Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman


How the Republican Posture on Health Care May Now Be Hurting the Pro-Life Cause

posted by swaldman

I think I’ve finally figured out a way of pissing off both my pro-choice and pro-life readers in one post. Here goes.
I believe that if one’s goal is to get health care to reflect the status quo on abortion, the Baucus proposal (reviled by pro-lifers) gets you in the zone. I further believe that the Republican amendments (reviled by pro-choicers) get you in the zone, too.
Activists on both sides will cast the other’s position as not only mistaken but dangerously, immorally and obviously wrong. Truth is, under pressure from pro-lifers, Senate Democrats have now taken out the direct subsidies for abortion. (At some point, pro-lifers might consider the strategy of “declaring victory”).
What’s left are some murky areas involving indirect subsidies. Democrats have come up with one plan for insuring that taxpayers don’t indirectly subsidize abortion. Republicans have come up with another. Frankly, each can cite valid precedents to prove their case. My gut: the Republican approach is cleaner and slightly closer to the status quo but both are defensible.
So where does that grayness-and-subjectivity leave us? It means that the test we’ve been using so far — “does it reflect the status quo?” — won’t easily get this over the goal line. The obvious cases of the legislation departing from the status quo have been eliminated (in the Senate bill anyway); we’re now into the realm of subjective minutia.
And where substance doesn’t rule, raw politics shall.
What I keep hearing from Democrats is: why should we compromise more on abortion when it won’t get us a single additional vote?
Ironically, because Republicans have more or less decided to oppose any health care reform bill, they’ve reduced their leverage on certain substantive matters like abortion.
There are Senate Democrats who would likely go along with the more-pro-life Enzi and Hatch amendments on abortion if they thought it would bring aboard Enzi and Hatch on to the health care legislation. Since Enzi and Hatch will almost certainly oppose health care reform, Democrats won’t support their abortion amendments.
As it happens, the two Republicans the Democrats have the best chance of luring — Maine’s Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins — are both pro-choice.
(The dynamics may eventually be different on the House side where there are 40 pro-life Democrats who might be affected by the final batch of abortion compromises).
In a way, this puts Mssrs. Enzi and Hatch in an interesting position. They probably have the ability to win a total victory on abortion for their side. All they’d have to do is agree to vote for health care reform in general. Which will be stronger: their concern for the unborn or their fear of other parts of Obamacare?



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Davis

posted September 22, 2009 at 6:39 pm


They probably have the ability to win a total victory on abortion for their side. All they’d have to do is agree to vote for health care reform in general. Which will be stronger: their concern for the unborn or their fear of other parts of Obamacare?
The fear the lobbyists and activists who oppose health care reform. Abortion is a side-show issue that doesn’t really have any real bearing–at this point–on the success or failure of reform.
It seems to me the question that never gets asked is: how many times are progressives going to get kicked in the knees and tossed under the bus to get this passed. Abortion-rights supporters–people who believe that abortion represents a civil liberties and justice issue–are the backbone of the Democratic party. They are the ones who got Obama elected. They’ve stuck with the party, thick and thin. So why are they constantly the ones who lose out, who are told their issues don’t matter, and treated like a burden?



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Panthera

posted September 22, 2009 at 7:29 pm


Good comment, Davis!
I agree and would add that those of us who are gay have are also only of interest to the Democrats until the day after the vote counts. Then we go back to being told “it’s not time for you to be granted human status yet. Just be patient”.
Frankly, Steven, you have raised a very valid point. Having made very clear that they won’t support anything, under any circumstances, the Republicans have lost all their bargaining chips except for the Senators from Maine.
It’s all about the blue-dogs now.
The US is alone among all advanced nations – and ranks behind many third-world countries – in the total lack of health care for a very large body of the citizenry. That American Christians actually consider this to be a good thing is incomprehensible to those of us Christians outside of America.



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RJohnson

posted September 22, 2009 at 7:53 pm


The thing is, until the Democrats actually feel pain from their decision (i.e., lose elections), they will continue to play progressives like a violin every election cycle.
Come election day, when the Democrat machine is telling you that if you don’t vote Democrat the issues you care for will not be addressed, ask them how that is any different than what we face today?



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Gerard Nadal

posted September 22, 2009 at 9:41 pm


“Ironically, because Republicans have more or less decided to oppose any health care reform bill, they’ve reduced their leverage on certain substantive matters like abortion.”
Steven,
Do you REALLY think there is any leverage on abortion? Get serious man! Republicans know damned well that a single-payer system will end up footing the bill for all abortions. How could it not? A single-payer system will visit euthanasia through denial of services upon us.
You keep pressing the issue of maintaining the status quo on abortion, but that’s a lie. Pro-lifers know it. Pro-choicers know it, but will never admit it. We are not just anti-abortion. We see the euthanasia coming via rationing. We see Jack Kevorkian and Terri Schiavo in the current system, as well as 50+ Million abortions since Roe. And the government that countenances it all wants to be the only act in town.
You haven’t pissed off this pro-lifer, but I will start losing hair soon from all of the head scratching.
God Bless.



