Why Denny doesn’t need a public option

by Pete Talbot

High Country News has a chart in its October 26 issue highlighting the wealthiest Western Congressfolk. There’s only one Montanan on the list of the 50 richest: Rep. Denny Rehberg.

Out of 100 Senators and 435 Representatives, Rehberg ranks 27th. And as the News reports, these are lowball figures because members of Congress report in ranges ($1 million to $5 million, for example).

Now, I don’t particularly have a problem with Denny’s wealth; heck, we should all be so lucky. But Denny has the best health care your and my money can buy. He obviously doesn’t need a public option. So, when he holds an “emergency” town hall meeting to spout right-wing misinformation like a “new board of federal bureaucrats to dictate the health plans that all individuals must buy” … well, how disingenuous.

It isn’t just Denny’s wealth that separates him from your average Montanan, however. It’s his health insurance. You see, Denny gets his insurance from the same pool as all federal employees — about eight million of them — making it one of the most flexible, affordable and transportable plans in the nation. Sort of like what a public option would offer the rest of us not on the public payroll.

I’m sure Denny likes his plan. He just doesn’t want you to have one like it.

And check out more of Denny’s misrepresentations covered by Pogie in two recent posts over at Intelligent Discontent.

(Sorry I couldn’t link to the High Country News chart. Couldn’t find it on their site. Here‘s the Roll Call report where the News got its information.)

  1. Interesting, I suppose – Denny is landed gentry, the very system that our forebears fought against. Without his inherited wealth, he might well the the person who asks us about our preferences for starchy, tuberous vegetables boiled in lipid materials derived from plants.

    But our focus right now needs to be on the very bad deal that the Democrats have cut with the insurance people – we’re getting a royal screwing, and Denny is only a sideshow. Keep your eye on Pelosi, Max and Tester. They are ones who are creeping around in the dead of night, stealing our bacon.

  2. goof houlihan

    “Now, I don’t particularly have a problem with Denny’s wealth; heck, we should all be so lucky. But Denny has the best health care your and my money can buy.”

    Setting aside the obvious contradictions between the two sentences, do you think the “public option” gives us all “the best health care money can buy”?

    I think it requires us all to have terrible health care, a Harrison Bergeron health care, an “Idiocracy” health care, and give up forever the “best health care money can buy”.

    • JC

      The public option requires nothing of you, goof. Trying to pretend it does is
      ingenuous. At best, in 10 years it will provide coverage for 2% of the country–the uninsurables.

      What Obama and many other politicians said at one time or another is that the uninsured (or uninsurable to the private insurance industry) should have access to the same federal pool that all other government workers do.

      Do you have a problem with that?

      Now that’s not what we’re getting with the PO, but that doesn’t negate the argument about the hypocrisy of our public officials lapping up the advantages of single payer health insurance (medicare) and/or a government run system provided for federal workers, all the while decrying the average citizen sharing in the same federally (taxpayer) provided benefits.

      Maybe in a Bergeron world a better angle would to means-test the Simonsons among us and deny them unneeded benefits. But you Simonsons seem to be doing really well with your “eat the poor” market system right now, so I doubt that’ll ever happen.

  3. goof houlihan

    Yes, what are the “uninsurables” doing, as the federal workers are doing, to earn their insurance?

    You seem to think the federal workers are getting something free at the expense of taxpayers; they are not. They’re working, and it’s part of the compensation.

    You have a problem with what the unions have negotiated for government workers? You don’t think they’ve made choices that kept their job with health insurance, in an “ant” like way, instead of fiddlin away their time like the grasshopper?

    • JC

      Many of us “uninsurables” are doing the same thing that all of you insurables are doing. Working hard and paying taxes just like everybody else.

      Except our employers don’t provide insurance, and insurance companies (in my case) won’t write a policy for those with preexistings, or if they’ll write a policy, it is cost prohibitive.

      You notion of access to health care for the meritorious is an anachronism, goof. The system is broken. Good hard working people are denied access to health care and health insurance.

