President Obama's retreat from his previous insistence on establishing a government owned insurance company to compete with private health insurers will do nothing at all to mitigate the massive rationing in medical care to the elderly his legislation will force. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, in a rare moment of profundity, said that government alternative to private health insurance is "not the essential element" of the administration's health care overhaul. How right she is.
The fundamental equation that means worse and worse medical care for our seniors remains exactly as it was before the public option was abandoned: Fifty million new patients to be treated and no extra doctors or nurses to care for them. The result will be precisely the same whether or not there is a public option massive rationing of medical services to the elderly.
The legislation still plans to achieve 40% of its savings from cuts in Medicare, slicing reimbursement rates to doctors and hospitals encouraging them shortchange their elderly patients as a matter of economic necessity and shrinking further the population of doctors. The standards and protocols of the newly established Federal Health Board are just as likely to direct the denial of care to seniors for such surgeries as hip and knee replacements and even coronary artery bypass as before the Obama retreat.
The deletion of the public insurance option is a good step. It reduces the likelihood of "socialized medicine" dominated by a single payer. But it does nothing to alter the basic equation of supply and demand which will doom medical care for the elderly.
The good news is that Obama is now in retreat. His defeat on the ground during the August recess is now obvious and he is being forced to scale back. The bad news is that some Republicans like Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming, and Senators Olympia Snow and Susan Collins of Maine may now endorse the bill without the public insurance provision. We must make sure they do not do so! We need to make it clear to them that the elderly of Iowa, Wyoming and Maine are depending on their Senators to hold the line and block any expansion of insurance coverage until the supply of doctors and nurses is increased enough to avoid rationing.
They must also insist that the extra cost of covering the now uninsured not be borne by the Medicare program! This massive transfer of funding and care from our elderly to the young and uninsured (often immigrants, both legal and not) is a massive threat to the wellbeing of our seniors and we must not let it happen.
The New York Times estimates that Obama's forces are spending upwards of $56 million on television advertising to promote his plan. To counter it, opponents have generated but $9 million a totally inadequate response.
Our efforts, in conjunction with the League of American Voters, have raised $700,000 so far. We are running television ads aimed at swing Senators in Arkansas (Pryor and Lincoln), Louisiana (Landrieu), Nebraska (Nelson), South Dakota (Johnson), North Dakota (Dorgan and Conrad), Maine (Snow and Collins) and Montana (Baucus).
We need more money to advertise in Indiana (Bayh), Connecticut (Lieberman), Wyoming (Enzi), North Carolina (Hagen), and Iowa (Grassley).
We need more money! Please give generously and promptly. Now is the time to increase our pressure, not to decrease it!