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Gerard Nadal

posted September 22, 2009 at 9:42 pm


P.S.
Panthera and RJohnson,
Good to see you both.



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RJohnson

posted September 23, 2009 at 9:44 am


Gerard: “Do you REALLY think there is any leverage on abortion?”
Good morning, Gerard! Hope all is going well with you and yours.
The GOP had sufficient leverage in prior years to make a significant move with regards to abortion, and yet chose not to do so. You and I have walked this path before.
The point that is being made here is that even if the Democrats adopted all of the GOP amendments regarding abortion, there would still not be one GOP vote in favor of health-care reform. Senator Grassley was interviewed yesterday on a local radio station and said as much.
Now…with statements like that, what incentive is there for the Democrats to make any concessions at all on any of the bills they are considering?
Elections have consequences, Gerard. The Democrats won in 2008, by a substantial margin. It does not mean that the opposition should roll over and play dead, far from it. But to continually shout “where’s the bipartisanship” and offer no give, only take, means that sooner or later they will be left in the dust.



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Gerard Nadal

posted September 23, 2009 at 1:17 pm


Good Afternoon RJohnson,
Thanks. Things are well with all on my end, and I hope the same is so for you and yours.
Yes, we’ve gone around and around on this one. You are correct in all that you say. Yes, they may well be left in the dust on this one if Harry Reed invokes a procedural end run around the filibuster-proof vote that can’t be mustered at this point. But when the dust settles, the Democrats face the prospect of gargantuan losses in the mid-term elections, and the loss of the White House in three years.
The truth is that the Democrats have commanding majorities in both houses of Congress. They are desperate for bipartisan cover precisely because they know that the overwhelming majority of Americans don’t want what they have to offer, and that the people will make the proponents of this legislation pay dearly for it.
The Republicans are wise to sit on their hands.
Any amendments to exclude abortion are merely offered up as a sop. Those abortions will eventually be covered under a single payer system if we get there. Republicans also know that there is simply no way that the federal government can offer the best treatments to all as a single payer. That money needs to come from somewhere. Thanks to the bipartisan drunken spending orgy over the past forty years, our great grandchildren will be paying the bills racked up to date, without a nationalized health care system. Rationing is simply unavoidable.
That’s euthanasia.
There is simply no utopian existence this side of eternity. We make our trade-offs. As Jefferson said in the Declaration of Independence:
“all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
People have suffered ever higher taxes to fund subsidies for fellow citizens and illegal aliens. Taking away their health care and the prospect of euthanasia by rationing is the last straw. We see it in the Tea Party Movement (No I have not participated :o) )
The people will throw off whichever party they hold responsible for this. You are correct, elections do have consequences. Harry Reid needs to keep that in mind.
Take care.



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RJohnson

posted September 23, 2009 at 1:37 pm


“Rationing is simply unavoidable.”
Gerard, I think a good case can be made that rationing is currently taking place, and that euthanasia is already the result.
This past spring I had a bit of a medical scare. Some digestive problems led to my doctor recommending that I have a colonoscopy. As a male that is (almost) 50, I knew this would be on my to-do list at some point in the future, and that it is a good tool in helping to catch incidents of cancer in the colon and lower intestine.
In order to get the test scheduled he had to call my insurance company, who had to give permission for the test to take place. He allowed me to listen in on the speaker phone in his office. The operator took the insurance ID information he provided, the diagnosis code, and you could hear her typing it into a computer. In a moment she responded with an authorization code that my doctor wrote on the order for the test.
At this point I intervened, introduced myself, and asked the operator if she were a trained medical professional. She responded that she was not, she was simply a phone operator employed by the insurance company. I asked her who made the decision to approve my test. She said it was done by computer.
I told her to please thank the computer for me. When I got the bill I found that the charge was applied to my deductable. The insurance company did not pay a cent for the test, but still had to approve it before the hospital could do it.
The test found a polyp, which was removed and found to be benign. However, now that this is on my record I have a “pre-existing condition” that will make it difficult for me to get coverage for any future colon cancer treatments should I lose my current insurance. Conceivably I could be left insured and yet not covered for a future instance of colon cancer should I change jobs.
This in spite of paying $11K or more a year for insurance.
Please explain to me how this is not rationing, and how I could be left in the future with the prospect of either going bankrupt to treat colon cancer or simply committing self-euthanasia?
Gerard, I have heard a lot of “no” from the GOP and pro-life groups. I have yet to hear many “no, but” explanations of how we could change what everyone seems to admit is a broken system.
As for the 2010 elections, yes I believe that the Democrats are likely to take a beating then, in large part because of the health-care issue. Lots of the folks who are protesting now will vote against the Democrats. Then we will be back to status quo ante, with gridlock in place.



