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Rob Kailey is a working schmuck with no ties or affiliations to any governmental or political organizations, save those of sympathy.

Obama's Bozeman town hall meeting

by: Jay Stevens

Sat Aug 15, 2009 at 07:02:11 AM MST


So. There was a meeting hosted by a president in Montana yesterday. While I'm at the NN09 in Pittsburgh, I followed Facebook accounts of the ugly, ugly protests - and Charles Johnson's coverage in the Gazette left out the uglier aspects of the Tea Baggers, the white supremacists, the Obama = Hitler signs, etc & co, and the pushing and shoving that went on. (Rumor: a Tea Bagger was arrested?) Remember: these protests are not about health care....

I'd point you to the various summaries of Obama's speech in Bozeman, but better to read what he said. For me, the biggest news was that he reaffirmed his commitment to the public option, and his continued advocacy for a surtax on the wealthy (as opposed to taxing health care benefits) as a means for paying for health care reform. You'll notice that both stances differ substantially from where Baucus (apparently) stands.

Which brings me to Matt Gouras' excellent analysis on the visit:

By making a rare presidential visit to Montana, Barack Obama has put even more pressure on the rural state's senior senator, Max Baucus, and his panel to produce bipartisan health care legislation in just a month's time.

Given the context of this visit - the fact that Baucus' committee is essentially single-handedly holding up health care and gutting provisions that the Democratic caucus thinks crucial to reform - you can't help but think Obama's visit is intended to put pressure on Max by appealing directly to his constituents. And then there's this from the Gouras report:

For his part, Baucus doesn't appear worried that a bipartisan group of six senators has already blown through several targets for producing a Finance Committee bill. The veteran senator has told Obama that "it will be ready when it's ready" - even if that means waiting until September.

Heh. Tough words, eh?

Probably as a result of signals from the White House, which Jane Hamsher helps us interpret. The WH, through Emmanuel, is blaming Baucus for the logjam in Congress, and he and Jim Messina are being set up to take the fall if all fails, and for any untoward deals cut in Baucus committee with the health-care industry. (Wasn't it in the Indy's profile that Baucus said his whole life prepared him for this legislation? Little did he know how prescient that comment may be...)

So now Obama's in Montana playing "good cop."

Oh, and in case you want a good laugh, check out Montana GOP chair (and Missoulian!) Will Deschamps lame attempts to put forth positive policy on health care:

Deschamps said the current system does have problems, but he doesn't think the federal government ought to be the one trying to fix it. Asked what role central government should play in health care changes, Deschamps said he "didn't have a hard and fast answer."

He said the government should use other means to change health care.

"Maybe they should spend their time in the (public relations) end of it," he said. "They should promote healthy living."

Some people can afford health insurance, but choose not to buy it, he said, particularly young people who don't think they'll get sick.

"There ought to be some way to encourage them to buy health insurance without government interference," he said.

That would lower premiums for everyone else.

Uh...okay...so basically stick with the status quo. Cool.

Jay Stevens :: Obama's Bozeman town hall meeting
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Yeah, Deschamps said (0.00 / 0)
the government shouldn't be in the health care business...I wonder if he would care to say that to the the thousands of Montanans that have Medicare and Veteran Benefits?  Two programs that are doing very well thank you, and are well liked.

I was watching the MSNBC crew talking about Obama's town hall in Montana and they made a point of pointing out how many times Obama mentioned Baucus...8 times...and they seemed to think that was a lot...so maybe Obama is setting the table to blame someone else if this all goes to hell.

But hey...has anyone heard ANYTHING from the Republicans other than..."the current system works"?


Ugh... (0.00 / 0)
Hamsher seems to be saying that all of the talk about Obama pulling off a last minute progressive plan in conference is a sham. If she's right, then all of his signals to that effect are just meant to placate progressives long enough until the Baucus deal is cemented in the House. Conference will be a foregone rubberstamp to get the token 1 or 2 republicans on board, by what? Ditching the co-op? Uh-huh.

