financial sectors,…the list goes on. We have a lot of work to do.

  3. I just came across my favorite quote of the day. It was in an Associated Press story talking about the debate among Democrats over whether to ram through health care reform legislation or step back, scale-back, and pass something more moderate. (Incidentally, the article notes that “those urging moderation seemed to be winning the argument.”) But my favorite quote from the article ( was a statement by House Majoirty Whip Jim Clyburn who is quoted as saying “MediCare wasn’t done in one fell swoop. You lay a foundation and get this thing done over time.”

    This was the same Representative Clyburn who was pushing for a public option and a host of other aggressive reforms. If he and his fellow progressives had focused on laying a foundation from the beginning, health care reform would have passed months ago.

    • Excellent quote, Alan.

      I’m not certain that I agree that Health Care Reform would have passed by now, but the mood of the country would not be as truly angry with the Obama Administration or the Democratic controlled Congress as it is now. Had Congress and the Administration exercised some restraint in their actions and less arrogance in their demeanor those Democrats facing reelection in 2010 may have had decent odds in the General Election.

      I think that it is now too late. The American public can be very forgiving if those in political power realize that they have erred and state so, but only when that recognition is an act of commission, not omission.

  4. It’s unclear whether a “bipartisan” bill could ever be achieved, but what’s begun to show is that people are rejecting the health care bill in its current form. While electing Obama was generally a vote in favor of reform, the brand of reform being pushed through Congress was not sitting well with the American public.

    Here’s hoping that Brown’s election in Mass will slow things down a bit; a delayed bill is better than a flawed bill that pushes the administration’s agenda more than it furthers the achievement of good, affordable health care for everyone.

  5. Another thought that should be seriously considered in all of these discussions:

    Those who are making these laws to which we all will eventually need abide, should absolutely be required to live under those very same laws.

    No more special deals or health care plans for lawmakers who affect the lives of all of us, unless they, too, are required to live under those same laws, health care reform laws or otherwise.

    • I agree. I just spent the last hour pouring over the health insurance for government employees. My client just got a job with the government and he couldn’t decide because of the vast choices that government employees get. I looked them over for him and I don’t know the solutions for health care reform but one thing that I do know is that government employees have better access to health insurance options than anything I have ever seen.

      • Jeanette, I worked for a number of years with many members of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees (NARFE). I never ceased to be amazed at the plethora of incredible health plans offered this very large group. Calling their plans “benefit rich” is a huge understatement.

        I have also been involved in politics for most of my life (served with Alan on the Leg Council when he was chair in…a long time ago) and developed a certain amount of cynicism regarding legislation passed into law on a state and federal level. It is troubling that those who “Make law” that we must follow, often do not need to obey the same laws as do we. They are exempt.

        Any Health Care Reform or other legislation passed, from which the Administration or Congress is exempt, is automatically suspect, in my opinion.

      • Ms. Taylor

        The Health Exchange provision was basically modeled after the Federal Program. If I recall there were two incarnations of this program; one called for the Health Exchange’s to be administered by the Office of Personnel Management and operated along the same lines as the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). However, the program was to separated from the FEHBP. The other recommendation was to have the Health Exchange’s administered by the individual States. I believe it was the latter provision that was settled on in the Senate Bill.
        I had watched “Real Time” with Bill Maher over the past summer and he had two Republican Congressman as guests, including Congressman Issa of California, and during the interview they both endorsed the Federal model but I doubt they were including the government contribution. However, with the tax credits many individuals would have probably paid less for health coverage then many federal employees.
        As a retired Federal Employee I am familiar with the program and although I am a case study of only one individual I can tell you the route that I took with regards to choosing a program. When I was younger I picked the plan that offered the least benefits but the premium was extremely low. As my family situation changed I would change my coverage and choose plans that offered greater coverage but obviously at a greater premium. Additionally, under the FEHBP employees are not mandated to join. However, if you are a Federal Employee and in the five years previous to your retirement you did not participate in the program you are ineligible for inclusion in the program upon retirement.
        Under the proposed health plan I am sure that individuals would choose the same strategy and would thus dilute the purpose of the individual mandate; greater needs individuals and families would choose the plans that offered greater benefits and higher premiums and, in my opinion at least, the mandate would have little or no effect on the cost of premiums for these programs.
        Contrary to what many people believe the federal program is far from the big giveaway that many people believe it is, while the premiums and benefits are reasonable they do not come close to matching the retirement benefits of many State retirement plans. I currently pay $400 (35% of the cost) per month for family coverage, which is approximately a 15% increase over last year’s cost.
        The Federal Government also offers, at an additional expense, dental and vision plans. These plans are bare minimum plans and do not afford comprehensive coverage.
        Further, all federal employees were always required to contribute a fixed percentage of the plan premium. When I started in 1977 most employer benefit plans picked up the cost of the entire plan for their employees and, in fact, I had left a job with better coverage and I did not have to pay towards the premium.
        Since 1977 more companies and municipalities have adopted the federal formula and I doubt there are few plans left that pay the entire premium. However, getting back to the municipal employees, in NYS at least, when the Teachers in my school district retire they receive free coverage and when they are eligible for Medicare the school district picks up the cost of any additional premiums.
        The following link is to the Federal Employees Health benefits program. I am sure there are many individuals and families that would like to participate in this program even at the full cost but in the interest of full disclosure I must admit I was opposed to this particular provision. The primary reason being that although it was supposedly separate from the federal employee program, I believe this particular provision would have accelerated the rate of my premium increases through cost shifting.

