Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Real Story Behind Paul Ryan's Opposition To The Public Option And Health Care Reform

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Paul Ryan: Empty budget proposal, empty hopes, empty suit

Although John Boehner initially assigned Roy Blunt to serve as the point person and the face of Republican health care "policy"-- i.e., unadulterated anti-Obama hysteria and complete obstructionism-- the fact that Blunt was utterly mired in decades of the most foul corruption and that he's busy trying to lie his way into Missouri's open Senate seat, necessitated that the Republicans switch the assignment. Foolishly, they gave it to the chatty empty suit from Wisconsin, Paul Ryan. Ryan's ambitions know no bounds and when Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) told constituents at a Hiawatha health care town hall last week that the GOP is looking for a great white hope it is widely thought that she had Ryan in mind. And she's not alone.

On Friday Ryan debated Democratic Rep. Gwen Moore of Milwaukee. Ryan has taken more money from Big Insurance ($508,651) and the Medical Industrial Complex ($702,464) than any other member of Wisconsin's congressional delegation-- including, more than both U.S. Senators. His Friday sparring partner has gotten a modest $90,000 from Insurance and $44,022 from health care interests. Ryan is widely considered one of the most unscrupulous corporate shills not just in Wisconsin, but anywhere in the nation. His line of attack on Friday clearly demonstrated that he serves the interests of his corporate donors rather than his constituents. His talking points were all straight out of Big Insurance's anti-health care playbook:
Moore, a Milwaukee Democrat, said a new public option would provide "a standard of care that everyone ought to deserve," and force badly needed price competition with private insurers.

Ryan, a Janesville Republican, said spiraling health care costs ultimately would force the government to "take rights away from people" to get care they seek.

They took questions from a panel of reporters and citizens about the health care reform bill pending in Congress. The event, at the Newsroom Pub downtown, was sponsored by the Milwaukee Press Club.

Both agreed something had to be done to control runaway health care costs, notably in Medicare and Medicaid. And they concurred that millions of currently uninsured people should get coverage. But they agreed on few specifics of how to do that.

"These are unsustainable programs, but I don't think the solution is to turn it over to the private sector," Moore said.

Ryan countered that he didn't want bureaucrats-- from the government or the insurance companies-- running health care. He has proposed what he terms a "patient-centered, consumer-driven" set of reforms. Moore contended that some of the particulars of Ryan's approach would cause a "huge run" of workers away from their current employer-provided health coverage.

Moore said private insurers have co-existed with Medicare, and they will not be crowded out under the new proposed system, as Ryan contends... William Johnson, who identified himself as a long-retired Milwaukee health insurance executive, said the new generation of health executives was so greedy it was shocking. He blamed corporate consolidation that has created giant companies.

Ryan said he also was concerned about "crony capitalism" and added that he worried that the current bill would create a handful of mega-insurers who would operate with little real competition.

Ryan's a slick politician, but people in Wisconsin are beginning to take note. Vic Ponelis has delineated a long list of lies Ryan has been regurgitating for his district's voters, mostly slick lies of omission like:
• Not mentioning that Americans wait longer to see primary-care physicians than patients in Australia, Great Britain, Germany or New Zealand... all countries with strong public-health systems.

• Not mentioning that 25% of Americans reported waiting 6 days or more for their doctor... while only 3% of patients in New Zealand, 10% of patients in Australia, 13% of patients in Germany and 15% of patients in Great Britain waited that long (33% of Canadians waited that long).

• Not mentioning that only 26% of Americans and Canadians reported being able to see their doctors on the same day... compared with 60% of patients in The Netherlands and 48% of patients in Great Britain.

• Not mentioning that The United States ranks last overall in comparative studies, which consider access, equity, cost, quality and efficiency... measured across developed countries.

• Not mentioning that the only category where The United States excels is in wait-times for "elective" surgery.

• Not mentioning that the disparity between primary and elective care is due to a shortage of primary-care doctors in the U.S. due to our over-production of specialists.

• Not mentioning that Germany pays its doctors less... but can do so because medical education in Germany is paid for by the government... and so Germans have plenty of primary-care physicians who don't have to worry about paying off student loans.

• Not mentioning that he accepted almost $500,000 in campaign contributions from the Insurance industry, over $131,000 for the 2010 election cycle alone!

Paul Ryan is a paid hack of the Insurance Industry... he has no interest in a "MediCare for All" public option... because his best chance of being re-elected is achieved by strapping on a pair of kneepads and dropping down before the Insurance Industry.

Are more residents of southeast Wisconsin starting to see Ryan in this light? Last year he handily won re-election, but outspent his little-known opponent, Margaret Krupp $2,251,389 to $134,042, while Bush's 56% win in 2004 turned into an Obama victory (51%). There are only two congressional districts in Wisconsin with catastrophic foreclosure rates, Moore's and Ryan's, each projected at over 14,800 over the next 4 years. Moore voted to force banksters who had taken federal bailout money to renegotiate mortgage rates with some borrowers. Ryan was adamantly opposed (he's also taken more money from the Financial Sector than anyone else in the history of Wisconsin politics, a mind-boggling $1,673,945).