If this is the case, then it means several big things: 1) progressives have effectively been frozen out of the administration and policy; 2) republicans will have won a huge political victory by defeating the public plan; 3) the insurance industry will have won a huge victory, as the BusinessWeek article pointed to last week; 4) millions of Americans will continue to suffer in a health care system that hasn't, and will continue to not, work for them; 5) crony capitalism becomes further cemented as being the new "Uniquely American Way™"; and last, but not least 6) teabagging will have been vindicated as a political strategy by republicans, and most likely will be the continued strategy to discredit and defeat anything and everything Obama and democrat--as reasonable or moderate as those proposals may be..

So, if all of what Hamsher presages comes to pass, then the long term political fallout from Obama will be that he will loose his support from progressives and the left. He banked his admin on getting a public plan, and will have lost. He then will be relegated to trying to sell milktoast to the left in order to hold on to another term. And that is anything but certain. Actually, there could possibly be a third party revolt that could come in and decimate 3-4% of the electorate, and another purge of republican lite democrats will occur--just like the mid 90's. President Pawlenty in '12, anybody?

I would like to be wrong, but I think the die is being cast, and it doesn't look pretty for the dems.

And the Politico article today, "Party leaders prepare liberals to accept a health care reform deal" is all about everybody prepping liberals for a big letdown on health care reform:

...leading Democrats are warning that the party likely will have to accept major compromises to get a bill passed this year - perhaps even dropping a proposal to create a government-run plan that is almost an article of faith among some liberals.

Will have to accept? Of course, this whole thing will have illustrated how not bargaining from the strongest option possible--in this case single payer--shows how compromising too soon is a recipe for political disaster.

Wonder how HCAN will sell reform without a public option to its members?


JC, given this white flag wave from (0.00 / 0)
Obama and the D's (as per your Politico link), doesn't the latest Rasmussen poll start to make sense to you?  

[ Parent ]
not sure... (0.00 / 0)
...the buzz around here is that a bill without the public option won't get support from the Democratic caucus in Congress. The thing is, they can't get to voting and compromising until Baucus' bill clears his committee. Right now, Baucus is holding everything up....

[ Parent ]
Baucus' bill (0.00 / 0)
I heard him quoted that there is NO bill because he hasn't written it yet.

[ Parent ]
Well, if the dem cauces (0.00 / 0)
will uphold that, good for them.

I still think that the "get to... compromising" stuff ignores the fact that so much has already been compromised away. The 4 current bills--sans Finance's and Wyden's--were all major works of compromise. Compromise away the single payer for strong public option. Compromise away the strong public option for a weak public option. Finance compromises again to trade the weak public option for a co-op. Republicans will withhold all votes until the co-op is compromised away for a private solution.

Again I ask--is it worth a few republican votes to lose the public option and the co-op altogether?

Because that's where the story line is going to be in a month.

Which leaves us with the possibility that dem leadership isn't strong enough to hold the dems together to strong arm a bill with a public option through congress. Meaning that the health insurance reform part of health care reform would fail too.

Are dems willing to settle for tepid insurance reform as a consolation prize for failed leadership?


[ Parent ]
I was there and yes, my impression (0.00 / 0)
was that the mention of Baucus, a lot, probably is a good cop bad cop deal or that somebody will have to take the fall for this coming bill that looks worse and worse every day.  

It sounded like the public option was already gone.  The president talked about insurance exchanges.  He said that the insurance companies asked "what's in it for them?"  So it looks like they get lots more customers.  

The whole discussion was very wonkish and kind of green eye shade number crunching and mind numbing management speak  about bending the curve and making the numbers work.

Our whole discourse has been captured by middle managers and "experts" who are going to contain costs.

Not inspirational.  And not very visionary.  Minutia no vision.

But the Governor hit a home run with his speech.  One of his best and I think I good reason why everybody remained respectful. His Tommy Douglas story was priceless.  


public option and health insurance exchange (0.00 / 0)
Actually, FC, if you look at the transcript, Obama did again say the public option would be part of reform.

It's probably a good time to remind folks what the terms "public option" and "health insurance exchange" mean...

