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B-B-B- But we MUST pay the Bank (Health Care is Still Off the Table)

Taking health care off the table wouldn’t bother me so much if actually made some sort of financial (or logical) sense. Or for that matter if it was actually possible. But, I’m sitting here waiting to go for a doctor’s appointment and a blood test and no one took my diabetes or the co-payment off the table.

You see, we are already paying for health care. A National Single Payer Health Care Plan would only shift some of the money that’s going to pay for administrative costs to private insurance companies murder-by-spreadsheet — using it to cover the medical expenses of the un (and under) insured. From the Physicians for a National Health Plan, Single Payer FAQ:

Won’t this raise my taxes?

A universal public system would be financed in the following way: The public funds already funneled to Medicare and Medicaid would be retained. The difference, or the gap between current public funding and what we would need for a universal health care system, would be financed by a payroll tax on employers (about 7%) and an income tax on individuals (about 2%). The payroll tax would replace all other employer expenses for employees’ health care, which would be eliminated. The income tax would take the place of all current insurance premiums, co-pays, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket payments. For the vast majority of people, a 2% income tax is less than what they now pay for insurance premiums and out-of-pocket payments such as co-pays and deductibles, particularly if a family member has a serious illness. It is also a fair and sustainable contribution.

Currently, 47 million people have no insurance and hundreds of thousands of people with insurance are bankrupted when they have an accident or illness. Employers who currently offer no health insurance would pay more, but those who currently offer coverage would, on average, pay less. For most large employers, a payroll tax in the 7% range would mean they would pay slightly less than they currently do (about 8.5%). No employer, moreover, would gain a competitive advantage because he had scrimped on employee health benefits. And health insurance would disappear from the bargaining table between employers and employees.

We KNOW that logic is on the side of a National Single Payer Health Care Plan.  Sadly we also know that getting things done is all about the marketing.  As long as our decision makers market Single Payer as expensive and extreme, we’re not going to get it.

And what do our decision makers want?  Well, what are they talking about today?

New Bank Bailout Could Cost $2 Trillion

The administration, which could announce its plans within days, hasn’t yet made a determination on the final shape of its new proposal, and the exact details could change. Among the issues officials are wrestling with: How to fix damaged financial institutions without ending up owning them.

The aim is to encourage banks to begin lending again and investors to put private capital back into financial institutions. The administration is expected to take a series of steps, including relieving banks of bad loans and distressed securities. The so-called “bad bank” that would buy these assets could be seeded with $100 billion to $200 billion from the TARP funds, with the rest of the money — as much as $1 trillion to $2 trillion — raised by selling government-backed debt or borrowing from the Federal Reserve.

. . .

A Treasury spokeswoman said that “while lots of options are on the table, there are no final decisions” on what she described as a “comprehensive plan.” She added: “The president has made it clear that he’ll do whatever it takes to stabilize our financial system so that we can get credit flowing again to families and businesses.”

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Wednesday that he wants to avoid nationalizing banks if possible. “We’d like to do our best to preserve that system,” Mr. Geithner said. But given the weakened state of the banking industry, with bank share prices low and their capital needs high, economists say the government probably can’t avoid owning at least some banks for a temporary period. (All emphasis mine)

It’s obvious that if it was important to The Obama Administration then we could find the money and the will to Cover EVERYONE.  When they say that we don’t have the money for comprehensive health care reform in the current economic climate all they mean is that they don’t intend to make it happen.

I spit on them all. As Krugman says:


As the Obama administration apparently prepares to launch Hankie Pankie II — buying troubled assets from banks at prices higher than they will fetch on the open market — it occurred to me that an updated version of an old Communist-era joke may be appropriate: under Bush, financial policy consisted of Wall Street types cutting sweet deals, at taxpayer expense, for Wall Street types. Under Obama, it’s precisely the reverse.

(I’m NOT deleting my Krugman quote — I wrote this first thing this morning, waaayyy before I saw MadamaB’s wonderful post. I guess it’s just another example of great minds thinking alike….)

66 Responses

  1. KB – I’m so glad you’re writing more. I love your posts!

    And Krugman always bears repeating.