        • Thanks for the information.
          That was very interesting and yes that is the website. My client went with the Health Fund plan for $216.00 a month for his entire family. They have a medical fund set aside that is funded up to $2,500 before they pay anything out of pocket. The deductible comes into play after that but it is rather small at $750 a person and then they pay 10% coinsurance up to $2,250 maximum out of pocket. The amazing part was that the fund rolls over every year so the employee can actually have a pretty nice cushion before he has to pay anything out of pocket. The plan seemed pretty awesome to me.

  6. Alan, as usually, great post. This election was about Obama and the dems in Congress. Period. If the election was held in anytme in 2009, a Dem monkey would have won in a landslide. But voters have seen what Obama is really about, and it ain’t pretty. (disclosure-I voted for Obama!) Obama should have been a laser beam, focusing in on jobs and the economy. He got royaly sidetracked with HCR, and as it turns out he was just like every other slimy politician, giving back room deals to the likes of Nelson/union/lawyers (no tort reform) etc.
    So the big questiion is where does HCR go from here. The answer- it’s all about jobs… Congresmen’s jobs that is. If a Dem can’t win Mass, then all dems are in trouble, and dems in congress will proceed solely what is in their absolute best interest, and that is how can they keep their jobs? At this point, will passing HCR help or hurt a dem congressman to keep his job?

  7. Alan,

    I read your blog regularly and am often quite impressed with the points you make. It is certainly refreshing compared to ideas put forth by others. I would go so far as to recommend you as an arbitrator to help negotiate legislation.

    Even as a Californian, I supported Scott Brown and contributed to his campaign. I thought Brown the candidate was much more effective than his acceptance speech showed last night. In fact, if the only thing I could base my vote upon was the speech by each candidate last night, I would have preferred Coakley. She was very classy in defeat.

    I believe the MA voters were commenting upon the process taking place in DC, particularly as it relates to HC reform. Coakley’s poll #’s began dropping dramatically following the Chrismas Eve passage of the bill in the Senate and all the giveaways/vote-buying that came to light. I believe the coup de grace was Obama’s deals with the Unions shortly before the election. Yeah, Coakley made some unbelievable blunders, but behavior in DC is what got Brown elected.

    The biggest issues for me in HC reform is getting more people insured and bending the cost curve. I agree with you on the mandate; but I wouldn’t call it a mandate and I wouldn’t force people to buy coverage. Rather, I would allow insurance co’s to penalize those that choose to wait to buy insurance until they need it. Make people responsible for their decisions, something as a society we have gotten away from.

    Could you share some specific ideas that you alluded to that would contribute towards reducing costs? Frankly, I think it’s highly improbable until we become real consumers of our health care, meaning more responsible for our own costs.

    Thank you,


    • Bending the Cost Curve:
      1. Tort Reform
      2. Eliminate Fee For Service, and move to payment for quality of care.
      3. Rationing/Better End of Life Care/Comparative Effectiveness
      4. Heavy tax on Coke/McDonald’s/Marlboro
      5. Eliminate employee tax free health premiums
      6. Tax on Cadillac Plans
      I can go on and on. One simple problem. No leadership in Washington

      • I’ve heard the “quality of care” thing many times. Maybe I’m just not creative enough, but how would that work? How does a provider get paid for results rather than for what they do? How would the level of payment be determined?