      And for people like you who deny that it is a problem, I lay the blame for the premature death of 45,000 Americans every year due to lack of health insurance at your feet.

  4. Pronghorn

    Just want to add this to the discussion…one of us is a Fed and we have government healthcare, yet I’m guessing that Rehberg’s policy is waaaay better than ours. This is the first year–the FIRST!–that our policy has changed and is paying for routine preventive care like mammograms. (Nevertheless, we were billed for it and spent weeks going back and forth to get the charges dropped.) Because we are healthy and have seldom met our deductible, those costs have always been out-of-pocket for us. Not ALL government employees have Cadillac health coverage, although we DO have coverage (which we purchase) and are thankful for it. Just sayin’. I’ve had to correct people who angrily assume that even low-level Feds get their healthcare insurance for free!

    But I totally agree with you about Rehberg and his disconnect from the lives of ordinary people, not to mention ordinary poor people. And the need for a public option. Thanks for continuing to reveal his true character and his agenda based on lies.

  5. petetalbot

    First, thanks Pronghorn for the clarification — I’m sure your policy isn’t as substantial as Denny’s — taxpayers pay for two-thirds of his premium, for example. Also glad to hear the feds are becoming proactive in health care (mammograms), which bolsters my argument for a public option since private insurers are loath to provide for preventative measures.

    Second, goof, you’ve made my case, again. Health care has nothing to do with Vonnegut’s Bergeron. If you’re rich, or have a good policy because you belong to a huge pool (like federal employees) then you get pretty decent health care. If you’re some poor schmuck working a job with no health insurance, or are self-employed, you’re screwed.

    You treat health care as a privilege, like fine wine or tickets to the ballet; some folks can afford these things and some can’t. Too bad for those who can’t.

    Some additional facts, goof: we pay more for our health care than any other country yet are ranked 37th by the World Health Organization. Great system, huh? Heaven forbid we have some government run programs like France and Italy (ranked 1 and 2).

    Finally, Mark, I am keeping my eye on the Dems. I can’t say enough bad stuff about Max’s handling of health care reform. But at least the Dems, particularly the more progressive ones, are offering up something. The Republicans, as usual, have no problem with the suffering of people outside their sphere.

  6. Mark T

    Pete -good thoughts. It has been pressure on Dems that has forced them into this theater. Republicans are a sideshow. Very easy to get distracted. They have stuffed reform thusfar.

  7. problembear

    in america, if you package it right, you can sell anything.

    begin the souerkraut pie with lowered expectations by throwing single payer out. at the very end of the process, when the majority of americans demand public option for all you insert one tiny slice of apple which will only serve 2% of us and voila you call it apple pie.

    meanwhile, the bloated parasites of the health insurance industry grow fatter, stronger and more voracious than ever.

    none for me thanks.

  8. Lizard

    reforming health care shouldn’t require thousands of pages of legislation to fix. if we compared this process to the process of making sausage, i’d say our elected officials are stuffing a lot of lips and assholes into the casing.

  9. anon

    Reforming health care is really quite simple.

    Everyone’s taxes will rise to the point that everyone is covered for everything. Just send in an additional 25% of what you earn. That should cover it. Everyone will have the “Cadillac” plan.

  10. Mark t

    I’ll be damned if I can figure out how other countries manage to cover all their people for half to 2/3 of what we pay to cover 85% of our people, most inadequately. On top of this, they do it without for-profit insurance companies.

    Are we that stupid? Or, are we just caught up in a defective ideology?

    • anon

      Well, Mark – begin by looking at the cost of the more expensive procedures in various countries. If those countrys even do them. Let’s looks at survival rates for breast cancer between the US and some of those Countrys. Let’s look at the amount of terminal care they give people versus what the US gives. Believe me, they don’t spend $300k to keep a person alive 3 weeks. As I recall, UK has a limit of about $50k for a treatment to keep a person alive for a year.

      If that is the kind of care you want here, “you go girl”.

      Here’s your drugs – just go away and die – please.

      IS that a defective ideology?

