Presidential Address to Congress on Health Care Reform

September 11, 2009

By Padmini Arhant

The President’s address, September 9, 2009 on the Health Care Reform laid out the components to clarify the doubts and confusions surrounding the bill. Despite the vehement opposition from some quarters in their loyalty to the sponsors, the ‘Special Interests’ representing the Health Insurance and the Health Care industry, the President reached out to them to be his ally rather than the adversary.

The fact of the matter is, with some groups determined to detect flaws regardless of many concessions in the bill, at the expense of the victims in the exclusively privatized sector, they will continue to defend the status quo because of the personal gains. That is the reality of the highly politicized and narcissistic culture in Washington. With these representatives holding the mantle to the power in legislative matter, it would be appropriate for the nation’s Capitol to trade name as ‘the sin city’ with the West Coast casino capitol ‘Las Vegas,’ Nevada, except the latter deserves credit for the openness.

Ironically, the lawmakers particularly in the Senate and the moderate to conservative House democrats creating the gridlock have sworn allegiance to the industry supplementing their income while turning a blind eye to the plight of the people, the entity behind their power.

Interestingly, some politicians among them even reminisced about their humble and modest background prior to the acclaimed stature and somehow that emotions surface only during the ‘book’ promotions on prime time television shows and not utilized to relate to the sufferings of the millions in their turf or across the nation.

Upon challenging them to the task to do the right by their constituents electing them to the office to be their representatives, the message is lost and their support shifted to the corporate financiers as they prove to the electorates that they are indeed the visionaries devising ways to protect their interests and re-election possibilities. Thus, the transformation from ‘public’ servant to ‘private’ servant takes place in the Capitol of the world’s modern democracy.

Although, the President’s message was clear in terms of assuring affordability, eligibility and costs control, arguably the three major proponents that triggered the health care debate at the dawn of the Presidential campaign and continuing up until now,

The skepticism by the opponents’ media and their loyalists overshadow the truth behind the contentious issue, their push to drive the robust ‘public option’ out of the equation. Having been successful in eliminating the ‘single payer’ system that would have been an absolute guarantee to fulfill the urgently required health insurance with a non-terminal and unconditional coverage for the millions insured as well as the disputed uninsured population,

The industry is now resilient through their paid representatives in the Senate and the House to demolish the public option from the bill, a move that is contradictory to the definition of free market. By definition, the free market should allow the consumers to pick and chose at free will among the different providers/purveyors catering products and services at different price and quality to suit market conditions. Since that appears to be a misnomer in the present environment, the industry with the willing legislators on their side adamantly pledged against any viable competition such as the people represented public option.

Again, according to the Congressional Budget Committee, even with the introduction of the public option in the bill, the proposed participants under the coverage expected to be less than 5% leaving the approximately 95.5% market share to the private insurers.

To all those pundits and demagogues viciously attacking the genuine voices for the less fortunate who happen to be the majority in the society,

How much profit is profitable in the vast market share comprising 95.5% to the private health insurers?

The argument often reversed claiming the corporations’ profit being the national revenue viz. the taxes should spin the economy. Perhaps a valid stance, by no means a reality given the negative impact of the rising health care costs in premiums and health care management. The health insurance has surely been profitable causing liability to the corporations, small businesses and private individuals other than nearly bankrupting the economy. Unequivocally, the health care conglomerate’s real beneficiaries are the CEO’s and the shareholders.

Besides, in the absence of vigorous competition through ‘public option,’ expecting the private sector that has the formidable monopoly in the national economic issue to conform to the legislative requirement is a cliché. This is poignant especially when the American taxpayers as consumers are still awaiting the ‘accountability’ factor to kick in with the bailed out financial sector’s promise to stimulate the economy through liquidity in the credit market.

The news media reported that the finance industry’s ‘mischief makers’ admonished by Congress during the bailout and categorically denied of any golden parachutes with the taxpayer dollars. When the session was over after a brief ‘timeout’ for the bad behavior, suddenly the blue sky adorned with none other than the forbidden ‘golden parachutes’ with the finance sectors’ pilots taking off to their favorite paradise.

So much for the free market’s obedience and respect for rules and regulations in a democracy!

In the similar context, it is not possible to ignore the anti-regulation agents’ objection to the government participation in the national issue. However, the overwhelming control and dominance of the private industry in the nation governance is cordially welcome in the Capitol Hill corridors, airwaves and the communications media irrespective of the devastating outcome on the economy. It is accepted as perfectly normal for the private sector to meddle in public matter but the flip side becomes explosive at the core minimum.

The heckling was not limited to the town halls on this issue and prominently displayed by one of the industry representatives during the Presidential address with the accusation of ‘lies’ in the immigration matter.