  8. Alan,

    I agree with your assessment, especially the part about the ignorance of facts – that people usually hate partisan politics, and ineptitude leads to change more often than anything else. Scott Brown played his part well in turning the double digit percentage deficit just a week ago into a victory. He essentially promised the same thing President Obama did last year – Change.
    I see that the Democratic Party leaders are now trying to distance themselves from Ms. Coakley and the campaign she ran. What they are failing to realize, as you pointed out so eloquently, is why the independent voters are turning the other way. I honestly don’t believe it is the healthcare reform bill itself that is to blame – I think it’s the arrogance of the Democratic Party – that the Party has 60 seats required for the filibuster and we can play along the partisan lines without a fear of Republicans.

    So the question remains: will we see more of the same or will the Democrats finally wake up from their yearlong slumber and realize that promising change and not delivering it is much worse than continuing more of the same?

  9. Alan

    Attached is an article by Dave Leonhardt, Business writer for the NY Times. This article sums up much of what you have written today and in previous posts.
    However, if as is expected the current healthcare Bill does not pass, I believe you are dreaming if you think any meaningful healthcare reform bill will ever be passed.
    The biggest obstacle to passage is the requirement for an individual mandate. How would the Republicans, who have now decided they are Party of People, ever sell that idea?

  10. Alan: I agree with you that the right thing for all of our elected officials to do is to try and salvage some of the provisions of the bill (preferably the ones you’ve picked because I agree with you that they are the most important ones) and come up with a plan that looks like they accomplished something in a bi-partisian manner. But because that is the right thing to do is precisely why it won’t happen. I predict that the whole thing will go down in flames and both parties will demonstrate the void of leadership that we’ve suffered for this entire decade from both parties. Our national leadership is unimaginative and mediocre (at best) and, as a citizens, we are simply reaping what we have sowed by allowing the media to drive its own agenda (which is to pick apart anyone and everyone in the name of “news”) and marginalizing all of the capable and intelligent people who actually could do something about the problems we are facing but have no appetite to have their lives picked apart ad nauseum by the giant behemoth that is the media in the country. Therefore, we get no-nothing/done-nothing people occupying the most important positions in our government and that leads the mess we are currently witnessing. It is a truly depressing sight.

  11. The election in Massachusetts last night was about Massachusetts. Everyone needs to look beyond Washington at the dynamics within the state to understand what really happened. MA has always been ambivalent about its Democratic leadership, which is why moderate Republicans are so often elected Governor here. Mass voters like to keep a balance in their leaders. We happen to have an unpopular Democratic governor now, so voters put a Republican in the senate. (He doesn’t happen to be a moderate, but a lot of voters don’t understand that.) Tip O’Neil and Ted Kennedy understood their state well, and knew that local, neighborhood politicking and constituent services were the key to keeping their seats. They were loved in Massachusetts because of their devotion to constituents, not because they were visionary Democratic lions. Scott Brown is an annoying tool who will be an embarrassment to all of the Commonwealth’s residents. Martha Coakley, however, handed the seat to him because she dissed Red Sox Nation and didn’t visit the neighborhoods and didn’t tout her very good record of helping individual residents solve their day-to-day problems.

  12. Alan, you urge readers of this Blog to not over think what happened in Massachusetts. There also exists a danger in “under-reading” what happened.

    You then say that: “Usually, however, the simplest interpretation is usually closest to the truth: voters rejected Republicans last year because they were fed up with political games, hypocrisy and ineptitude. They are rejecting Democrats this year because they are fed up with political games, hypocrisy and ineptitude.”

    The Administration and Democratic Pundits have remarked that they think the results of last night’s vote giving Scott Brown the Senatorial seat once occupied by Ted Kennedy is the result of voter anger not toward the administration, but toward failed policies “left” by the Bush Administration. They also state that it is now time to “move on”.

    The message sent last night is really more visceral anger toward the Obama Administration after having been told that with Obama “the political games, hypocrisy, and ineptitude” experienced under the Bush Administration would cease, and the electorate would begin to see the clear transparency of the new Administration and the now Democratic controlled Congress.

    That is not what happened, and last night’s vote is the result. Let’s break it down into smaller bites:

    Obama promised change: we got it, in far greater national debt.

    Obama promised no taxes to fund health care: both the House and Senate Bill call for high tax components from a $500Billion takeaway from Medicare to a punitive tax on better health care plans.

    Obama promised transparency and clarity in bill and deal making: we have gotten deals cut behind closed door, opaque and muddied, and a total loss of transparency.

    Obama promised there would be no bribery, no placating of lobbyists or special interests: that is all he and the congress have done, placate and bribe.

    Obama promised new jobs and a stop to rising unemployment: we have jumped from 5 Million Unemployed to 15 Million Unemployed, and rising.