  2. Good stuff, KB.

    I suppose that all we can do is keep pointing it out the way you have.

  3. Will the new bank bailout allow for private 50 million dollar jets? Those wall street types shouldn’t have to fly with all the other regular people.

  4. Great post Katiebird, thank you.

    I didn’t get the Krugman quote the first time so I re-read it a couple of dozen times. Still didn’t get it, but the Krug posted an update to it. Here it is:

    Update: Maybe I was too cryptic. The original joke was, “Capitalism is the exploitation of man by man. Socialism is the reverse.”

  5. Okay I’m dumb when it comes to this economic stuff and all but how does this help?

    Enhancing the first-time home buyers’ credit, which was enacted last year. Under current law, the credit, which is capped at $7,500 and applies to purchases of primary homes after April 8, 2008, and before July 1, 2009, must be repaid over 15 years, starting two years after the credit is claimed. In the House and Senate proposals, folks who buy homes in 2009 don’t have to pay back the credit as long as they don’t sell the house within three years.

    Isn’t this part of what got us in trouble in the first place? Why aren’t they offering something to the home owners who are basically just hanging on trying to fight foreclosure?

  6. Fredster – Because they don’t give a sh*t about the common people. They are not even pretending any more.

    All they care about are the elites that own them.

    (P.S. Poor Krug – always the smartest guy in the room.)

  7. Here in California, a SoCal state senator named Sheila Kuehl (who happens to be a gay ex-mouseketeer), drafted multiple single payor bills over the years. I believe it was her second version that was particularly impressive. It showed a significant savings to all parties with no deficiency in reimbursements, by pooling the medicare and medicaid funds, adding a small payroll surcharge (similar to medicare tax), that was I believe split between the employer and employee, and covering everyone at the same level, regardless of age or employment status. It even had the foresight and generosity to include a retraining budget for claims adjustors and insurance agents. At various times, it passed the house and assembly, but was pulled in anticipation of the Governator’s veto. I think he finally did veto a recent incarnation, but I have been getting so discouraged, i quit following it.

  8. I was working with physicians seeking ways to improved access to health care and affordable (whatever that is) health insurance as long ago as the 70s and again in the 80s and 90s. On the average in the early nineties, 40 million people even then were without health care coverage. A variety of solutions were proposed and a few efforts were incorporated in bills but for the most part there was not a true will out there to accomplish the goals. Some physician groups did support universal health care (such as the pediatricians) but others did not. That has been changing but even the backing of physicians cannot cause politicians to act, although some of them have very strong PACs. The private insurers hold the card in many ways — and that gets back to the moneyed people who control Congress and Obama. It’s a vicious cycle and, in my opinion, since we could not get Hillary into office and voters did not see the differences between her health care plan and his, I see no possibility that Obama will feel compelled to do anything meaningful.

  9. So far the big ideas Obama has offered since being inaugurated on health care are:

    1) Computerize medical records
    2) Make sure wimminz don’t get the health care they need

    Did I miss anything?

  10. Sort of OT..but here is one place where the money that they don’t have for health care is going:

    “President Obama plans to name Joshua DuBois, a 26-year-old Pentecostal pastor and political strategist who handled religious outreach for the Obama campaign, to direct a revamped office of faith-based initiatives, according to religious leaders who have been informed about the choice.

    The office, created by President George W. Bush by executive order at the start of his first term, is likely to have an even broader mandate in the Obama White House, said the religious leaders, who requested anonymity because the appointment has yet to be announced.

    Well isn’t that just special, a Pentecostal minister is in charge of expanding the “Faith Based” programs. You can bet you a** that reproductive health care for women won’t be part of those expanded programs.

  11. I’ve got no problem with paying some sort of payroll tax; however, I really think that having our health care tied in through our employment is not the way to go. I’d rather see a national sales tax on everything except groceries, 1 to 2% should be sufficient especially if they collected it for 6 months or a year before setting everything up.

    They could really do this thing right, if they wanted. We could expand the VA hospital system so that every person has access. We could build new hospitals and put doctors on a government salary. The possibilities are endless here. All it takes is a committment from our leadership to do what is right and the fortitude for them to resist doing all the things that make our government such a bloated, ineffective mass. This thing could be really easy to set up and administer, if they were willing.