Public option = government-run health care insurance

Health insurance exchange = the "market" where consumers can freely shop for health insurance

The exchange is where consumers would be able to buy the public option. The catch is, most bills have pretty strict restrictions on who gets to access the exchange. In the House bill I'm familiar with, it's the uninsured, the unemployed, and those working at companies with less than something like 20 employees. Otherwise, you can't ditch the insurance you have.

That he was touting the exchange and a public option is a good thing...


[ Parent ]
Health insurance exchange is NOT (0.00 / 0)
about the market.  It is the control mechanism to enforce pro forma policy provisions, and T's and C's.  Under the House Bill, no commercial insurer could play unless they sign up with the exchange and abide by its requirements.  

There is already a real market.  A true market with a public option would not require the control mechanism.  The public option would simply offer its product. Calling the exchange the "market" is very misleading.


[ Parent ]
sorry, craig... (0.00 / 0)
...usually you argue facts or realities of debate. This claim is kinda out in left field.

The health insurance market already has "pro forma policy provisions"; call up the Auditor's office and ask them what the laws governing health insurance are. To claim that the current market is "free" is specious. Obama's provisions would add a uniform community standard to insurance that would ensure the insurance companies fulfill their promises by forbidding them to discriminate against the sick, women, the elderly, and to drop people for no reasons.


[ Parent ]
Agreed in part (0.00 / 0)
Each state has an authority controlling an insurer's license and does require operating within certain regulated minimum parameters. The current environment is not consistent across the states and is in noway as restrictive as I hear coming from the exchange mechanism.  Currently, Insurers may offer better but not lesser coverage than the states regulate.  So, why doesn't the public option come and play by each state's rules and offer whatever enhancements the PO has to offer and let people decide?    

[ Parent ]
Yeah, (0.00 / 0)
Well, the payday loan business is a real market with few control mechanisms. What would make an insurance market less regulated and free to prey across state borders any better?

[ Parent ]
Payday loan business (0.00 / 0)
I think is a cancer.

Health insurers today do not operate across borders in the manner you suggest.  Each state regulates their business operations and licenses them separately.  IF they "prey" on people there is a local mechanism to review the situation.  Ultimately each state holds the power to deny any insurer doing business.  Often I wonder why that avenue of 'threatening their license' is not more fully pursued in egregious situations.


[ Parent ]
You don't support the faux (0.00 / 0)
reformer ideas to open state borders to insurers? Because your comments suggest otherwise. I know that states regulate insurers.

So yeah, go after the exchange, too. It's the next thing to compromise away after the co-op.

Then we can attack community rating and guaranteed issue. Then add in some tort reform.

Then we have nice conservative, republican-inspired health insurance reform legislation. Except most of the people then call for opening state borders so people can choose among the 1600 insurance carriers out there.

Hell, I can't even choose which toilet paper to buy without figuring out which sale gives me the best square inch to the dollar ratio. A marketplace like that would be overwhelming, to say the least. Not to mention that it would include many cutthroat, shady deals that would rip people off worse than they are getting ripped off by insurers now.


[ Parent ]
JC, you don't strike me as (0.00 / 0)
a cringing, wilting, feeble liberal.  Rather you seem more the progressive type that would reach for a handful of switchgrass before ever considering using a single square of processed paper.

As to open borders, I don't have enough information to evaluate it.  I am not in favor of efforts that would neuter a state's ability to regulate operations within its own borders.  


[ Parent ]
I sold recycled paper (0.00 / 0)
including toilet paper 20 years ago Craig. And I have been known to use natural substances... ;-)

Glad you're not in favor of opening state borders to unregulated insurance carriers.

I think the unanswered question remains, though, as to how an Exchange would open state borders. As a public option would be a national plan offered on the exchange, I assume that most states would have to change their laws in order to include a public option offering.


[ Parent ]
or the Exchange (0.00 / 0)
would come under the doctrine of federal pre-emption. I'm not in favor of states losing control.  

Who bought your recycled toilet paper?   ;?p


[ Parent ]
the only thing free about the status quo (0.00 / 0)
is that insurance companies are free to steal our money and deny claims.  

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