    Obama promised strong action and reaction to terrorism: the threat of terrorism is greater today than ever. We are now vulnerable at political functions at the WH, in the air on planes coming to the US, and in our own schoolyards with homegrown terrorists and American Muslims who have been converted to Radical terrorist beliefs validated by the murders of twelve at the Ft. Hood Massacre by a home-grown Muslim terrorist, and several other planned home-grown terrorist attacks.
    Obama promised that the economy would improve: it has not for the mainstream majority, it has worsened and continues to do so…”It is still the economy, stupid.”

    The WH and the Democratic controlled Congress have been treating the citizens with arrogance and impunity, listening only to the haranguing, socialist- leaning progressive Democratic Left, while ignoring the voices of the moderate, conservative, and concerned Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. Those many very angry members of the electorate have just responded in a very clear and concise, loud voice. The voters who caused this election to favor Brown over Coakley are the now “in the majority” Independent voters, not the disillusioned Democrats or Republicans, both parties now in the minority to the Independents. Will the Democrats and the Left leaning progressives take heed and begin to create programs that are desired by the middle, the moderates of both parties and the Independents, who are the majority of voting Americans, or will they continue to attempt to bulldoze their expensive and discriminatory plans while crushing middle America? That remains to be seen.

    New 2010 Bumper Sticker: “It’s still the Economy, and the Safety of American Citizens in their own country, Stupid!”

    • Alan:

      I am disapointed in your remarks. Voters and the U.S. citizins are not stupid and while many may not truely understand everything that congress is doing with regard to healthcare, they can see how it is being done. What’s going on in Washington would not be acceptable in any ordinary town in america. I think Mass just showed what every other states citizens are thinking. They are rethinking the fact that they gave so much power to one party and by doing so, totally eliminated the checks and balances that keeps our country a democracy and once that is gone, it can be scary. You have congressmen and women just doing whatever it takes to get what they want – at all costs. That scares a lot of people and that is what I think Mass citizens were shouting last night.

      • Scott: Thanks for the comment. I think we’re in violent agreement. I described the meaning of the Massachusetts results as showing that voters are fed up with “political games, hypocrisy and ineptitude.” Seems to me we only differ slightly on emphasize. You focus on the desire of voters to restore checks and balances by preventing Democrats from acting unilaterally. My belief is that if Democrats had used that power wisely, by seeking more moderate solutions to problems that would be acceptable to a broader spectrum of their party than just liberals, that voters wouldn’t be concerned about the large majorities they hold in Congress. In other words, it was the misuse of their power that inspired voters in Massachusetts to seek a check on Democrat’s power. I don’t think our views are very much different — and certainly not incompatible.

        • Thanks. So what do you think happens from here? Do you think healthcare will pass anyway? Please give us your thoughts and why? Thanks.

        • Wow. Read these, sure sounds like health care reform is dead for now. At least tis giant mess….

          Democrats Will Stop Work on Health Care Until Scott Brown is Sworn In


          Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday the Senate will not take up health care reform again until Republican Senator-elect Scott Brown is sworn into office.

          Speculation had swirled in recent days that Democrats in the House and Senate may try to rush a final health care bill to the president’s desk before Brown could take his seat and vote against it. Brown won a special election in Massachusetts Tuesday to fill the seat held by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy for more than four decades.

          “We’re not going to rush into anything,” Reid said. “We’re going to wait until the new senator arrives to do more on health care.”

          But even when Brown is sworn in, Reid said that the focus on Capitol Hill will be on jobs and the economy, not necessarily on health care.

          When a reporter asked Reid about his plans to pass health care, Reid said, “People all around this country are focused on their jobs, keeping their jobs, finding a job. People have lost their house. People are concerned about the upside-down value of their homes…health care is a problem, but it is certainly more than that.”

          When pressed specifically if he is committed to passing a health care bill, Reid said, “I am confident that health care is an issue in this country and we are going to do everything we can to alleviate the pain and suffering of people in this country who don’t have health care and leave people what they have.”

          Finally, Reid said he would not try to pass the Senate’s bill through the House, a move that had been mentioned as the fastest possible way to pass health care before Democrats lose their 60-seat majority. “I’m not going to be telling the House of Representatives what they should do.”

          Reid’s comments came after President Obama said in an interview Wednesday morning that the Senate should not “jam through” a health bill before Brown takes his seat, likely within the next two weeks.

          “Here’s one thing I know and I just want to make sure that this is off the table: The Senate certainly shouldn’t try to jam anything through until Scott Brown is seated,” Obama told ABC’s George Stephanopolous. “The people of Massachusetts spoke. He’s got to be part of that process.”