      • Lizard

        i know this guy staying at our local shelter who is in his late early fifties, had a good paying job with health coverage, owned his home, etc. he discovered he had an aggressive form of cancer, and it almost killed him. he was life flighted twice, ended up in Seattle, went through intensive chemo, and survived. his bill was over 700,000 dollars, and because his deductible was percentage based, he is now on the hook for just under 100,000. he lost everything.

        this guy was a responsible, productive member of society, and his life was saved by health care, but destroyed by health insurance.

        oh yeah, and he used to be a republican.

        the spineless democrats (obama included) have allowed the health insurance industry and pharmaceutical industry to get mostly what it wanted. big pharma and big insurance have their punitively enforceable individual mandate and fixed, high-cost drugs. all the public is asking for is an option, run by the only institution that can offer legitimate competition (the govt regressives are so scared of) untied to the parasitic profit margin of the insurance industry.

        the system we have is destroying people’s lives under the guise of health care, and republicans bitch and moan about the cost of covering the uncovered, but never ever approach the cataclysmic cost of doing nothing.

        • Lizard

          should just be early fifties. whoops.

          • goof houlihan

            And with socialized medicine, he’d not have been life flighted or treated aggressively; he’d have waited to see a doctor until the cancer killed him.

            There’s rationing going on, no doubt. Right now, health care is rationed by cost. You want to ration it a different way. “We want what you’ve got, and we don’t want to make or have made the decisions to get it”.

            As soon as health care is socialized, you’ll be coming for my retirement plans and savings. Same arguments apply.

          • JC

            Gee, goof. When you turn 65, your health care will be socialized. Gonna have a problem with it then?

            Or are you one of those “keep your government hands off of my Medicare” sort of guys?

            And “come after my retirement plan”? Hmmm… I remember it was Bush who wanted to privatize Social security… right before the Great Recession wiped out over half the stock market. How woulda that worked out?

            You gonna refuse your socialized security income and health care when you turn 65 goof?

            Or do you want to take that away from the next generation of workers, too?

          • Lizard

            As soon as health care is socialized, you’ll be coming for my retirement plans and savings.

            your retirement plan and savings is in more danger from wall street and military deficit spending than it is from universal health care, yet it’s the specter of insuring poor people that seems to get the right all fired up.

            i really wish you guys were fiscally conservative when it came to launching preemptive wars and deregulating the financial sector.

  11. Mark T

    Anon – there is industry-sponsored black literature floating around about how horrible health care is in other countries. I have yet to meet a winger who has actually done any reading. What you just gave me is talk radio rehash.

    If our system was so good, some country somewhere would copy it. Instead, Taiwan, the
    most recent country to go universal, used two models: the Canadian system, and American Medicare.

    As Lizard reminds you, we have excellent personnel, technology and facilities here, but for-profit health insurance limiits access and refuses payment for it.

    You are right that we do not deal well with end-of-life issues here. Any broachingg of the subject brings our Eush, Glenn, Sean and the Christian right out in force. We can’t have a rational discussion.

    • petetalbot

      Lizard, Anon and Mark T bring up an important point: end-of-life. We don’t handle it well here in the U.S. Having been involved in this issue, I can add an observation.

      I’ve seen people brought back from the brink of death — sort of. The only thing keeping them alive are the machines and tubes hooked up to their bodies. They’re usually in the ICU at a cost of around $10,000 a day. One can hardly call this a quality end-of-life, and it can bankrupt families.

      So, I’ve got to ask, Anon, should we be paying “$300k to keep a person alive for three weeks?” Perhaps that money could be better spent.

      • Anon

        Pete – I think at some point we will need to put a $$ amount on a human life. The government does it now in several different agencies.

        We need to weigh the odds of a person surviving vs the cost. When a person has had congestive heart failure for 30 years and is in a coma that the “experts” believe he will recover from, I say $10-20k/day to keep him alive for a month is not a reasonable burden on the cost of health care for the rest of us. And that is a personal experience!

