Thursday, July 30, 2009

Blue Dogs: Fiscal Conservatives or Insurance Company Shills?

From Daily Kos

by mcjoan

Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 01:50:04 PM PDT

The House Blue Dogs were formed under the basic premise of fiscal responsibility, but have morphed into a money-amassing machine, cozying up to industry to get more Blue Dogs elected to betray Democrats.

The latest, the details from the deal they struck with E&C Chair Henry Waxman have emerged, and they belie the claims of fiscal responsibility:

Despite Blue-Dog claims that a compromise they engineered Wednesday would trim $100 billion from the cost of health-care legislation, their weakening of the public option for insurance coverage could end up erasing those savings....

They got the headlines they wanted -- "House Democrats Trim $100B From Health Bill," The Washington Post wrote - but sources on Capitol Hill and outside of government say the changes to the public plan could actually increase the cost of the bill anywhere between $60 billion and $100 billion, wiping out all or most of the ostensible savings....

The Congressional Budget Office has not yet made an estimate of how cost-effective the revised public option would be. But The Walker Report blog, which has done detailed analysis of all variations of health care legislation, noted that the new public option is similar to that put forward by the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. The CBO was vague on how much the HELP Committee's public option would cost, but Walker writes that it "would not be noticeably cheaper than private insurance or save the government much money."

Politico, meanwhile, reported on Wednesday night that the savings lost by switching to the Blue Dog public plan would be $60 billion.

On the far end of cost-savings analysis is a June 2009 report issued by the Common Wealth Fund, a private foundation that conducts health care analysis and promotes a better performing health care system. Titled "Fork In The Road," the report concluded that a public option paying providers Medicare rates (which are lower than any proposal put forward to date) would produce savings for the government of roughly $3 trillion. A public plan that provided rates somewhere between Medicare and private plan rates (where the Blue Dog approach would likely be) would yield only $2 trillion in savings.

As slinkerwink and shevas01 have noted, the CPC has protested this agreement, and met with leadership to reinforce their refusal to support any bill that does not meet the criteria they've established for a public option.

Keep in mind as well that the bill E&C comes up with will be reconciled during recess with the Tri-Committee chairs, Waxman, Miller, and Rangel. With enough pressure from the larger voting blocs of the progressive and minority caucuses--who's voting power is much larger than the Blue Dogs--the Blue Dog provisions could be stripped out. As if to signal leadership's approach on this, Pelosi today blasted the insurance industry:

"It's almost immoral what they are doing," Pelosi said to reporters, referring to insurance companies. "Of course they've been immoral all along in how they have treated the people that they insure," she said, adding, "They are the villains. They have been part of the problem in a major way. They are doing everything in their power to stop a public option from happening."

Meanwhile, this is the thanks Waxman gets for negotiating with the Blue Dogs:

On Thursday, some of the Blue Dogs continued to stray, aligning with Republicans on amendment votes.

Waxman only narrowly beat back, 28-29, one GOP amendment that would have imposed new identity proof requirements on Medicaid patients seeking care. Five Blue Dogs voted for the amendment.

Waxman and other foes of the proposal said it would force people to provide proof of citizenship in the emergency room and deny them needed care.

They're still enabling the Republicans.

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