Obamacare's Passage: A Full-Scale Retreat
Stephen Lendman | 03.25.2010
a scheme to ration care and enrich corporate providers
Obamacare's Passage: A Full-Scale Retreat - by Stephen Lendman
After eight years under George Bush, people demanded change. Obama and congressional Democrats promised it, then disappointed by accomplishing the impossible - governing worse than skeptics feared, worse than Republicans across the board on both domestic and foreign policies.
They looted the nation's wealth, wrecked the economy, consigned millions to impoverishment without jobs, homes, savings, social services, or futures while expanding global militarism through imperial wars, occupations, and stepped up aggression on new fronts with the largest ever "war" budget in history - way over $1 trillion dollars annually plus supplementals and secret add-ons, greater than the rest of the world combined when America has no enemies.
Now the latest. March 21 will be remembered as a day of infamy, the day House Democrat leaders bullied, bribed, cajoled, muscled, and jerry-rigged Obamacare to pass, despite most Americans opposing it with good reason.
HR 4872: Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010 passed on March 21 - 219 - 212. Along with the October 8, 2009-passed HR 3590: Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the Senate-passed bill, December 24, 2009), Obama's signature made "health reform" law. House - Senate HR 4872 reconciliation follows that may or may not resolve all fixes. No matter. Legislation, signed March 23, is the law of the land unless the Supreme Court declares it unconstitutional - a process called "judicial review."
Briefly, it works like this. The High Court doesn't review federal legislation unless challenged in district court and reaches the appellate level. However, if a clear constitutional violation exists, it may bypass the appellate process and accept a case directly. If it rules the law unconstitutional, it's nullified, and all actions under it may be reversed, but it doesn't happen often, easily, or quickly, especially against federal laws.
Also, the High Court may defer a challenge hearing until major provisions take effect - in this case 2014 under a new Congress, and perhaps new president, Court, and political climate.
In the end, it could come down to federal power v. states rights or corporate v. peoples' rights under the Constitution's "general welfare" clause - Article I, Section 8 stating:
"The Congress shall have power to....provide for (the) general welfare of the United States" that arguably should mean (but never did) "We the People," the Preamble's opening words.
Reality, however, reveals an unfair matchup. Money nearly always trumps people, so why should this time be different, especially given the hundreds of billions of future profits at stake. Little wonder Indian author Arundhati Roy (and others) call democracy "the biggest scam in the world" - for sure the way her country and America practice it.
Also remember - the Supreme Court's ("headnotes" included) Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad decision granted corporations personhood, giving them the same rights as people but not the obligations. Those unrestricted powers let them subvert the "general welfare" to where one day its last vestige will be gone.
Former high-level Washington/Wall Street insider Catherine Austin Fitts calls the process "Slow Burn," like boiling a frog that doesn't know it's dinner until done. We're dinner.
Pro and Con Media Responses
Since its 19th century inception, the Nation magazine turned reality on its head. It was once unapologetic about slavery, then later didn't support minority, labor, or women's rights. It championed 19th century laissez fare, attacked the Grangers, Populists, trade unions and socialists. In 1999, it called the US/NATO Serbia-Kosovo aggression "humanitarian intervention."
After 9/11, it backed the official explanation despite convincing evidence debunking it. Initially, it supported the Afghan and Iraq wars, claimed "no evidence" America's 2004 presidential election was stolen, and in January 2006, ran an offensive full-page anti-Muslim ad titled "Arabian Fables," claiming Palestinians are prone to violence and deceptions. Two months later, it said Haiti's Jean-Bertrand Aristide was "feared and despised," then blamed Haitians for their own misery.
Its biased editorials and articles support Democrats, suppress disturbing truths about them, and call business as usual "progressive." Unsurprisingly, they backed Obamacare from inception, editor Katrina Vanden Heuvel now calling America "a stronger nation for it."
The Nation's John Nichols hailed "A Historic Vote for Health-Care Reform," said Speaker Pelosi "earned a place among the chamber's greatest leaders," quoted Majority Whip James Clyburn claiming "the Civil Rights (triumph) of the 21st century," Majority Leader Steny Hoyer saying the new law "will stand the test of time," and compared Obama's struggle to Franklin Roosevelt's for Social Security - an offensive rationalization comparing genuine universal reform to colossal fraud care rationing for the vast majority of Americans losing out under a hugely destructive measure.