        The bleeding heart “progressives” will never agree to that so it will never happen. We will continue to spend copious amounts of money in hopeless situations to try to extract those last few moments of life for a person with no chance of recovery, thereby raising/keeping the cost of health care for ALL of us to an unaffordable level.

        • Lizard

          The bleeding heart “progressives” will never agree to that so it will never happen. We will continue to spend copious amounts of money in hopeless situations to try to extract those last few moments of life for a person with no chance of recovery, thereby raising/keeping the cost of health care for ALL of us to an unaffordable level.

          uhhh, terri shiavo?

  12. problembear

    right wing conservatives did not render our long awaited health care reform into the useless pile of garbage that now appears poised to make its way through the sausage factory.

    our own democratically elected cowards and charlatans who are too craven to face the economic clout of the health insurance parasites are to blame.

    no sense arguing with the far right extremists. they are completely irrelevant to the meltdown of the democratic system which is ignoring the clear majority of the american public who want public option available to everyone. this meltdown is caused by fealty and obesiance to big corporate contributions on the part of our representatives and senators in congress.

  13. Big Swede

    Thanks for the RC link.

    Interesting to note there’s only 2 R’s that made the top ten, and Denny’s no. 27.

    Since being comfortably rich has its bennies when it comes to health care I’m sure you’ll respect the opinion of this modest rep., from the lower reaches of the wealth list.

  14. It has nothing to do with putting a dollar value on human life. It is merely about making rational decisions for ourselves regarding how we want others to treat us in our final days. All of us need to sit down and make these decisions – in writing – medical directives to take the burden off our loved ones. If I have a piece of paper that says that my mother does not want to be kept alive when she is in coma, then I will respect her wishes.

    When we don’t do this, we put the burden on our lvoed ones, and they generally opt for heroic measures to preserve life. Who can blame them? What wants to kill grandma?

    I give credit to Obama for this – he faced the issue head on. He urged seniors to sit down (with an attorney) and prepare their medical directives. The right wing went squirrly and called it “death panels”, and the issue died. Once again, we did not face it.

  15. problembear

    i am not concerned with what rehberg thinks about anything. he is irrelevant.

    what i want to know is who the hell is rahm emanuel? i know i didn’t vote for him. and why is he allowed to suck all the believe out of the changes the majority of americans voted for.

    • anon

      what i want to know is who the hell is rahm emanuel?

      he is the one that stole the key that generates uppercase letters on your keyboard. go back to sleep. when you wake up maybe things will really have gone to hell.

    • Lizard

      a less snarky answer: rahm is the guy who was brought on to keep those pesky progressives in their place. when it came to grumbling about voting for the war supplemental bill, rahm threatened principled dissenters with the cold shoulder of the DNC (read: no campaign money).

      check out glen greenwald’s interview with amy goodman on last friday’s democracy now. if the party leadership really wanted a “robust” public option, they could use the same persuasion techniques rahm does. they don’t because the corrupting corporate rot is too pervasive, and the deals have already been made.

      i agree with problembear that republicans are irrelevant, and i’m glad to see the effect of that powerful narcotic, hopium, is beginning to wear off.

      people need to quit being surprised and disappointed that democrats continue to turn their back on their base. whether it’s railroading the antiwar crowd, or throwing labor under the bus, the dems are too dazzled by corporate donations to remember who the hell they’re suppose to be representing.

      there are a few exceptions, but too few right now to matter. maybe we should change that.

  16. Big Swede

    This just in.

    (ABC News)- Senior Congressional Democrats told ABC News today it is highly unlikely that a health care reform bill will be completed this year, just a week after President Barack Obama declared he was “absolutely confident” he’ll be able to sign one by then.
    “Getting this done by the by the end of the year is a no-go,” a senior Democratic leadership aide told ABC News. Two other key Congressional Democrats also told ABC News the same thing.

    This may come as an unwelcome surprise for the White House, where officials from the president on down have repeatedly said the health care bill would be signed into law by the end of the year.

    • Some of us who would like to see true reform might take a note of hope from this – perhaps the whole seedy process is collapsing, and there will be no bill at all.

      Die another day.

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