Recess over! The week in health-care reform

Now that the August of hellish town hall meetings is over, most political junkies I know are glad that our senators and representatives are actually getting the hell out of their districts.

I still don’t know what to say about Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins’ town hall meeting at the Dole Institute in Lawrence on Tuesday, but a KU political science major named Derek has posted lots of great video from that meeting on his YouTube page. Jenkins said a lot of inane things, but this had to be the capper:

As the week winds down, a couple of other noteworthy items:

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, was among the 83 U.S. House members signing yesterday’s letter to President Obama saying they won’t support any health-care-reform legislation that doesn’t include a public option.

Unlike the White House, which appears to be thinking about caving in to the bullies of summer, Cleaver and his colleagues are unimpressed with all of the town hall disrupters.

“Public opinion polls continue to show that a majority of Americans want the choice of a robust public plan and we stand in solidarity with them,” the caucusers wrote.

And as always, the best local thinker on this subject is Dr. Joshua Freeman, chair of the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Kansas School of Medicine. As Dr. Freeman notes on yesterday’s installment of his Medicine and Social Justice blog, even if there’s no official “public option,” everyone who hates the idea of paying for other people’s health care is paying for it anyway:

There are a lot of health care dollars spent directly by the government, federal, state and local…. Medicare, Medicaid, VA, military, Indian Health service. Then there are the public dollars filtered through private insurance companies — the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan and the various state and local governments that pay the premiums for their employees. Then there are the tax subsidies for employer contributions to health insurance — the money that the government would get if your employers paid you higher wages, but doesn’t get because, instead of higher wages, you get health insurance, which is tax-deductible to the employer. Of course, even with the availability of this tax break, you may not get health insurance; it depends on your employer. Not, mainly, whether they are nice or caring, but whether they are big enough to negotiate a good rate with an insurer, and also pay enough in tax to get the break. So your neighbor, the machinist working for Ford, may have a good health plan while you, the just-as-skilled machinist working for a small company may not. But your income taxes are subsidizing his (or her) health insurance. And if you are the insured worker and are healthy, your premiums subsidize the costs of those who are not.

So, yeah, opponents of reform: Go ahead and rail against the constitutionality of the public option. Then go look your employed-but-uninsured next-door neighbor in the eye and tell him why you did.

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