  12. lililam: Yeah. I’m in California, and they’re something like two (3?) goddamn Rethugs short of the super-majority needed to override the Gropinator’s asinine vetoes. I get so depressed just thinking about it, I’m like you: I have to ignore it.

  13. gregoryp – good ideas, all in use here in Australia already.

    But there isn’t any political will to do it – it’s the viscous cycle that Alwaysthinking is writing about. Hillary saw right through that and had a sneaky way of getting around the insurers into a National Health Care system…….but the people spoke and Obama “won”. And here we sit, essentially powerless against it.

  14. Fredster
    What kills me about the “first time homebuyers” credit is the qualification period.
    How many bought homes since April 08?
    I have clients who are really struggling due to high mortgage payments, higher food and heating costs, and layoffs. They bought in 2006 and 2007.
    No soup for them.

  15. gregoryp – everyone knows that single-payer health care is totally do-able.

    But the health insurance lobbyists are the most powerful in DC. Single-payer is like kryptonite to them.


  16. Madamab — those are the things I have noticed — computerized records and nothing for poor women. There is some evidence that computerized records will improve communication between docs on patients’ records — however I have many mixed emotions about those being widely dispersed. (For me, it’s a matter of trust and a matter of how they will, or could be, abused.) I have seen, on the other hand, in a large group practice, that computerized records can be a valuable link if one has several physicians in the group. (Oddly, it does not keep them from getting billing addresses wrong, as we have painfully found. We got one bill more than 18 months after the fact because they had omitted one number in the address — too late for any insurance reimbursement!)

    I’m going to peek right now to see what a couple of medical organizations are saying.

  17. Always -How many lies were said about health care this election. Not to name names, but even masslib was out there at Alegres swearing that Obama would bring in Hillary to head Health Care. TL was saying that the issues were so close you couldn’t tell the difference.
    It was Democrats lying to other Dems-I found the whole thing so sad. No wonder voters were confused-and even worse if you were for Hillary because of her known record on UHC you were a closet racist and/or a menopausal maniac.

    ITA that Obama will do next to nothing.

  18. How about Hillary’s HOLC. But that would make too much sense since according to Obots Hillary lost.

  19. I know it’s popular to assume that all businesses can afford to chip in something for health care but, unfortunately, that isn’t always true. If we’re going to ask everyone to kick in, but still allow a means test for individuals, I think we should equally have a means test for corporations, assuming that corporations should have to chip in at all. Also, if you own the company, aren’t you being asked to pay twice for health insurance–once as an individual and once as a corporation? Additionally, people who work for state, local or Federal government won’t have an employer to kick in (no, I’m not willing to have my taxes raised to cover somebody elses insurance *plus* my own).

    I am absolutely in favor of UHC, but I just bring these ideas up to point out that there are many variables and consequences to be considered. By the way, two things I would like to see: some level of co-pay for all doctors visits and some level of co-pay for medicines. I think the British system of $10 per prescription makes some sense. Doesn’t matter what you buy, it’s always $10. I don’t think a $10 co-pay for a doctor’s visit is unreasonable either. I also like the Canadian idea of having private insurance companies for things like eyeglasses where, again, the annual charge for eyeglass insurance runs about $10. Just my opinion.

  20. I’m in moderation. Spammy is very hungry today!

    AT – Bush came up with that idea in 2003 and nothing has been done about it, if that gives you any idea as to its viability.

  21. Spammy got me-used the r word 😦

  22. OT but immensely important:
    Obama wants military to pledge allegiance to him not Constitution.

  23. grayslady-Here in Italy they had co pay on prescriptions, then they got rid of it-it wasn’t worth the costs of the bureaucracy. Also because not everyone co paid. It depended on if you were unemployed, on your age-under 12, over 60, if you were disabled etc. Visits to your own doctor are free, but there is co-pay on specialist and hospital visits (around $27).

    There is however a parallel private system here. Doctors are allowed to have their own private practice here while working in the national system. Public hospitals also have private rooms etc.
    Dental work is still a problem, as it is largely private.

