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Wednesday, Jul 29, 2009, 8:40 am

Weekly Pulse: Healthcare Bill Poised to Suck

By Lindsay Beyerstein
The Senate Finance Committee is reportedly very close to finishing its healthcare legislation. But as the bill's details leak, anticipation is quickly turning to dejection in progressive healthcare circles. Early word has it that the almost finished a bill includes no public option, no employer mandate, and no insurance exchange. Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly explains why the Senate Finance Committee bill is going to suck.

At TAPPED, Scott Lemieux argues that if the Senate legislation doesn't have a public option or an employer mandate, we'd be better off not passing a healthcare bill. Conventional wisdom is that even a bad bill would be better than nothing: Once we get the basic infrastructure for universal healthcare in place, it will be easier to build on that rather than starting from scratch. However, as Lemieux points out, a bill with no public option would only further entrench the insurance industry and make it easier for them to block reforms in the future.

Remember that the bill that comes out of the Finance Committee still has to be reconciled with other versions, like the version from the Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee. So, it's possible that progressive Senators will win some concessions. However, as we've discussed before, the Senate is the key to passing healthcare reform, and the Blue Dogs are the key to passing the bill in the Senate. Whatever comes out of the Finance Committee is going to carry a lot of weight with the Blue Dogs.

It's no wonder we're fighting over a bunch of lackluster options. As Isabel MacDonald observes in AlterNet, corporate-run media has virtually banished all talk of single-payer healthcare. If you're a single-payer advocate and you want to get on TV, you have two options: Be Bernie Sanders or get arrested in the Senate.

Democrats should try implementing a radical progressive agenda one of these days—they'll be accused of doing so, anyway. Amanda Marcotte of RH Reality Check notes that even though universal healthcare is more likely to cover iPods than abortions, mainstream media and the anti-reform brigade insist on discussing abortion funding as if it were a live option. Here in the real world, pro-choicers don't even have the votes in Congress to overturn the Hyde Amendment, which bans the usual sources of federal funding for abortion. According to some experts I interviewed a few weeks ago for a forthcoming article, there might be a clever legal way to set up the healthcare program so that its funding wouldn't fall under the Hyde Amendment, but no one expects the Democrats to even try.

Make sure to keep an eye out for Ms. Magazine's summer issue, which contains a moving profile of assassinated abortion provider Dr. George Tiller by Michele Kort. The piece is titled "The Man Who Trusted Women" after Dr. Tiller's credo, a phrase that one admirer paid their last respects with, via a funeral wreath with the words "Trust Women" emblazoned in the center. Kort quotes Tiller explaining what that quotation means in practice:
Chromosomal abnormalities make up about 24 percent of our [late abortion] patients, and sometimes the heart, the lung, the intestines, all of this is outside of the body [of the fetus]. Most places in the United States say that even if you have this kind of a problem you may not have a termination of pregnancy. …What this says is that…women are not smart enough, they are not tough enough and they do not love enough to make these family decisions about their children and their families.


James Ridgeway of Mother Jones reported that Tiller's alleged assassin, Scott Roeder, was savoring his moment in the media spotlight while he sat in prison, awaiting his first court date on Tuesday. Roeder has been bragging lately about his bigshot anti-choice friends and hinting at a broader conspiracy. Maybe he'll take a few more terrorists down with him. That would be a bright spot on a bleak healthcare landscape.

If the Finance Committee produces a bill with no public option, no employer mandate, and no insurance exchange to bring down costs, then insurance industry gets everything and we get nothing but orders to buy their crappy product. Let's hope things shake out for the best.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care. Visit Healthcare.newsladder.net for a complete list of articles on healthcare affordability, healthcare laws, and healthcare controversy. For the best progressive reporting on the Economy, and Immigration, check out Economy.Newsladder.net and
Immigration.Newsladder.net
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Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times' City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (http://www.hillmanfoundation.org/hillmanblog), a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.

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