How We “Blew It” On Obamacare

Democrats blew it on Obamacare. That’s according to retiring Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, who told The Hill today that he regrets that his party didn’t go far enough back in 2009 and 2010 when it was trying to push the Affordable Care Act through Congress

Pointing out the massive filibuster-proof majorities that Democrats had in the House and the Senate during that time, Harkin said about Obamacare that, “All the prevention stuff is good but it’s just really complicated. It doesn’t have to be that complicated…. [We should have enacted] single-payer right from the get go or at least put a public option would have simplified a lot. We had the votes to do that and we blew it.”

Harkin is right, and not just about how Democrats probably had the votes to pass truly progressive healthcare reform.

That’s because for all the very good things Obamacare does - things like expanding Medicaid access to the working poor and requiring insurance companies to accept people with pre-existing conditions - Obamacare still doesn’t go far enough. The biggest flaw in Obamacare, of course, is that it is centered around for-profit insurance companies.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with a doctor or a drug company making a profit off a job well-done or a life-saving medicine, but there’s absolutely no reason why anyone in the private sector should get rich off paying - or refusing to pay - medical bills, which, ultimately, is all insurance companies really do. They're just fancy banks. The fact that insurance companies do get rich off allowing or denying health care payments, though, is at the core of what’s wrong with our healthcare system. It’s the reason why we spend so much more on healthcare than any other developed country in the world, and it’s the reason why people continue to get screwed over by their insurance companies despite the new protections in Obamacare.

Take Malcolm MacDougall, for example. In a piece published in The Daily Beast just days before he died of cancer, MacDougall wrote about how his health insurance company, Health Republic/MagnaCare, refused time and time again to pay for his treatment, even though he always paid his premiums and made sure that all of his specialists were covered under Health Republic/MagnaCare.

This type of horror story still happens every day America, and it will continue to happen even with Obamacare as long as the profit motive remains at the core of our healthcare system. That’s why Tom Harkin’s comments about Democrats “blowing it” on healthcare reform ring so true.

If Democrats had gone ahead and pushed for real reform - aka a single-payer component, even if it was just a public option - no one would ever have to worry about dealing with a greedy for-profit health insurance company ever again. Instead, we’d be like Canada, which puts people over profits with its world-class single-payer healthcare system.

Oh, and in case you’re one of those people who’s scared of “socialism,” consider this: we’ve had single-payer healthcare here in the U.S. since the 1960s. It’s called Medicare, it’s never missed a check, and is doing just fine, thank you very much.

If Congress just lowered the Medicare eligibility age to 0 so all Americans, not just seniors, were in the program, then voila, we’d have single-payer health insurance for everyone right here in the United States. Every year, Congressman John Conyers introduces legislation to do just that, and has been for years.

Unfortunately, Republicans refuse to let Congress actually do its job, which is why in this era of the Caucus Room conspiracy, our healthcare system getting really and truly fixed is about as likely as Sarah Palin teaching college geography. But there is hope, and, ironically, it’s thanks to Obamacare.

Starting in 2017, Vermont, one of my home states, will begin offering all its residents single-payer coverage through a program called Green Mountain Healthcare. The brainchild of Governor Peter Shumlin, this program owes its existence to a special part of Obamacare that allows states to experiment with any type of healthcare system they want after 2016 as long as it meets the basic standards put into place by the Affordable Care Act.

My guess is that as soon as Vermont’s system gets up and running, other states will realize what a good deal it is and follow suit with their own single-payer programs. This, after all, is exactly what happened in Canada after Saskatchewan became the first province in that country to pass single-payer healthcare.

Democrats may have wasted an opportunity to pass truly progressive national healthcare reform back in 2009 and 2010, but thanks to Obamacare and progressives in Vermont, they’ll get another crack at it at the state level in just a few years. Let’s just hope they don’t get bushwacked by the Republicans on that opportunity.


sandlewould's picture
sandlewould 8 years 16 weeks ago

Obamacare has led to a windfall for Big Pharma, Big Insurance and Big. Med. My partner's an oncologist. She says Private-non-profit facilities have lost all their funding to medicaid expansion...good for blue-state citizens, but all the non-profits are being swallowed up by for-profit hospitals. Yep, they blew it.. again...and hears why;

I won’t have time to listen to the podcast ‘till late tonight in the car…but in answer the question posed in Thom’s first hour; “Who's really manipulating the new world order? And why….?” I can only say I know this unequivocally and I cannot say how.

Lee Fong eluded to it recently on Thom’s show when he referred to a story in the NYTimes re. the “U.S.” (it should really be called, the Global Chamber of Commerce) literally threatening Pres. Obama, saying something like “all cards are on the table” if he used his executive authority to force transparency re. campaign spending. Thom’s reply was a stunned (paraphrasing here); “You mean they threatened to blow up the Whitehouse?!” The “U.S.” Global Chamber of Commerce is nothing more than a giant money laundering operation used to control and manipulate U.S. and Global policy. Their goal is no longer just to make money. They aren’t stupid, they know they already have not only more than could be spent in 10 lifetimes, but that they could literally outspend the amount of resources left on the planet. Their goal is to make sure that the global elite are the only ones who have access to what few resources are left on the planet and to build up the global security state sufficiently to protect themselves from the lowly masses at any cost.