    Like SHV said as a HC system the UN ranked it top with France-the US was 38th.

  24. plainjane31, on January 29th, 2009 at 3:59 pm Said:

    OT but immensely important:
    Obama wants military to pledge allegiance to him not Constitution.
    That came from one blog without any references. On of the “tags” for that story was “satire”.

  25. plainjane- I went there and there are tons of comments saying that this is a hoax or satire. I have to get my kids now or I would check further, but it may not be true. Obviously, if it is true then if would be mind-boggling,

  26. This story is off topic, but in the same general subject area, and goes along with the last two posts (womens’ health issues and getting screwed). I am particularly fond of the last two sentences in the article.

    The Same, But Different

    I hope the link works. My links are always a crap shoot.

  27. lililam, wasn’t Sheila Kuehl Zelda on the Many Lives of Dobie Gillis?

  28. micki-that hospital specialises in maternity care? That hospital will be closed.

  29. When is the PUMAsphere going to say something about Lilly Ledbetter?

  30. Laurie, the Italian system sounds pretty good to me. I understand the issue of paperwork possibly eating up the cost of collecting the money. That’s another one of those variables that has to be considered in designing a program.

  31. left: We have stated unequivocally that we are thrilled that (then) Sen. Clinton’s bill was passed. Why do you ask?

  32. Honora, on January 29th, 2009 at 4:11 pm Said:

    plainjane- I went there and there are tons of comments saying that this is a hoax or satire. I have to get my kids now or I would check further, but it may not be true. Obviously, if it is true then if would be mind-boggling,
    The oath is prescribed by law and not by the President:

    “An individual, except the President, elected or appointed to an office of honor or profit in the civil service or uniformed services, shall take the following oath: “I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.” This section does not affect other oaths required by law. ”


  33. OT, but – remember in when President Platitude was just running for office, and told all to save energy by watching the thermostat?

    • Heating
    Locate the heating thermostat on an inside wall and away from windows and doors. Cold drafts will cause the thermostat to keep the system running even when the rest of the house is warm enough. Set the thermostat as low as comfort permits. Each degree over 68° F can add 2-3 percent to the amount of energy needed for heating.


    – so why does this make me laugh??

    “He’s from Hawaii, O.K.?” said Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, David Axelrod, who occupies the small but strategically located office next door to his boss. “He likes it warm. You could grow orchids in there.”


  34. oh, sheesh, it’s a reincarnation of ABG again…

    we talked about it already!!! and pumapac has a big thing on it … I even left a response for you two threads ago …

    now, go drag your knuckles across your keyboard at wonkette or someplace like that!

  35. leftrightleft=abg with a disguise

  36. dakini and chatblu–You two are great. Who but a non-PUMA ever refers to the “pumasphere”? Shoo, troll.

  37. laurie: its a regular hospital but since they closed down basically all the maternity wards in the area, and because the area is low income, many women need neonatal care (they don’t get prenatal care, etc). They are talking about closing down the maternity ward in the hospital and one in ten babies in Philadelphia are born at this hospital.

    To quote the last lines of the article:

    “This is not bullshit anymore. This is people’s lives.”

  38. Ooops! I’m in moderation. Forgot that I’m supposed to say tr0ll. Apologies all.

  39. Grays-Yes, when they started it in the eighties a lot (really a lot) of people were going around saying that it wouldn’t work-that it would bankrupt the system, that standards would fall etc etc.
    Now people would never dream of going back to what was b4.

    Like someone commented I think yesterday, like other European systems it grew up piece meal from what there already was, rather than as a top down organization.

  40. Laurie, I didn’t realize the change was so recent. So many of the other systems seem to have been put in place right after WWII. That’s encouraging.

  41. grays-Italy’s late in everything-but they get there in the end.

  42. yeah, grays, i saw it over there, katie’ll have to pull it out though … but you’re right, the pumasphere was a clue … and it’s out there a lot on the pumasphere because it was hillary’s bill originally … as i remember, that as the Senator from Ill who was basically running for prez the entire time, Obama didn’t vote for it, but some one can correct me on that, it could just be a senior moment for me

  43. i remember pleasant experiences as a kid with italy’s public health program when i was in Rome and got the stomach flu in like 1968. thedr came to our hotel room and everything and it was great!

