Missoulian serendipity

by Pete Talbot

Every so often, our daily newspaper gives us competing versions of an important story. Today was such a day.

There’s this guest column and this news interview. Both are on the subject of health care. The guest column was penned by Greg Roberts, a former health care executive.  The interview of President Obama’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Jim Messina, was conducted by Charles Johnson.

Guess which person was advocating a single-payer system, or at the very least, a strong public option? Hint: it isn’t the guy who used to be Sen. Baucus’ Chief of Staff before moving up the ladder.

I saw Messina this past Homecoming Weekend in the Missoula Club, schmoozing with our mayor and other Democratic Party notables. I didn’t get the chance, as jhwygirl suggested, to button hole Messina on the public option but I wouldn’t have done nearly as good a job as Roberts did in his column. For starters:

Sen. Max Baucus, representative government is a cornerstone of our democracy. We elect individuals to serve society’s best interests. Yet “government of, by and for the people” seems a concept as foreign to you as you to it.

For 12 months, our Senate Finance Committee has engaged in what has amounted to a charade on this matter. From the start, advocates for true reform were excluded from your hearings, a prologue to what followed.

Compare that with Messina’s take on Baucus health care efforts:

“The fact is Max wrote a very good bill that can bring people together, and you’re seeing that,” Messina said. “And on Tuesday, he’s going to pass it (in committee).”

Asked about the lack of a public option in the Baucus bill, Messina said it has one in the form of co-ops.

“Look, the president supports public option, but has said over and over again there are different ways to do it,” Messina said. “He’d be open to those ways. We’re in consultations with the House and Senate about that.”

Asked about the criticism Baucus is facing over the lack of a public option in his bill, Messina said: “This is probably the most important piece of legislation that he will work on, and people feel strongly about what should or should not be in it. Typical of Max, he’s spent a whole bunch of time doing his homework and is working hard to produce the best bill that he can produce.”

I’ve got to go with Roberts over Messina on this, ” … a very good bill that can bring people together … ” Yeah, right. People are lining up to sing the praises of the Baucus bill. As to the lack of a public option, ” … it has one in the form of co-ops.” A co-op is not a public option and even the CBO is skeptical.

From an Alex Koppleman piece in Salon:

(The co-ops) didn’t impress CBO. “The proposed co-ops had very little effect on the estimates of total enrollment in the exchanges or federal costs because, as they are described in the specifications, they seem unlikely to establish a significant market presence in many areas of the country or to noticeably affect federal subsidy payments,” the analysis said. Translated out of wonk-speak, that’s pretty harsh; it basically says they won’t work.

Then there’s ” … he’s spent a whole bunch of time doing his homework and is working hard to produce the best bill that he can produce.” If that’s the best bill he can produce, maybe somebody else should take a crack at it.

Let’s face it, the private insurers are already squawking about the minor reforms being proposed by Congress and threatening even more rate increases. Max has given the insurance industry just about everything it could have wished for and it’s still whining. This from Digby, via Jay, over at Left in the West:

There has never been a better argument for the public plan than the one the insurance company just handed the Democrats in congress. They have produced a shoddy, self-serving report as a blatant threat to raise premiums higher than they already plan to raise them. If there has ever been a more obvious case of bad faith than this, I haven’t seen it. The only thing that will keep these corporate criminals in line is either price controls or stiff competition and if they can’t keep their companies solvent without giving their executives outrageous pay packages, charging ridiculous prices while denying care to sick people, then maybe their financial model just doesn’t work.

Finally, there’s this from Roberts:

The health insurance industry contributes upwards of 25 percent to the annual cost of U.S. health care and medical value. Viewed in the light of other nations who provide (based on factual data) higher quality, less expensive, universal coverage to their citizens, it is not difficult to understand the economics of the matter. In you (Baucus), Chuck Grassley and others, the U.S. health insurance industry has the best representation money can buy – and our society has a government of, by and for corporate interest.

What I know about Messina is this: he’s extremely loyal. One would assume he’s working in the President’s best interests, not his old boss’. But right now, to be honest, I’d prefer that Greg Roberts, not Jim Messina, has the President’s ear.

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  1. No surprises here. Max is out of reach, recently unopposed for reelection, heavily financed by insurance money, and confident that no matter his sins, he’ll always be put right back in office as the lesser of some evil yet to be offered up.

    Conrad Burns supporters always pretended that he both read and wrote legislation. Most of us knew better. Max is smarter than that, and can probalby digest a bill and even apply a nuanced thought process to it. He also has a good grasp of the arcane system the senate uses to grind sausage.

    All that said, Max did not write this bill. Wellpoint did.

  2. Mary Lou Sullivan

    I think Jim Messina is dreamy. I sat behind him in an introduction to anthropology class at the U and almost failed as I was so distracted. He is just so handsome. I think Montanans should be proud to have this amazing man representing us.

    P.S. He smells good too.

    • petetalbot

      I stand corrected, Mary Lou. You can’t get a better endorsement than that.

      Jim ‘Dreamy’ Messina … and he smells good, too.

  3. problembear

    while baucus and obama’s right hand expert on health care play patty cake with slimy insurance leaches…..some senators are taking the tweezers to them after the insurance industry pulled a fast one yesterday. this amendment shows promise…
    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1009/28276.html

  4. ladybug

    I’m sure Baucus and Messina can’t wait to switch their current health care coverage to the new co-op, or the co-op with a trigger, plan. I wonder, is there a locking trigger guard on that baby?

  5. problembear

    you can bet that the insurance parasites will make sure that the trigger guard is spot-welded shut, ladybug.




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