In contrast, Wall Street Journal writer Kimberly Strassel's "Inside the Pelosi Sausage Factory" article was accurate, showing the Journal at times is right.
"You could see it coming a week ago," she said. Then it happened on live TV when:
"Never before has the average American been treated to such a live-action view of the sordid politics necessary to push a deeply flawed bill to completion. It was dirty deals, open threats, broken promises and disregard for democracy that pulled ObamaCare to this point, and (Sunday) the same machinations pushed it across the finish line....The final days (to passage) were a simple death watch, to see how the votes would be bought, bribed or bullied, and how many congressional rules gamed, to get the win."
A handout here, a threat there, a warning that voting no means "unions and other Democrats would run them out of Congress....By the weekend, all the pressure and threats and bribes had left the speaker three to five votes short....The solution?" A "meaningless" presidential Executive Order affirming no federal funding for abortion, though signing it doesn't change Senate language allowing it through a separate premium besides Medicaid already covering it.
No matter, it got the House bill passed the old-fashioned way - by forcing a majority to ram it through, or as Strassel said: making the "process of passing as politically toxic as the bill itself."
A March 21 New York Times editorial titled, "Health Care Reform, at Last" called the process:
"wrenching, and tainted to the 11th hour by narrow political obstructionism, but the year-long struggle over health care reform (finally ended) with a triumph for countless Americans who have been victimized or neglected by their dysfunctional health care system."
From inception, The Times backed the bill, calling it needed progressive reform - no matter its full-scale retreat to ration care, enrich corporate providers, and deliver what Ralph Nader calls a "pay-or-die system that is the disgrace of the Western world."
At a spring 2009 fundraiser, Obama quoted entertainer Al Jolson's famous line: "You ain't seen nothing yet," and he was right, but who, among his faithful, could have imagined that promise's destructiveness or fully comprehend it now.
Cynically, however, The Times argued that:
"Over time (health care) reforms could bring about sweeping changes the way medical care is delivered and paid for. They could ultimately rival Social Security and Medicare in historic importance."
In a March 20 article titled, "The Death of American Populism," this writer argued otherwise, saying what the 1913 Federal Reserve Act did for bankers, Obamacare may do for insurance and drug cartel predators controlling one-sixth of the economy. They'll more than ever game by system by:
-- making it dysfunctionally worse;
-- selling "junk insurance policies" leaving millions underinsured;
-- keeping premiums unaffordable for full coverage;
--adding high deductibles and co-pays for less coverage;
-- denying care by delaying, contesting, or preventing people from accessing it;
-- letting pharmaceutical companies provide toxic drugs at unaffordable prices, and avoid generic competition on new products by lengthy patent protection periods;
-- assuring providers more customers and higher profits by requiring individuals and families buy insurance or be penalized; and
-- by 2018, imposing an excise tax on so-called "Cadillac" plans to cut corporate costs, make workers pay more, and force many to settle for less and be underinsured.
The Times endorsed Obamacare as a triumph for "hard-working Americans," never mind the popping champagne corks in corporate board rooms celebrating their gain at the expense of most people losing out to an extent they'll only discover in the fullness of time when it's too late to matter.
The Times has a long, sordid record of supporting the powerful, backing corporate interests, endorsing imperial wars, ignoring criminal fraud, championing sham election results, and being comfortable with unmet human needs, increasing poverty, hunger, homelessness, and deep despair for growing millions in a country run by corrupt politicians who don't give a damn as long as they're reelected, and corporate fraudsters who prey on the most vulnerable, and profit most by charging more, delivering less, and producing shoddy products.
Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) - Advocates for Universal Coverage
With 17,000 members nationwide, PNHP is an independent, non-partisan, voluntary "physician organization in the United States dedicated exclusively to implementing a single-payer national health program."
Its March 22 press release expressed dismay with the new law saying it "take(s) no comfort in seeing aspirin dispensed for the treatment of cancer."
Instead of fixing the "the profit-driven, private health insurance industry....this costly new legislation will enrich and further entrench (it by forcing) millions of Americans to buy" defective coverage leaving them worse off than before at a cost of hundreds of billions of tax dollars given predators to game the system for even more.