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Steven Waldman

posted September 23, 2009 at 3:47 pm


Re: RJohnson’s point about the rationing that routinely takes place currently (in effect, for the most part, on the basis of income), I’m curious what y’all made of the recent study indicating that 45,000 Americans die each year for lack of health insurance. (American Journal of Public Health)
http://www.boston.com/news/health/blog/2009/09/uninsured_hold.html



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Gerard Nadal

posted September 23, 2009 at 4:16 pm


RJohnson,
I’ve had the same experience with the same test. So we are in the same boat. The short answer is to do two things simultaneously. Cap payments in med mal. cases. Then, with the huge savings to insurers, eliminate pre-existing condition restrictions.
You are correct in saying that rationing exists already, albeit on a vastly smaller scale that it will if Uncle Sam pays the bills. It’s easier to fix the problems with the current system through legislation, than creating the behemoth envisioned by the Dems. Better to have competition between insurers. Gotta run, more later.
Steven,
I have not seen that study, so I can’t accept the numbers without seeing the internals. However, that number will go up by at least an order of magnitude if a broke federal treasury needs to cover an increasingly aging population. Don’t forget, access to health care does not create a ‘healthy’ population, it increases the lifespan and creates a larger population of chronically ill people. Apart from antibiotics,which are curative, most other pharmaceuticals need to be taken for life for chronic conditions such as heart disease, cholesterol, diabetes, HIV, herpes, etc.
With the graying of the Boomers, what would be the incentive for the government to keep us going into our 90’s on a bankrupt social security and medicare system if it also must cover the rest of the population. In the competition for resources, we’ll be considered expendable, as we no longer contribute financially.
The pro-choice, pro-euthanasia proclivities of the Democrats for decades can not be ignored in light of these certain realities. I don’t buy their assurances, because I’ve seen their arbitrary and capricious regard for life-it’s being qualified based on who gets inconvenienced.
If a woman’s socio-economic progress and status stands to be impeded by the child in her womb, then she may kill that dependent child. That’s the argument, right? That the child is dependent on the mother? We will soon se the tables turned. When the parents are dependent on the children, and the socio-economic status and progress of the children stands to be impeded by that dependency, the parents will be terminated. And why not? The ethic is consistent.
No thanks. The Dems and pro-choice Republicans have made clear the future for anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear.



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Wendy

posted September 23, 2009 at 9:52 pm


I think Davis is absolutely right. Senator Enzi (one of “my” senators, at least in the sense that he was elected by the people of my state) will vote to support the interests of his “true” constituents – the corporate interests that, since 2003, have provided over 75% of his campaign funding. He’ll vote the way Blue Cross-Blue Shield, United HealthCare, et al. want him to vote. Coincidentally, that seems to be the way some Wyomingites want him to vote, but he’s not concerned about us Wyomingites. (Case in point: I’d repeatedly emailed him with my thoughts about health care reform, but he never bothered responding to me until I called him out in the editorial pages of Wyoming’s largest newspaper for failing to respond to me…)
And I don’t really think he’s all that concerned about voting in a pro-life manner…



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Steven Waldman

posted September 24, 2009 at 3:30 pm


I’ve just added another post with links to the studies showing there are 18,000-45,000 people who die each year because they don’t have health insurance.
http://blog.beliefnet.com/stevenwaldman/2009/09/whos-fault-is-the-45000-who-di.html
That means that since 1994, when the last effort for national health care reform was defeated, more Americans have died from congressional inaction on health care than died as a result of the first Gulf War, the Iraq War, the Afghanistan war, the 9/11 attacks, Hurrican Katrina and all of the nation’s homicides– combined.