          Obama Says Seat Brown Before Passing Health Care

          Updated: 4 hours 18 minutes ago
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          Russell Berman Contributor
          WASHINGTON (Jan. 20) — President Obama today firmly rejected the suggestion that Senate Democrats try to pass a final health care bill before the newly elected Republican senator from Massachusetts takes his seat.

          “Here’s one thing I know, and I just want to make sure that this is off the table: The Senate certainly shouldn’t try to jam anything through until Scott Brown is seated,” Obama told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in an interview. “People in Massachusetts spoke. He’s got to be part of that process.”

          ALSO SEE: What’s Next for Health Care? 5 Scenarios

          The president’s comments, his first since Brown’s upset victory on Tuesday, effectively scuttle one of several options the Democrats were considering as they try to save their health care reform bill from political death.

          Obama said he would continue to press for health care reform and hinted that he was open to scaling back the current pieces of legislation into provisions that could gain enough support — that means from Republicans — to pass.

          “I would advise that we try to move quickly to coalesce around those elements of the package that people agree on,” he said, citing insurance market reforms, cost controls, and aid to small businesses for providing health coverage as elements that he wanted to see maintained. He also indicated support for the House passing the Senate bill unchanged, though he acknowledged that many House Democrats had problems with the Senate version.

          Reflecting more broadly on the Massachusetts election, the president said that “the same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office.” He added, “People are angry, and they are frustrated. Not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years, but what’s happened over the last eight years.”

          As for regrets during his first year in office, Obama suggested he had lost touch with the American people, saying it was “a mistake of mine” to focus so much on policy rather than “speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are and why we have to make sure those institutions are matching up with those values.” The result, he said, was that the public felt a sense of “remoteness and detachment” from leaders in Washington.

        • Alan, it may be my needing better half-eyes, or a more creative mastery of English, but could you explain what you mean by “violent agreement”?

          I have a visual of you shaking Scott saying, “We agree, Scott, we agree!” 🙂

          BTW, I agree with your analysis of a “misuse of power”, and think it is in part a natural human action when one party controls the Administration and the Congress. While at times very frustrating, the checks and balances that can help to moderate law-making philosophical differences can easily be missed when only one party is really “ruling”, providing more ease for the extremists of that party to exercise their legislative power and desires.

      • Scott, I don’t mean to contradict any of the suggestions that Health Care Reform is now on hold, however in response to you most recent post (7:31 PM, 1/20), President Obama said this tonight:

        “The Senate certainly shouldn’t try to jam anything through UNTIL Scott Brown is seated,” Obama said. “People in Massachusetts spoke. He’s got to be part of that process.” Scott Brown can be seated by next week, Harry Reid allowing.

        I would have been pleased had he said that the Senate shouldn’t “Jam” anything through, ever, and that both Houses of Congress should always consider the will of the majority of the people before moving any piece of legislation through the process…but he didn’t, they have been doing just that (ignoring the will of the people) and therein lies the rub.

        As often noted about Opera, “It ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings.”

    • Spencer

      Just two quick notes:

      In a sense you are correct on the tax issue. However, Obama never said he would not raise taxes, he said he would not raise taxes on the Middle Class. What you are probably referring too, is the fact that he said the Bill would be deficit neutral;

      Also, I hope you had as much anger over Bush’s unfunded wars and unfunded Medicare prescription program as you have at Obama’s deficits.

      • JimK, as much if not more anger.

        Being very experienced in Medicare issues, and realizing that Medicare Part D offered ‘illusory” benefits in that few who sold Medicare Part D understood how it worked as those who developed Medicare D did not understand how it worked nor could properly explain it, I was infuriated that the Feds allowed a complex plan loaded with “donut holes” to be marketed to those over age 65 when those under 65 couldn’t understand it. What an unfortunate example of “when you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullsh*t”. Obama accomplished nothing with his “back room”, secret meetings with Big Pharma except to provide “protectionism” to Big Pharma when they cut their deals in secrecy, and caused even more harm to Americans. Telling Americans that they canNOT have access to less expensive drugs was abhorrent. Americans deserve to be treated better than that.

        In my opinion, GWB was given a directive by the American people; “Go get Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, and don’t come home until you have.” Iraq should never have been in his “sights”, at least until his primary directive had been completed satisfactorily, and then only long enough to neutralize or capture Hussein, at which point America should have left that confused and “always at war” piece of geography. Period. We have accomplished nothing, except to “take out” Saddam Hussein. We could have accomplished that primary goal at far less cost financially, or of American lives. Of course I was angry.

        • Spencer

          I agree with almost everything you wrote with the exception of Iraq; we should never have gone there.

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