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Friday, December 11, 2009

Health Care Reform Chronicles Thread #1 For 12/11/09: Oh Harry And His "Spine" Showing Corruption

It is pretty amazing how the "spineless" label gets placed on Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, when the thing most concerning about him is his sneaky corporate ways. The latest evidence that you are about to read further exhibits the treachery he can bring on the nation.

First, take a look at this:
A loophole in the Senate health care bill would let insurers place annual dollar limits on medical care for people struggling with costly illnesses such as cancer, prompting a rebuke from patient advocates.

The legislation that originally passed the Senate health committee last summer would have banned such limits, but a tweak to that provision weakened it in the bill now moving toward a Senate vote.
But this was suppose to never happen, and Obama certainly didn't want that at all:
When President Obama gave his speech on health care on September 10, he promised that there would be no limit on lifetime benefits under the health care bill:

They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime. We will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they get sick.
How in the world did this limit somehow end up being in the bill (though who knows what the version will be since we don't even know what the final Senate bill will look like at all right now) ? Well, Jane is pointing the finger at Harry Reid, and with justified reason:
People are asking who put this in the bill. The only person who could put this in the bill is Harry Reid. As Majority Leader, Reid alone is responsible for combining the bills that came from the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate HELP Committee into the bill that went to the floor of the Senate. But neither of those bills had a lifetime limit on benefits. That was manufactured solely by Reid–in violation of the promise made repeatedly by President Obama.
But Reid's trickery gets better.

It has been well documented the deal the White House struck with big Pharma in order to preserve Pharma power in the drug market by keeping foreign pharmaceuticals out of the country in early August.

Somehow, that deal hasn't deterred Byron Dorgan from his amendment to...........allow drugs to cross the boarder:
Under bipartisan legislation that U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) is pushing to include in the health reform bill, North Dakotans would save an estimated $200 million on prescription drug costs, and the federal budget deficit would be cut by nearly $20 billion over the next ten years. The Senate is expected to vote this week on Dorgan’s amendment.

Dorgan’s legislation, called the Pharmaceutical Market Access and Drug Safety Act, would allow American consumers to safely import lower-priced, Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs from other countries. Dorgan said the legislation will bring consumers in North Dakota and across the country immediate relief from the world’s highest prescription medication costs, and will ultimately force the pharmaceutical industry to lower drug prices in the United States.
And the CBO showed how very cost-effective it would be:
Dorgan’s bipartisan amendment has been scored by the CBO as saving the federal government $19.4 billion, and American consumers roughly $100 billion over the next decade. (Personally I think the CBO has dramatically underestimated the potential savings from this amendment. I would not be surprised if eventually it saved the American people four to six times as much, but that is a story for another day.)
But despite all those encouraging numbers, and the "government helping the little guy" image that projects from this move by the North Dakota Senator not named Kent Conrad, the brutal and corrupt politics of our time is keeping it from being voted on the floor.

And that true culprit in that happening is the Senate Majority Leader. It is truly comedy and ridiculousness with how he is putting all the stops for this bill to not be on the floor:
The Senate has been debating the amendment, sponsored by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), since Tuesday but has not held a vote, which is contributing to a stall in the floor action on healthcare reform.

Dorgan’s measure, which would permit bulk exports of medicines from countries such as Canada, enjoys broad and bipartisan support and likely has the backing of more than 60 senators, which would guarantee its adoption on the healthcare reform bill.

Tension between the White House and Democratic supporters of the so-called drug reimportation amendment is primarily behind the delay, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Thursday.
The Obama Administration is clearly valuing its deal with Pharma more than providing more affordable drugs from other nations for the American people here. They are nervous of breaking their August promise for PHARMA support on health care reform, which as it stands hasn't exactly helped out matters now, has it?

The White House has leaned on Reid and the specific Pharma supported Democrats to stop this amendment, which as you see in the Hill report, has the 60 vote threshold to be in the final bill. It has clear bipartisan support, with it being co-sponsored by Presidents Snowe and McCain of all people.

Joining Reid in their sneaky assailment of taking down Dorgan's Amendment are Tom Carper and New Jersey Senators Bob Menedez and Frank Lautenberg, who I have barely heard or seen a thing he has done all year that has gotten public attention.

But by having a lengthly amendment out of nowhere, Lautenberg thrush himself into the hot seat of this issue. And what he did is potentially as much of a paradigm of how low our politics has taken the nation right in its capital:
What’s this Lautenberg amendment? It was introduced last night, it’s 100 pages long, and was probably written by PhRMa. With one hour’s notice, Harry Reid tried to drop it onto the floor for a vote. There is no language for it at Thomas. The LA Times reports that Lautenberg’s measure is a poison pill.
Their only public excuse for stopping the Dorgan amendment is this : It's a safety issue crossing the border. Which leads to this appropriate response from DDAY:
This is just horseshit, pardon my French. The safety issue is a red herring; in fact, the recent settlement of Vioxx and other drugs show that we have a safety issue NOW with the current system. Under reimportation, the exact same drugs bottled at the exact same factories will be allowed for sale in this country, with actually higher safety standards.
I have no idea when both of these amendments will come up for a vote, and that's if both of them even make it that far (and you know which one the White House, Reid and PHARMA Senators want).

There is still no language online on the Lautenberg amendment yet from what I have seen, furthering how that 100 page thing is filled with landminds that will warm the heart of PHARMA at the threat it is being placed under by Dorgan and broad bipartisan support for his bill.

It is indeed something to behold when backroom deals somehow come to the front door when they are exposed. But even when they come to light, the powers that be will try to stop at nothing to make sure they aren't held accountable for their actions. While most in our media focus on the public option possibly being gone for Medicaid buy-ins or expansions, this issue has, and will continue to do so if trends continue, go well under the radar until their vapidness deem it worthy to cover.

Let's hope Dorgan doesn't capitulate on this, even with the barrage of anger he is probably facing right now hoping he does.

Because apparently for the White House, Reid, Carper, Menedez, and Lautenberg, keeping the promise with PHARMA is more important than keeping a promise with the people.

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The architect of the public option is okay with what he is seeing from the Senate:

And don't make me laugh with how this ad lies.

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