This past week the House Energy and Commerce Committee took a look at the effect the health care reform legislation it has put forward would have on Ryan's district. The bill that he's been hysterically opposing all over the state, the bill he's parroting Insurance Industry lies about, turns out to be a big winner for WI-01, especially for small businesses and senior citizens. There are few examples anywhere in the country where a member of Congress is opposing a bill that would be so overwhelmingly beneficial to his own constituents,
• Help for small businesses. Under the legislation, small businesses with 25 employees or less and average wages of less than $40,000 qualify for tax credits of up to 50% of the costs of providing health insurance. There are up to 14,000 small businesses in the district that could qualify for these credits.

• Help for seniors with drug costs in the Part D donut hole. Each year, 9,400 seniors in the district hit the donut hole and are forced to pay their full drug costs, despite having Part D drug coverage. The legislation would provide them with immediate relief, cutting brand name drug costs in the donut hole by 50%, and ultimately eliminate the donut hole.

• Health care and financial security. There were 1,600 health care-related bankruptcies in the district in 2008, caused primarily by the health care costs not covered by insurance. The bill provides health insurance for almost every American and caps annual out-of-pocket costs at $10,000 per year, ensuring that no citizen will have to face financial ruin because of high health care costs.

• Relieving the burden of uncompensated care for hospitals and health care providers. In 2008, health care providers in the district provided $41 million worth of uncompensated care, care that was provided to individuals who lacked insurance coverage and were unable to pay their bills. Under the legislation, these costs of uncompensated care would be virtually eliminated.

• Coverage of the uninsured. There are 73,000 uninsured individuals in the district, 10% of the district. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that nationwide, 97% of all Americans will have insurance coverage when the bill takes effect. If this benchmark is reached in the district, 51,000 people who currently do not have health insurance will receive coverage.

• No deficit spending. The cost of health care reform under the legislation is fully paid for: half through making the Medicare and Medicaid program more efficient and half through a surtax on the income of the wealthiest individuals. This surtax would affect only 2,470 households in the district. The surtax would not affect 99.3% of taxpayers in the district.

Last month Wisconsin's most prominent journalist, John Nichols, wondered aloud why Democrats aren't taking up the case against Ryan more seriously.
Despite running against a virtually unknown and seriously underfinanced challenger in 2008, and despite the fact that he spent more than $1 million on a disingenuous TV ad campaign that seemed to suggest he was concerned about protecting manufacturing jobs in the U.S., Ryan won just 64 percent of the vote. That's roughly the same percentage of the vote that Kind and Obey earned. Yet, while Republican elected officials are lining up to challenge the two Democrats, Democratic legislators and local elected officials in the 1st District are shying away from the Ryan race.

The point here is not to take away from Paulette Garin, the Wisconsin coordinator for the Leadership Conference for Guaranteed Health Care and a strong advocate for single-payer health care reform, who is mounting a second bid in southeastern Wisconsin. Garin's working hard, and if state and national Democrats were to get behind her run in a big way, she's capable of raising the right questions in a contest with a Republican congressman whose votes on trade and industrial policy issues harmed rather than helped efforts to preserve jobs at the shuttered Janesville General Motors plant and the threatened Kenosha Chrysler plant.

But the state and national support isn't coming Garin's way yet. And neither are "name" Democrats mulling the race. That's disappointing. And it fosters the sense that Democrats are falling into the dangerous mode of playing defense rather than maintaining the offensive strategy that has seen the party move from the margins to a dominant position.

Playing defense doesn't work at points like this. For confirmation of that fact, remember a summer 16 years ago when a popular new Democratic president was promoting health care reform, while a solidly Democratic House and Senate were preparing to take up a host of progressive economic and social policy initiatives. A relatively unknown Republican congressman from Georgia was busy recruiting serious challengers to entrenched Democratic incumbents. Democrats laughed at the GOP upstart and comforted themselves with the notion that they only needed to hold what they had. The idea of mounting a real campaign that went after Republican incumbents-- and that shifted the direction of the debate-- was dismissed as unnecessary.

A year and a half later, health care reform was dead, as were those economic and social policy initiatives. And Newt Gingrich was the speaker of the House.

Have you considered donating to Stop Paul Ryan? Or perhaps you'd prefer a more positive expression-- either by donating to Paulette Garin's congressional campaign (on the same page) or by joining 1,984 other Americans who have thanked Gwen Moore for standing strong for the public option on the Blue America Standing Up For The Public Option page. Rep. Moore has over $4,000 in thank-you's; it would be great to get that up for $5,000.

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