Oh, so NOW you have an idea.

Hold the phone, everybody! Stop the presses! John McCain, inescapable creature of the Sunday morning talk shows, has had an idea!!!

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said Wednesday that he would introduce a bill to repeal Obamacare and replace it with his own set of reforms.

… It is composed of conservative pet policies, such as tax credits for individuals and tort reform to stem medical malpractice lawsuits.

Well, isn’t that special. President Obama and the Democrats fight and fight and fight for reform. They barely manage to get a bill through an unfriendly Congress. They endure five-plus years of constant, relentless attack from the right. They barely survive a Supreme Court challenge, and then prevail in a 2012 election that was, at least in part, a referendum on health care reform. They beat back Republican attempts to tie Obamacare repeal to lifting the debt ceiling. And they take us most of the way down the road to Obamacare implementation.

And now, after all of that, John McCain has the colossal nerve to try to reopen the issue.

A little frickin’ late, isn’t it?

Does he really believe the President and the Democrats are going to dismantle their signature accomplishment just because he’s unrolling… er… a five-year-old leftover casserole from his unappetizing Presidential bid?

The central tenet, tax credits for purchasing health coverage, was also included in McCain’s 2008 presidential platform.

Normally I wouldn’t go to the trouble of posting a GMD diary about this absurd bit of political Kabuki. Except that it’s echoed by one of Vermont’s own, Republican Senate Minority leader Joe Benning. In a recent opinion piece posted by VTDigger and also published by God knows how many of our content-starved newspapers, Benning calls for setting aside partisan labels and taking a fresh look at our health care system.

After “objectively” assessing the pros and cons of the government and free-market approaches, Benning grandly offers:

Perhaps it is time to consider a hybrid system built on the best attributes of both sides.


Er, Joe. A couple of points:

— Obamacare already IS a hybrid system. It actually includes some of the best AND worst attributes of both sides, but that’s because of all the contortions and compromises needed to get reform through Congress. But Obamacare, while providing a structure of government oversight and regulation, leaves a whole lot of room for the free market to work its alleged magic.

— Benning writes as if we are only just now approaching the health care reform issue for the first time. The fact is, for those just tuning in, we’ve been fighting this battle for the last five-plus years. There have been endless debates, proposals and counter-proposals, and Our Side Won.

— Okay, three points. We’ve already spent a whole lot of money, time and toil on trying to implement a new system. Surely Joe Benning, being the good fiscal conservative that he is, wouldn’t want us to just throw all that away, would he?

Benning is a complete dunce if he really thinks he’s offering a serious proposal. What it really is, is yet another last-ditch Republican attempt to undo their string of defeats on health care reform. They’re desperately trying to get to the front of a parade that has already ended.

Furthermore, look at what he offers as a model for “hybrid” reform:

Take, for instance, our interstate highway system. Competition, with government-set parameters and monitoring, has built what is arguably the world’s best road system.

What the frak????? Our interstate highway system is a model of a hybrid approach? What planet does Joe Benning live on? The interstate highway system is far, far more centrallized and government-controlled than Obamacare. It’s actually much closer to Governor Shumlin’s single-payer model. Because in the interstate highway system, the federal government is the single payer.

Generally speaking, Joe Benning is one of the better Republicans in Vermont. But this? A Godawful, irrelevant mess, delivered much too late. Just like John McCain’s “new” plan.  

25 thoughts on “Oh, so NOW you have an idea.

  1. Must have been a slow news day, eh John? You caught me off guard here. Seriously, I’ve been dropping by from time to time patiently waiting for you, Julia Barnes, Simplify and Stardust to take Sue Prent to task for her December 4th “rape the environment” comment, but I guess you guys aren’t equal opportunity lambasters.  But I digress.

    A few responses are in order.  First, I used the example of the interstate highway system because our roads are a fairly good example of how government and private enterprise can work together.  Government-set parameters, contracts set to private bid to keep costs down, and a resulting road system that is the envy of the world.  Nothing else was intended.  

    Secondly, we agree that the Exchange is a hybrid system.  It was for that reason I argued on the Senate floor that the Exchange did not bother me.  Although if I knew then that the IT system would crash and that our own federal government would require individual citizens to purchase the services it provides, I would have argued otherwise.  A free country, in my “complete dunce” opinion, never requires its citizens to purchase a service. (Yes it can tax to provide a public good, but it should never demand individuals purchase a product.)