  44. If there is another hospital in the area with a maternity service they may be consolidating services in an effort to survive. I just have to wonder how another hospital’s board is making the decision, unless they are the nearest facility with OB?GYN services that would absorb the patients.

  45. I find it very interesting that tr0lls are coming to all the PUMA blogs and trying to rebuke us for “not talking about” Lilly Ledbetter.

    They all do it around the same time, too, regardless of whether or not the blog in question has said something about Lilly Ledbetter.

    Do they really think this is a convincing argument, or an argument at all?

    It’s hilarious that ABG is trying this same tactic, considering he came here crowing about Gene Robinson, only to find out that Obama removed Bishop Robinson from the inauguration broadcast while making sure Rick “Jesus Jesus Jesus” Warren was seen by 150 million people.

    Obamatons are the dumbest f*ckheads on the planet. If Obama told them sh*t was chocolate, they’d eat it with a smile.

  46. Micki
    Northeastern is the hospital where my son was born.
    That hospital served a working class neighbor hood for many years.
    Just had a senior moment I know Frankford Hospital might be close but what is the name of the other hospital near Juaniata Park? They are not really that close in an emergency.



  47. astutely put madamab 🙂 and O p*ss is lemonaide koolaid!

  48. I have dogpile.com and there is a link to
    “obama Fair wage act”
    Chicago at work again. Someone else does the work backtrack gets the credit.



  49. catarina @3:48-

    I don’t understand why they aren’t doing something with this.

    They call them toxic assets or whatever and yet the gov’t won’t (it appears so) won’t even set up anything so people can change the mortgages over to FHA or something at a reasonable rate.

    If there was a plan to let the borrowers go to an FHA program wouldn’t the banks be able to get the loans off their books so this doesn’t happen?

    The parent company of Regions Bank, one of the largest banks in St. Louis, posted a fourth-quarter loss of more than $6.2 billion, largely due to $6 billion goodwill write-down and increased loan-loss provisions.

    Birmingham, Ala.-based Regions Financial Corp. said it lost $9.01 a share in the quarter ended Dec. 31, down from net income of about $71 million, or 10 cents a share, in the prior year’s quarter.

    Regions said the huge non-cash goodwill charge was needed because the value of its banking unit fell below its book value.

    The financial firm also more than tripled its loan loss provision in the recent quarter to $1.15 billion. Regions said its most stressed portfolios continue to be residential home builders, second liens in Florida, and condominiums.

  50. Whatever happened to the Paycheck Fairness Act? Is that “off the table” now?

    I know they were put forward at the same time…

  51. Okay gotta go lay back down for a bit.

    I’ve had pedal edema for a few days and even lasix is not reducing the swelling. Time to get the feet up on some pillows.

  52. madamab–I looked at the House draft of the act and it specifically states that Lily Ledbetter can also be referred to as the Paycheck Fairness Act. Was that your question?

  53. Okay, I googled it…guess what. The Democrats in the Senate peeled it away from the Lilly Ledbetter Act because they thought it wouldn’t pass.


  54. I was wondering when and if the hospitals would be affected by the poor economy. It’s going to be the domino theory IMO. Cobra is unaffordable for many. Those people who can’t afford it get to join the ranks of the uninsured. They end up using hospital services that the hospital often don’t get reimbursed for. It’s just a question of time before they and those that have insurance start having problems absorbing all of the people who can not pay.

    The sad thing is that I think that had Obama been the visionary he pretended to be he would have seen revamping the health care industry as opportunity. It could have been an investment in our economy. Instead the only thing that he encourages is computerizing health care records. It’s a darn shame.

  55. Condi was on the View today

  56. Thanks for the link, madamab. I only read the House version. There were some pretty good provisions in there, IMO. Didn’t realize all those were stripped away by the Senate. Jackasses.

  57. chatblu and helenk: The article says since 1997, 12 neighborhood hospitals or maternity wards have closed, leaving Northeastern the last *community* hospital in Philadelphia to provide maternity care. According to the article, Temple University Hospital on Broad was supposed to absorb the patients from Episcopal Hospital and Jeanes Hospital when those maternity wards were closed but everyone went to Northeastern instead.