On the immigration deal, the shocking detail revealed by the Progressive caucus chair Raul Grijalva, Congressman (D) Arizona, during his interview with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez of on September 10,2009.

“And one of the things that is not well with this health reform plan is that legal permanent residents are required to wait five years before they can receive any health benefit, even though they are legal. And we are arguing with the framers of the legislation, as well as the administration, that you’re making people illegal twice. You’ve asked them to go through the process, they legalized their status, they’re permanent legal residents, but yet there’s a penalty attached that you can’t get the benefit for five years. We find that to be double jeopardy.”

The hypocrisy is conspicuous in this instance. The nation that is proudly declared as the country of immigrants slams the immigrant population with the tax burden on par with the citizens. Meanwhile, the overzealous legislators and the administration architects in the selective amnesia moment about their personal ancestry simultaneously deprive the immigrants from benefits that they are lawfully entitled to as the ‘legal and permanent residents’ soon to be the eligible voters upon naturalization. Such political maneuvers frequently bring the best creativity among the sculptors of the monumental piece.

To touch base on the President’s bipartisan approach in the highly contested health care legislation, it could be aptly described as ‘Why look for enemies when you have foes within.’

In the uphill battle to pass the health care reform, the industry has cleverly sabotaged the democratic majority from relying on their own breed.

Should there be any speculation on why the Senate Finance Committee has not yet presented their version? The President confirmed it during his speech as ‘awaiting the proposal from one committee.’

More revelations in this respect from the interview with the Congressman Raul Grijalva by – Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Congress member Grijalva, I also want to ask you about Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus and his close ties to the healthcare industry. Yesterday, the White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Baucus had distributed his healthcare plan to lobbyists on K Street prior to sharing the plan with other members of the committee.

“The watchdog website has revealed Senator Baucus’s chief health adviser, Elizabeth Fowler, is a former executive for the insurance giant WellPoint. Fowler has been called the “chief operating officer” of the healthcare reform process.

REP. RAUL GRIJALVA: I think the product that has come out from his committee and himself, I really believe that it has no legitimacy in this debate. It’s an insider product. It’s there to protect the industry. It is not there to try to look for that middle ground.

I consider Senator Baucus’s proposal to be essentially an insider trader move to protect an industry and really doesn’t have validity at all, both political validity or content validity.

JUAN GONZALEZ: —to basically—it’s on you whether healthcare reform passes or not, any kind of healthcare reform passes.

REP. RAUL GRIJALVA: Yeah, you can kind of—you can kind of see the winds heading in that direction, where members of the Progressive Caucus, even though the Blue Dogs, twenty-three of them—twenty-three of them have already announced that they will not vote for anything, and so they’ve already canceled their votes and said, “We’re opposed to any reform package.”

Even though that happens, and it’s publicly stated, I think the winds are going to shift, and the progressive members of Congress are going to be seen as the obstructionists. They’re going to try to be labeled at that. And I’ve said over and over, both to—we have told the administration and our leadership for almost—consistently for a year what we felt were the guiding principles to a public plan. We’ve been consistent. We haven’t backed off.”

So America, there you have it.

Why look elsewhere to blame the Republican army…

When the democratic legion with the exception of those dedicated to their constituents are living up to the reputation of “Politics finds strange bedfellows.” At least the Capitol Hill sanctity spared with no distinction between the ‘same sex marriage’ and ‘the Solemn union of opposite genders.’ Only in the State and Nation’s Capitol the amazing blend between the private ownerships and the public representatives unparallel match revealed against the people empowered democracy.
Furthermore, the commentary and punditry following the speech obviously varied depending on the ‘Who is for whom’ platform. The opponents presented the entire content as hogwash.

The former President George W. Bush took the nation to war on false pretences with an ultimatum “either you are with us or with the terrorists.’ The present ‘Nay’ Sayers on the life saving legislation then spellbound by the remarkable rhetoric for the illegal war cast their votes that is draining the national treasury until date.

Apparently, Washington’s immunity to lies and distortions in the past eight years is aroused with the current ‘truth’ vaccine prepared to protect the people from the widespread epidemic in the form of corruption and cronyism.

On November 2008, people representing the stars and stripes of this great country enthusiastically voted for the ‘hope and change’ to release themselves from the shackles of Corporate greed and Washington corruption. Now is the time for the elected officials to deliver the promise made on the campaign trail that would testify the strength and character of the real democracy?

Finally, the President’s speech was impressive and right on target. Nevertheless, the health care reform is truly meaningful only with the steadfast commitment towards the majority preferred ‘public option’ that is paramount to resolve the burgeoning crisis.

Thank you.

Padmini Arhant


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