Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Does Jeff Merkley Have The Magic Key To Break The Partisan Deadlock Over Healthcare Reform?


Blue America first met Jeff Merkley almost a decade ago when he was Speaker of Oregon's state House. There seemed so much promise in his candidacy for the U.S. Senate and we endorsed him-- and have never regretted it for a moment. At the time, we introduced him as someone who had been an outstanding and accomplished statewide leader who not only had good ideas, but translated this ideas into legislation. Merkley comes from humble rural Oregon origins and was the first in his family to go to college. He led Habitat for Humanity in Oregin and worked to help families work their way into the middle class by purchasing a home, starting a business, or saving for college. One of the reasons Blue America was so enthusiastic about him-- despite his being the choice of Chuck Schumer and the DSCC-- was that he loudly and unambiguously vowed to take on the special interests, like the big insurance companies and big drug companies who underwrite Schumer's power. And that's the kind of Senator he's been since winning that first election in 2008. He was reelected in 2014 and his seat isn't up again until 2020 but he's working as hard as most senators do when they're up for reelection-- but working on the people's business, not his career.

Over the weekend, Daniel Marans, writing for Huff Po about Bernie's push for Medicare for All. Progressives-- like Merkley and Bernie-- have always talked about the need to correct some of the Affordable Care Act flaws. In the final stages of passage, there was a big debate among progressive activists whether to back passage or not, the compromises with corporate greed and that flaws that brought being so transparent. The thought was always that the ACA would be a step towards single payer-- in effect, Medicare for All.

On Friday Bernie was on Chris Hayes show and explained to the viewers that "We have got to have the guts to take on the insurance companies and the drug companies and move forward toward a ‘Medicare for all,’ single-payer program."
“The problem is the insurance companies, Big Pharma-- they’re gonna come back and use the chaos to their advantage,” predicted Social Security Works executive director Alex Lawson. “If Democrats go with a half-a-loaf policy, Republicans are going to blame them for the failures of Big Pharma. They have to immediately pivot to expanding Medicare.”

Notwithstanding the support of the influential groups for the proposal and-- according to a May 2016 Gallup poll-- even a majority of the American people, Medicare-for-all legislation is a non-starter in the current Congress. Single-payer health insurance still lacks support from many, if not most, Democrats, let alone from the Republican lawmakers who control both chambers.

But the proactive strategy speaks to increasing confidence among progressives that if they stick to their ideals and build a grassroots movement around them, they will ultimately move the political spectrum in their direction.

...In the meantime, a potential benefit of this ambitious approach is what’s known as shifting the “Overton Window,” a political science term for the narrow range of acceptable political views at a given moment in time.

By adopting a position that is considered extreme by contemporary standards, politicians and activists can make more attainable policy goals start to seem reasonable by comparison.

That phenomenon already seems to be working in progressives’ favor.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), the only one of Sanders’ Senate colleagues to endorse his presidential bid, discussed the possibility of lowering the Medicare eligibility age or empowering Medicare to negotiate drug prices in his statement on the Republican bill’s collapse.

“There are plenty of ideas already on the table that would make health care more affordable for working families, from a public option, to prescription drug negotiations, to offering older Americans the chance to buy into Medicare,” Merkley said on Friday. “I’m happy to work with anyone, from either side of the aisle, to explore these or any other ideas that would improve health care for working Americans.”

Lowering the Medicare eligibility age from its current level of 65 is a “very interesting” idea, because of the positive financial effect it would have on the Obamacare insurance exchanges, said Austin Frakt, a health economist for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

By allowing the oldest exchange participants to enroll in Medicare, lowering the Medicare age would relieve the health insurance marketplaces of some of their costliest customers, said Frakt, who also has academic posts at Boston University and Harvard.

“It would reduce the premiums in those markets,” he predicted. (Frakt noted, however, that absent measures to offset the cost of the additional beneficiaries, the change would increase Medicare’s financial burden.)

Social Security Works’ Lawson praised the idea as an incremental step toward Medicare for all.

“Start by lowering the age to 62 and get it down to zero,” he said.
With Bernie about to offer a full-on Medicare for All bill, which he announced he would do Sunday on State of the Union, Merkley's idea might get traction among mainstream Republicans who aren't ready to go all the way but who are serious about correcting some of the Obamacare defects. Although Bernie invited Señor Trumpanzee to hop on board, it's not likely the Regime would get anywhere near a full-on Medicare for All plan. Can you imagine the reaction from HHS Secretary Price? Sure, Bernie said "President Trump, come on board. Let's work together. Let's end the absurdity of Americans paying by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs." But, this isn't something Trump would/could embrace. But Merkley's plan... I'm betting that is. I mean who wouldn't want to see premiums come down across all age levels? What Merkley's bill is, in effect, just an extension of a system that already works and is universally popular across the country and with all Democrats, all independents and even most Republicans. If people started joining Medicare at 50 instead of 65, it wouldn't just be the biggest imaginable boon for them, it would, by taking a less healthy cohort out of the general population insurance pools, lower premiums for everyone under the age of 50 as well. It sounds like something Trump could understand and get behind.

UPDATE: Bannon's Evil As Well

Please watch Ted Lieu on MSNBC with Lawrence O'Donnell (last night). And remember-- the most effective voices in Congress for the resistance can all use some help with their reelection efforts.

Labels: , , , , ,


At 7:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Merkley? Not a chance.

The "Overton Window" thing is salient.

The far right has always played this game well. They want extreme right shit, starting with Reagan's tax cuts. So they get the fat cats to fund "think tanks" and fake studies to rationalize such things (remember all those tobacco "studies" that insisted that smoking was actually healthy? Same today with oil/coal studies refuting climate change), and then someone floats the idea ($hillbillary did the deed for Heritage on $hillbillarycare ==> obamneycare) which is initially sneered at... but once it's out there and socialized for a time, it ends up being implemented at some point... not atypically by democraps.

The democraps have been pussies since HST. Scared to death of annoying a single right-wing voter (who wouldn't ever vote for a D anyway), they almost NEVER float a left-of-Overton idea, with the very notable exception of LBJ's "Great Society" stuff, first proposed by JFK. Were JFK not murdered, even that would likely not have been done for another generation, if at all.

Thus, as the Overton spectrum evolves, it always evolves rightward.

The rest of the world has proved to americans (who almost never notice anything the rest of the world does far better than we do) that SP is a better, cheaper way to go. They also show us that a PO is far better than the corporate monopoly over health. But the political "left", such as it is, assiduously refused to consider those during the obamneycare performances due to corporate bribery. Nearly all the localized "market failures" that plague obamneycare would have been nothingburgers if there were a PO. Price gouging would also have been suppressed by a PO. Adding a PO now would be the sensible "fix". But the church of capitalist corporate religion, amen, to which Rs and democraps devoutly worship, is anathema to this sensible remedy.

Their Overton-shifting idea is to deny insurance to 10s of millions of poor, elderly, sick and children (millions of whom will likely die as a consequence) any health care at all and give a third of a trillion in tax cuts to billionaires.

So, which do you think will be implemented by the next democrap admin? The sensible PO? The best approach of SP? or the death of millions of inconveniently expensive citizens (and non-citizens, natch) while billionaires get fatter?

Need I even ask?


Post a Comment

<< Home