    Apparently “maternity care doesn’t rate” b/c hospitals lose 2000 dollars per birth.

    The bitch is that Temple receives funding from the Fed gov for serving underserved and poor communities AND is turning a profit, they don’t reinvest that money into the community hospital.

    So now poor people can’t have access to birth control and family planning and then they also don’t have access to a safe environment in which to have a baby after there is no prenatal care and the pregnancy therefore becomes high risk.

    (pounds head on wall)

  58. By the way, back to electronic records — in 2004, Bush stated the goal of assuring that the majority of patients have electronic medical records by 2014. Obama may have put forth the idea again, but it has been around a long time (even before 2004) and has support among medical organizations, with the caveat that patients’ privacy is guarded. The organizations also support federal funding for systems in many cases where physicians cannot afford to install them.

    One aspect of the “recovery and reinvestment act” (the stimulus) addresses Medicaid funding, health insurance assistance, and (later in the year) training for nurses, dentists, and primary care physicians. These could assist with shortages if applied appropriately. But in the case of Medicaid, a lot depends on what the states do with the funds.

    There are a number of health care priorities (as always) coming from physicians’ groups. One organization has access to care and transparent health care plans (so patients actually know what they are paying for and what they are receiving) among their top priorities. As has been the case for some time, there is great concern over inadequate reimbursement for Medicare and Medicaid and there is concern about a growing primary care crisis, with a severe shortage projected. (We have already seen some of this.)

    Here also is something of possible interest from the AMA: http://www.voicefortheuninsured.org/

    Some of these ideas are possibly showing up in some of “Obama’s” plans.

    And in regard to the Medicaid funding for contraceptives that was deleted from the stimulus, the ob-gyns support the Prevention First Act (S. 21/H.R. 463), introduced by Reid in the Senate and Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Dianna DeGette (D-Colo.) in the House. It is intended to reduce unintended pregnancies through “successful” family planning efforts. It includes expanding Medicaid family planning services and stopping contraceptive discrimination in insurance (among other things). It will be interesting to see if this entire Act takes off any time soon.

  59. Katiebird,

    It’s so nice to take a break and find one of your posts to read. This is really well done. As you say, Obama has had no trouble getting what he wants from Congress so far. If he really wanted to push for UHC all he would have to do is set his goods and enforcers loose to threaten and intimidate for good instead of greed. But why would he do that?

  60. Micki

    The even bigger bitch is that when you don’t provide birth control that there is a likelihood that you are going to increase the 2000 per birth loss that a hospital incurs.

    The kicker is the SC ruled that the insurance companies don’t have to carry birth control either. You’d figure they’d want to since the cost to cover care, delivery and then the subsequent child for tests and immunizations etc, etc is much larger than providing the pill. So much for being cost effective.

  61. Kbird:

    This depresses me. I can’t believe there’s no winning with a party that supposed espoused women’s rights.

    Where is it going to stop?

  62. grays-I think I made a mistake-I think it was very late 70s early eighties,when the whole thing got nationalised.
    Anyway just to put things into perspective the hospital in the small town where I live was gifted to the local community by a countess in the 14th century. It has continued till this day-with various extensions/modernisations etc. Now they want to close it because a new mega-hospital has been built 20 miles away. The first department to be closed was maternity. We marched and protested and got nowhere.

    This is a pic of its old pharmacy:

  63. madamab – There were two bills

    Two bills promoting equal pay for women could end up being the final legislative achievement for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton while she awaits confirmation as secretary of state.

    Clinton is re-introducing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act, both of which failed to pass the Senate in the last Congress, according to spokesman Philippe Reines.

    Obama is being given credit for the paycheck fairness act. Notice in this article no mention of Obambi being a co-sponsor but in the one above is all about him


  64. I’m sorry to be absent for the conversation. I had a blood test this morning and I’ve had a headache and been dizzy ever since.

    Next time, I promise to stick around!

  65. ((((kb)))))

    Take care of yourself. Your health has to come first, we all understand that.

  66. ((((((kb)))))))

    so sorry

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