    Third, I do indeed call for a fresh look at our health care system.  Despite your contention that “our side won,” the discussion is far from over.  The Exchange, with all its successes and failures, is but a mere temporary bridge between what we had and Green Mountain Care.  Yes, I am a fiscal conservative.  We have spent many millions on the vision of universal, single payer health care, but we have yet to insure one individual. Despite all that money, the system we are now talking about won’t be universal and it won’t be single payer.  

    Fourth, nobody has “won” anything; in fact, we all have a lot still to lose. We are still staring at trying to fund this patchwork system with a tax package worth 2.2 billion dollars (my bet is it will be 3 billion by 2017)and after five years talking about it not one word of legislation has been drafted.  In order for those now with insurance not to lose it, and for those who still need it, financing will have to be in place by 2016 at the latest if we are going to meet the 2017 objective.  That’s roughly eight months worth of legislative time left. You’ve seen the legislature in action.  Want to take a bet on whether that 2.2 billion dollar legislation will make it through in time, even with a Democratic super majority? Forgive me for being concerned, but that’s what my constituents elected me for.

    Truth is John, I’m nervous that our state has bitten off more than it can chew.  We’ve all but abandoned William Hsiao’s recommendations and have succumbed to the very political winds he was afraid of.  The pool of contributors is too small, the population in need of services too big (and growing), the number of services being demanded is too broad and the short historical record of Exchange implementation has been less than satisfactory.

    Other than a political election, what exactly is it that you have “won?” The system being created in 2017 isn’t universal and it isn’t single payer. Advocates for a true universal, single payer system would have “won” if Medicare had been expanded to the entire population and we paid for it with something like a combined national sales tax and import tax.    

    I know you’d prefer people like me should just shut up and go home, but I think it is more important than ever that we keep an open dialogue.  Dig a little deeper and you will find many of my Senate Democratic colleagues agree.  Thankfully the politicians in this state aren’t as acrimonious as the bloggers. Nice chatting with you again.    


  2. This is a new concept — once legislation is passed it is not subject to reevaluation based upon new information, changed circumstances, or wisdom gained through experience.  I suspect that this concept of permanent legislation only applies to laws you agree with since GMD rails against local, state and federal legislation and seeks its revision or withdrawal on a frequent basis — as it can and should.

  3. confusing. Does not appear everyone is on the same page re actual discussion.

    While I generally disagree w/senator Benning I accept his points & agree that a compromise is necessary due to widespread dissatisfaction on all sides of political spectrum, only the beneficiaries & true believers support it. It remains to be seen whether the Rs will use this to score political points or are behaving as honest brokers. I await the proposal.

    [Reason I did not complain re “rape” comment is context. Mere mention not the problem — hyperbolic comparison to IWT was the problem.]

    If nation is divided re ACA, it will not stand. Opposition will find a way to repeal or marginalize it. I predict if there is no bipartisan solution, election in VT & US will be handed to the Rs, which I personally do not want to see as it will destroy many gains made as well as turn back the clock on other progess. Primary strategy of the opposition is to stand their ground & if/when it does fail they will present their plan if election hands control back, then there will be no choice for opposition which will then be us.

    My primary disagreements are not widely discussed.

    – Rule of marketplace is caveat emptor – buyer beware. ACA does or will remove buyer from the equation & replace it with a greatly pared-down generic substitute or “service” we must accept as there will be no alternative. Doctors & all health care providers will be employees who must follow employer directives — not necesaarily their own conscience or oath as they do, or are supposed to, there is also no guarantee one will be able to see an MD — I have seen both take place already.

    – Placing a european-style socailistic system is a square peg in round hole, w/o the controls they have negates much of the cost savings & benefits of their system. EU has the say over what meds are legal as well as rejection of GMOs — we do not & with our congress bought, sold & run by PACs this system will not change.

    – Many so-called benefits are merely academic & I do not see how they can become reality w/o certain controls.

    Although many say & rightly so that obscene profits are made re ins companies, those savings plus all revenue will be devoured by the system that enforces the plan & there is no guarantee that savings will be used to benefit any of us, or to the extent that we expect — social security is a case in point & there are more.

    Why wasn’t medicare expanded as well as medicaid if the intentions were pure and meant to benefit — does anyone really believe that the exorbitant cost many if not most enrollees who are not extremely ill are facing will actually go down some day, or will they be devoured by the government & the bureacracies which devour the benefits from all other services which are meant to benefit us but in reality don’t.

    If there are not enough ‘well’ enrollees the system will either fail or it will be more costly than it is now. This is not fear-mongering it is fact-mongering — SCOTUS has ruled that no one can be forced to enroll.

