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By Dark of Night Comes Healthenstein PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Monday, 21 December 2009
AFF Sentinel Vol.6#38
Activists Begin New Moves on Shaping Food Industry

With a final flurry of disgusting deals, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stooped to the final depths he needed this weekend to get the last votes. At 1:00 a.m., the bill passed the first of three votes needed to get a final vote on the Senate health care bill on Christmas Eve.

In a taste of things to come, the bill featured two methods of big government coercion: a 10 percent tax on tanning bed visits and a requirement that restaurant menu boards post calorie counts and other nutrition info by each item.

The last relatively doable chance of stopping the Senate's version of Healthenstein had rested with Sen. Ben Nelson, Nebraska.

The states share the cost of Medicaid with the federal government. That is why the states had opposed the new health care legislation, adding tens of millions of new people to Medicaid, drastically increasing states' costs. Incredibly, Reid cut a deal permanently exempting Nebraska from any increases in its cost share. Worth an estimated $100 million over the first ten years, Reid's Nelson deal means the rest of the states, on top of their own cost share increases, would also have to pick up Nebraska's share. Republicans, to demonstrate their dismay, moved to extend Nebraska's sweetheart deal to all states but the Democrats voted no.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vermont, the Socialist Party member who caucuses with the Democrats as an Independent, also got different special concessions on Medicaid, as did Massachusetts and Louisiana's Sen. Mary Landrieu, who had gotten a $300 million package. Nelson also got language that satisfied him on abortion but did not satisfy pro-life groups and likely not Rep. Bart Stupak, the architect of the House bill language. The Senate "manager's amendment" of 400 pages included a provision that could set off abortion fights in all 50 states,permitting states to opt out of providing abortion coverage on their own state- based health exchanges. There was also an accounting mechanism for separating government subsidies for health care from charges for abortion coverage.

Earlier, in a demonstration of Chicago thug- style "politics," Nelson had been threatened with closure of Offutt Air Force base and a doctor-owned hospital construction project if he did not acquiesce.

The Senate will soon vote on bringing the bill to a vote. Should the Senate bill get final passage on Christmas Eve, it could either go to the House for direct consideration after the holidays or to a Conference Committee to fashion a compromise. Either approach could prove difficult, as the two versions of Healthenstein are very different, with different taxing mechanisms, different abortion language and different takes on a public option.

Mostly glossed over from the Democrats' side has been cost. The Democrats harp constantly on the CBO's stance that the bill won't increase the deficit over the first decade. The Democrats do not talk about the provisions that would raise taxes nearly $500 billion over the first decade to cover some cost, while continuing the charade of $500 billion in cost savings carved out of Medicare. Both of these provisions are key to the CBO's calculations, along with using ten years of tax collections to pay for six years of the health plan. The leadership ignores the so-called "Doctor fix," the bill that has been passed every year to stay another cut in government doctor reimbursement rates -- $200 billion annually - that is not part of Healthenstein. The sum total will devastate hospital budgets and further shrink the number of physicians accepting Medicare and Medicaid patients.

The work for unhappy taxpayers now shifts back to both the House and Senate over the Christmas break. The White House would like to get a version of the bill hammered out in January, in time to serve as a triumphant centerpiece of the President's state of the union message. So moderates and fiscal conservatives are the best hope for stopping Healthenstein, although far left Democrats are unhappy with the lack of a Senate single payer public option. Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa spoke to quell their unhappiness, calling this gargantuan and cataclysmic legislation just a "starter house" that they hope to add many more rooms to, not the finished mansion.

If this monstrosity is envisioned by the Democrats as only the beginning on health care, those who have denied this Congress and Administration wants to force a socialist, big government down the throats of Americans, will have to reach levels of play acting never before seen in America to keep up their charade.


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