Today, the House of Representatives will take up GOP Rep. Fred Upton’s proposal to ”fix” Obamacare by undermining it, and the vote is being widely cast on a referendum on whether Dems will continue distancing themselves from the law. Meanwhile Senate Dems are also still considering fixes of their own that could undermine it, though that’s subsided.
— The Morning Plum: For Democrats, it’s gut check time, Greg Sargent, Washington Post, this morning
The Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus is not among my favorite political pundits, but the apt title of her column today–Obama’s political malpractice–sums up not just the current Obamacare-related debacle but my abiding assessment of Obama dating almost to the outset of his presidency. Marcus’s column makes the point that Obama’s attempts, such as they have been, to gain control of this spiraling situation just make the situation worse. But that’s par for his course.
Actual smart and competent congressional Democrats and party leaders–four senators who come quickly to mind are Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, Jeff Merkley, and Dick Durbin–need to grab the reins and use Democratic Party funds to establish a massive phone bank, and rent small neighborhood offices, where people who have received cancellation notices of their teensy-coverage plans can get quick easy assistance in learning of their actual options. These Dems need to get the word out, loud and clear, that insurance agents are engaging, en masse, in misleading these people by, most conspicuously but not exclusively, telling them that the particular “replacement” policy they are offering or suggesting is the individual’s cheapest option.
I call it AnthemBlueCrossCare, because nearly every one of these misleading cancellation letters that I’ve read about is from one or another state’s Anthem Blue Cross or Blue Cross company; I keep wondering whether that is the only company that has been offering these teensy-coverage policies, or whether instead this company has just perfected the strategy to a science.
Occasionally, some diligent journalist will actually investigate the situation and will find that the individual or family actually has options that provide better coverage at about the same or less cost. The 46-year-old woman, for example, who chafes at being forced to buy a plan that includes maternity care can get a plan for that costs the same or less than the one being cancelled that does not. But by now, largely thanks to mainstream news media organizations such as the New York Times that have credulously published the Anthem-Blue-Cross-is-canceling-my-policy-and-only-offering-one-at-a-500%-increase-in-premiums-and-I’m-forced-under-pain-of-prison-to-not-look-elsewhere-for-health-insurance anecdote–and thanks (surprise, surprise!) to Obama’s failure to inquire into the actual options of these anecdotal victims–journalists’ refutations of these stories is, as my mother would say, like pushing back the sands.
But surely actual smart congressional Democrats and party leaders recognize that what matters to these people is not being able to keep their current plan but in not having to pay more, or a least not a lot more, to get acceptable coverage. The 46-year-old woman who doesn’t want to pay for maternity coverage or, as she complains, coverage for stage-four-cancer treatment, or for sex-change surgery (surely something that represents most of the additional 500% increase in premiums from Blue Cross that this woman inferred was her only option since Blue Cross didn’t mention any other, because of the commonness of this surgery), might be happy to pay, say, an extra $100 a month for doctor and hospitalization coverage–which apparently her soon-to-be-cancelled policy does not include, since if it does it would have been the best-kept-secret-about-the-best-insurance-for-the-price-in-this-entire-country; hospitalization coverage for $100 a month!–in case, y’know, she needs an appendectomy or surgery for a broken ankle.
Okay, well, Obama apparently recognizes this too. He just can’t trouble himself to assign a few people within the administration to, maybe, look into these anecdotes and report on their accuracy. But the Democratic Party can pick up the slack, and the actual smart and competent congressional Democrats need to start aggressively picking up the slack and making that happen and getting out the word.
I’m sure they recognize by now that the next three years must be devoted to aggressively picking up the slack on a veritable slew of important policy matters and presenting facts and policy proposals clearly, loudly, and often, to the public. Sure it would be nice to have the president do this, but the president won’t do this, probably because he can’t do this. I mean that literally; he lacks not only the desire but also the ability to do it. But it’s critical that it be done.
And that it start en force immediately.