    Both sides can hide head in sand, see only what they want & demand own way while refusing to listen to the other but this will not work b/c there is such widespread dissatisfaction & it is not all Rs.  


  4. First let me say thanks to both of you for taking part of your Christmas day to reply with such well reasoned responses.  Believe it or not, I do try to read all responses, sarcastic or otherwise.  But your thoughts here give one pause to reconsider previously held thoughts in a constant endeavor to find common ground.  I value such debate.

    Oldhippie: one of my knee-jerk reactions to a government-run health care system stems from the attitude presented with the phrase “Health Care is a Human Right.”  Some of us, quite often with an R in front of our names, find that concept difficult to swallow.  We object to a government service being labeled the same way as the obligation to protect Rosa Parks’ ability to sit on any seat on the bus.  Human rights, we believe, are those things you are born with, not a service provided by government.

    This has, unfortunately, helped to divide us in the discussion about health care.  But as you have noted, if we treat health care instead as a “public good,” then we can breach that divide.  I can’t speak for all Republicans, but I do suspect many would be more apt to join the discussion if we were dealing with it on a pragmatic, rather than ideological, level.

    You say we can easily afford 5 billion as a state.  On this I’d have to disagree with you, since every other state service we currently provide (education, public safety, infrastructure, etc.) tallies up to just shy of that.  Using your numbers, that would assume every Vermonter would have to pony up sixteen thousand a year to have all present services plus health care.  I don’t see that as possible.  I suspect the majority of legislators are slowly coming to understand that as well.

    The beauty of a national plan is that the contributory pool is maximized.  The hope would be that the benefit recipient pool could be minimized, but this will require acceptance of the fact that we cannot afford to do all things for all people.  I have been in too many political forums where proponents of single payer/universal care have difficulty accepting this, seeming to believe that current premiums to private companies and a tweak here or there will bring all the money we would need.  That belief is another obstacle in bringing both sides to the table.  

    Stardust: it is obvious you have spent some time thinking about this subject. By acknowledging benefits will have to come with some form of control, you’ve obviously moved beyond idealism and have demonstrated a willingness to listen to the other side.  It was not so long ago that Republicans concerned about “death panels” controlling costs were ridiculed by some proponents.  Admittedly, too many Republicans were using that concept to scare people, but if both sides realize that SOMEBODY has to control the flow of benefits we could start a better discussion.

    Frankly, that fact is my biggest concern.  As government becomes the cost-control entity (as opposed to competing companies in a free market) I remain convinced that legislators will become less tolerant of individual behavior that impacts that cost.  Presently, insurance companies that try to do that are kept in check by government.  For instance, some companies have tried to deny coverage if you ride a motorcycle. (That’s one of my personal pet peeves.)  If government becomes the arbiter, who will keep government in check? I don’t think it is too much to ask to have this discussion so we can establish clear boundaries.

    Believe it or not, many of us Republicans are fully aware of the shortcomings of private enterprise in the health insurance business.  As a former school board member, it was very frustrating watching premiums continue to skyrocket without any way to control them.  We, too, have had loved ones get denied coverage.  We, too, have faced financial ruin when catastrophe happens.  We, too, have lost coverage when we move from one job to another.

    I agree with you completely that we need to maximize the number of well persons enrolled in any system if we have any chance of sustaining the cost of caring for those who are sick.  For this reason my brain keeps saying a national plan is better than a state one.  And by “national plan” I mean something financed by everyone (like a national sales tax)that covers everyone.  This would require elimination of every other form of government coverage and would likely require a slimming down of our military complex.  I may take some heat from Republican colleagues for saying that (which never seems to stop me) but from the many suggestions I’ve heard from my side I have yet to hear a  proposal that would cure all the ills. Unfortunately, I don’t see a state plan curing those ills either.  

    Now if John is right and the argument is over, then I guess we’ve all been wasting our time in this discussion.  On the other hand, if what I think is about to happen does, then I welcome the opportunity to continue in the hope we can reach consensus.  Thanks again for taking the time to reply with such thoughtful responses.      

  5. I always thought that was a misnamed campaign.   HEALTH is a human right…  Sick care, which our system offers, usually has little to do with keeping us healthy… FAHC would not be there or would not be a level 1 if we truly had a HEALTH care system…  but that horse has been well around the track already.

    Again, anyone who has recently traveled in Europe China or some spots in Japan would choke on an assertion that our once lofty but now ignored and falling apart interstate system (dying for lack of the tax money to provide upkeep) represents as the WORLDS BEST road system.   Look at the once trend setting Pennsylvania Turnpike…  pothole dodging on a professional level…

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