Mike Ross, Caught In Shady Deal With Pharmacy Chain, Renegs On Health Care Pact
The Hill had an odd headline pop-up late yesterday: Pelosi Backs Away From Deal With Blue Dogs. The first few paragraphs make her seem like a double-dealing maniac and it isn't until you really get into the story-- paragraph 8-- that you're informed that it was actually the Blue Dogs who killed the deal... or at least the leader of the pact's health care committee, extraordinarily crooked Arkansas reactionary, Mike Ross.
Ross was the lead negotiator for the Blue Dogs on the Energy and Commerce Committee and he worked out a deal with Henry Waxman to weaken the public option. Ross and all but 3 of the Blue Dogs on the committee then voted for the bill (HR 3200). "But Ross," the Hill pointed out, "returned from the August break saying he couldn't support a public option under any circumstances, essentially withdrawing his support for the deal."
If you wonder why Ross decided to vote against the bill, don't look to his district. A poll of AR-04 released yesterday seems to indicate that meaningful health care reform-- including a public option-- is more popular than Congressman Ross, and that was before the sweetheart deal for his pharmacy was exposed. When voters were asked, "Do you favor or oppose creating a government-administered health insurance option that anyone can purchase to compete with private insurance companies?" a plurality said yes, and among Democrats, a whopping 74% said yes. And when asked it they approve or disapprove of Ross' actions on health care a plurality disapproved. And among Democrats, it was 42% approve and 48% disapprove (Republicans liked his anti-health care stance better). And 32% of Democrats said that if Ross opposes a public option it will make them less likely to vote for him. So what made him change his mind?
It sure wasn't the health care statistics for his district, which are just dismal. According to a report from his own House Committee of Energy and Commerce, 22.2% of the people in the district are not covered by health insurance plans; that's 144,000 people. If the bill he now says he will vote again passes, 124,000 of them will gain access to high-quality, affordable health insurance. Here's what the bill Ross opposes will do for AR-04:
• 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 12,500 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, 6,700 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 1,500 health care-related bankruptcies in the district in 2008, caused primarily by 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 $155 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 144,000 uninsured individuals in the district, 22% 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, 124,000 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 1,100 households in the district. The surtax would not affect 99.6% of taxpayers in the district.
So, again, what made him change his mind? No telling if any of the sleazy corporations that have been bribing him have offered him a post-Congress job. It's very common on Capitol Hill and one of the main reasons ordinary Americans get such a raw deal from our own elected representatives. Ross is very aware that the big scandal brewing could end his political life and it wouldn't be strange for him to be further currying favor with the bad guys. Remember, Big Insurance and the Medical-Industrial Complex have given Ross a hefty $915,020 so far to keep him on their side and make sure he votes against his own constituents' interests.
Meanwhile, Pelosi is moving forward without Ross. She's "told her fellow leaders she still wants an income surtax on the wealthy, rather than a tax on 'Cadillac' health plans, as a means to help pay the $1 trillion cost of the bill. The rest is to be made up with savings in Medicare by eliminating wasteful spending." And she wants the key decisions on the bill made this week.
Oh, and if you want to understand exactly why Blue Dog Mike Ross-- and other corrupt Blue Dogs and Republicans like him-- are fighting health care, Rachel Maddow had the explanation last night:
UPDATE: Looks Like Ross Is The Talk Of The Town Back In Arkansas
And not in a good way. CREW has filed an ethics complaint and no is falling for his victimization bullshit. This man belongs in the Big House-- like Duke Cunningham-- not in the People's House.