PNHP's listed problems include:
-- besides millions underinsured, nine years out, 23 million Americans will be uninsured, "translate(d) into an estimated 23,000 unnecessary deaths annually and an incalculable toll of suffering;"
-- millions will be forced to buy insurance "costing up to 9.5 percent of their income but covering" only 70% of their expenses, leaving them one serious health emergency away from bankruptcy and loss of their homes;
-- for most, good policies will be unaffordable or "too expensive to use because of the high co-pays and deductibles;"
-- Insurers will get around $450 billion in public money "to subsidize (buying) their shoddy products," and be more than ever emboldened to block future reform;
-- safety-net hospitals will lose billions in Medicare and Medicaid payments, threatening tens of millions of under and uninsured;
-- workers with employer-based coverage will face higher costs, fewer benefits, and restrictions on selecting providers; most will be hamstrung with future stiff costs because of unrestricted premium hikes, higher deductibles and co-pays;
-- costs will keep rising exponentially because Obamacare doesn't contain them;
-- so-called new regulations (like ending pre-existing condition denials) are riddled with loopholes, ambiguities, and legal interpretations to let insurers manipulate them advantageously; and
-- "women's reproductive rights will be further eroded, thanks to the burdensome segregation of insurance funds for abortion and all other medical services."
As a result, the Obama administration and congressional Democrats scammed the public with a package of expensive mandates, new taxes, sweetheart deals, and "a perpetuation of the fragmented, dysfunctional, and unsustainable system that is taking such a heavy toll on our health and economy today."
Obamacare may or may not be good politics, but for most Americans it's disastrous health policy in lieu of simple, effective, affordable solutions - universal single-payer coverage. Everyone in. Nobody out except predatory insurers gaming the system for big profits, declining benefits, and unaffordability for growing millions.
Major bill components won't kick in until 2014, meaning 180,000 Americans will die in the next four years and hundreds of thousands more won't have expensive injuries and illnesses treated. PNHP calls these stakes unacceptable in "pledg(ing) to continue (their) work for the only equitable, financially responsible and humane remedy for our health care mess:" universal coverage, "an expanded and improved Medicare for All." What members of Congress get, you get. Nothing less provided we fight for it until it's gotten. It'll come no other way.
It's Over but not Entirely - State Government Challenges Over Mandated Coverage
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 36 or more states may pass anti-mandate laws, 33 have introduced bills, and Idaho's CL "Butch" Otter became the first Governor to sign one into law. The Virginia House and Senate passed its own, expected to become law shortly. In Arizona, a proposed constitutional amendment will seek voter approval in November.
In addition, on March 23, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden's press release said Idaho "has joined a multi-state lawsuit" against the Department of Health and Human Services, Treasury Department, and Department of Labor, "challenging the constitutionality of" new health care legislation, stating:
"Our complaint alleges the new law infringes upon the constitutional rights of Idahoans and residents of the other states by mandating all citizens and legal residents have qualifying health care coverage or pay a tax penalty. The law exceeds the powers of the United States under Article I of the Constitution and violates the Tenth Amendment....Additionally, the tax penalty required under the law constitutes an unlawful direct tax in violation of Article 1, sections 2 and 9 of the Constitution."
The press release also says Obamacare infringes on state sovereignty by imposing onerous unfunded mandates at a time most states face severe budget shortfalls, can't handle their current obligations, so they're cutting them.
Joining the lawsuits are the Attorney Generals of South Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Louisiana, Alabama, Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Washington, Florida, and South Dakota. Virginia Attorney General, Kenneth Cuccinelli, plans a separate suit in Richmond federal court, stating:
The Constitution's Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3) doesn't apply because:
"If a person decides not to buy health insurance, that person by definition is not engaging in commerce. If you are not engaging in commerce, how can the federal government regulate you?"
Indiana's Senator Richard Lugar asked his Attorney General to file suit, and other states have pledged to do so. Opponents raise serious concerns over the fundamental "do no harm" patient safety rule. For American Health Care Reform.org:
"Single-payer national health insurance will save our economy, prevent medical bankruptcy and above all, save lives. Medicare for All is the Right Prescription for America. We need National Health Insurance. Anything else is just voodoo."
Anything less dumps millions of Americans in the trash heap of unaffordable care, poor care, or no care one serious health emergency away from bankruptcy, home loss, or life threatening catastrophe. That's the reality Obamacare delivered.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.