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RJohnson

posted September 24, 2009 at 4:54 pm


Gerard: “Cap payments in med mal. cases. Then, with the huge savings to insurers, eliminate pre-existing condition restrictions.”
Yes, but the problem is that enacting such caps has not resulted in that much in savings. Texas and Florida both have enacted caps at the state level. Yet, according to one major insurer, there has been very little savings.
//www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/malpractice_ge.html
“Do caps on medical malpractice damage awards hold down doctors’ liability insurance premiums? The nation’s largest medical malpractice insurer says they don’t.
GE Medical Protective’s finding was made in a regulatory filing with the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI),in a document submitted by GE to explain why the insurer planned to raise physicians’ premiums 19% a mere six months after Texas enacted caps on medical malpractice awards.
In 2003, Texas lawmakers passed a $250,000 cap on non-economic damage compensation to victims of medical malpractice caps after Medical Protective and other insurers lobbied for the change.
According to the Medical Protective filing: “Non-economic damages are a small percentage of total losses paid. Capping non-economic damages will show loss savings of 1.0%.”
The company also notes that a provision in the Texas law allowing for periodic payments of awards would provide a savings of only 1.1%. The insurer did not even provide its doctors that relief and eventually imposed a rate hike on its physician policyholders.
“When the largest malpractice insurer in the nation tells a regulator that caps on damages don’t work, every legislator, regulator and voter in the nation should listen,” said Douglas Heller, executive director of the Foundation for Taxpayers and Consumer Rights (FTCR).”
Other studies have verified these conclusions. The savings from medical malpractice caps will range in the 1-2 percent range.
There is no huge savings to pass on there.



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bill

posted September 24, 2009 at 8:37 pm


Maybe I’ve missed it but what I don’t see mentioned about abortion and the entire health care issue is that any attempt to cover the 40 million currently uninsured should be expected to significantly reduce abortion. Do the math…half of the 40M are women, and half of them will probably have an unplanned pregnancy at some point. That’s 10M pregnancies. Anyone’s who had kids can tell you how many pediatrician visits are involved in being a parent! MUCH more expensive than abortion, at least if you’re uninsured. The difference between being uninsured and having insurance for you and your unborn child should be expected to make a huge difference in a woman’s decision to keep an unplanned pregnancy. I just don’t see how one can be pro-life and still want to maintain this status quo with respect to health care. Arguing over the details of govt funding or not for abortion in a congressional bill is like straining the gnat while you swallow the camel of all these unfortunate uninsured women.



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RJohnson

posted September 24, 2009 at 11:29 pm


bill: “The difference between being uninsured and having insurance for you and your unborn child should be expected to make a huge difference in a woman’s decision to keep an unplanned pregnancy.”
When survey after survey over the years have shown that economic circumstances are consistently in the top 2-3 reasons women give for having abortions, you would definitely think that anything at all that might improve those economic circumstances would be embraced by the pro-life movement.
And yet, in nearly every instance, any attempt to extend federal programs that promote and provide affordable pre- and post-natal care have been decried by the same lawmakers who call for creating a “culture of life”.
Indeed…too many of them want a culture of life on the cheap.



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bill

posted September 25, 2009 at 12:58 pm


RJohnson: “too many of them want a culture of life on the cheap.” Unfortunately good deeds cost you something. If they dont’t, it’s called serving your best interests, not good deeds. I’m getting a little tired of the hypocrisy of so many of the “pro-life” movement. They’re today’s Pharisees. White-washed walls, broods of vipers, I could go on… Heaven help them.



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RJohnson

posted September 25, 2009 at 1:29 pm


Hi Bill!
What I found in my years working in the pro-life movement locally here in Iowa is that, at the grass-roots level, many individuals would give their right arm to end abortion. They would make significant sacrifices to put an end to abortion, whether it be marching to Washington DC, standing in front of clinics for hours upon end praying, or campaigning tirelessly for a legitimate pro-life candidate. There is a lot of energy in the rank-and-file pro-life community.
However, when a proposal such as healthcare reform, which has the potential of reducing the number of abortions in this nation, is presented many of these same, sincere individuals immediately question the cost of the matter. Unintentionally they put a price tag on human life, though they would cringe at the thought of doing that overtly.
I have asked many pro-life activists locally the following question: if you could be assured that a measure to improve pre- and post-natal healthcare would reduce the number of abortions by 10% in this nation, but in doing so it would raise your taxes 10%, would you support the program. That would be a reduction of nearly 4,000,000 abortions a year based on current estimates.
My heart is saddened when I realize just how few folks respond affirmatively to my question. Certainly there may be reasons I do not know as to why they cannot afford the additional 10%, but for many of these folks the appearances are that they could well afford it. They drive nice cars, live in well-decorated homes, have many luxuries…so to appearances they could afford the additional taxation. But many of them immediately say no…no more taxation, even to save the lives of those unborn children they are concerned about.
What would 4,000,000 fewer aborted children be worth to folks? For me, the additional 10% in taxes would amount to about the cost of one month’s rental on our apartment, if applied to state and federal taxes, or if pro-rated over the year it would be about a pizza a week.
Ah well…we all have our reasons and situations in which we live.



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