Members of Congress who are concerned about this have eluded to it for years. I believe it was Chuck Shumar who said re. the banks; “Frankly, They own the place.” Even Pres. Obama is quoted at the beginning of every episode of Ring of Fire on FSTV saying; “You can’t change Washington from the inside, you can only change Washington from the outside”. Problem is, if you make enough noise to be heard on the outside, they use their tight control of mass media to ignore you and recently federally granted military might to shut you down. Just this a.m. Amy Goodman had on a father of 4 who is going to jail for 2 years for standing on public property outside a drone base to exercise his 1st amendment rights. Trying to change either major party from within would literally be like trying to change the mob from within. Organized crime now controls most, if not all the biggest multinational corporations…especially the security/defense industries and the banking industry. They, through outsourcing have seized control of the CIA and NSA and much of the State department and the Pentigon. And let’s not forget the Mob’s infamous ties to the casino industry (Sheldon Adelson..just try and tell me he isn’t in w/ the Chinese Mob). And of course there are the Kochs, who are so powerful they can fend off the mob, but if you ask me, they figure it’s easier to join ‘em then to beat ‘em.

Well known MI5 Whistle Blower, Annie Machon, has stated on RT’s ‘Breaking the Set’ , that the NSA and British intelligence keep files on elected officials that those officials aren’t permitted to see. Threatening to expose them or their family members, or recreate them digitally into an image that, well, let’s just say it would not be in the “image of God”, is why Democrats will never push back hard enough. This is why Democrats play “dumb”. So why do we waste our time, asking ourselves over and over again, why Democrats aren’t better at messaging? They are not stupid, of course they could message well and campaign on populism, if they knew they could get away with it…but they’d be squashed like bugs if they dared try if getting elected might actually lead to the possibility of getting progressive policy implemented. They are only aloud to speak about populist issues as long as they can’t actually accomplish anything…and the ubiquitous Corp. Media would completely ignore them. To usher in the Financial industry’s Goddess in 2016, the appointer of one Victory Nooland as Assist. Sec. of State (married to notorious Neocon Robert Kagan, co-founder of the Project for a New American Century) you can bet that sHillary Clinton will be campaigning big time on populism against, yep good ‘ol Jeb. Another Bush V Clinton ticket. How Quaint. Don’t fall for it!!!

This is only one reason why Barak Obama will never emulate FDR. That, and the fact that the U.S. no longer has access to or control of enough global resources to address our crumbling infrastructure significantly, and the facts that in the last 100 years, the population has exploded and become one entirely dependent for it’s very survival on industry. Industry, now corrupt beyond recognition, no longer needs us, nor has the desire to take care of us. When we no longer can buy the stuff they have made us dependent on, they will stop providing it and we will be left like helpless infants to fend for ourselves off the raw, unyielding land. Yes, the meek shall indeed inherit the Earth, what’s left of it, that is. Most of us do not have the resources or skills necessary to live off the land in the event the ‘Crash of 2016’ (great Book, Thom) that will lead to the collapse of industry. This collapse could well bring down the grid…which would lead to many melt downs at nuclear power plants, which, idiotically enough, are built to supply all the power they generate to the grid without first taking what they need to function. Why this flaw in design? Good question.

150 years ago, most American’s kept warm with wood. Can you imagine 315,000,000 people chopping down trees to burn wood in America? Let alone the fight for land to grow food when climate change combined with industry is draining the water supply at record speed. In the documentary ‘Call of Life’ (playing on FSTV lately) many scientists lay out precisely why a completely sustainable energy paradigm sufficient to meet global demand will be impossible 20 years from now. They say half of all species on Earth will be gone by then, and we may well be one of them. Sollutions? Check out & , start gardens, solar initiatives, wind initiatives in our communities? Yes! Absolutely! Never Give up. But maybe instead of bitching about republicans who are corrupt and deluded into believing they’ll be invited to the party at the end of the world, and instead of scratching our heads re. why the Dems refuse to be truly progressive, we should get our heads out of the sand re. the bigger picture and be talking about what we can actually DO NOW!

It’s no coincidence that “austerity” (ever wondered who coined that one?) is being pushed simultaneously all over the world. The names of the NWO string pullers?.. some are easy to find, many not. The organizations?.. many NGOs, the WTO the IMF the World Bank … not too hard to guess. Greed knows one obstacle; self-preservation. I think they have the technology to do one of, or all 3 things. 1)Leave the planet 2)live in the planet 3) build contained biospheres on the planet . How else can one explain their deliberate actions to deplete and destroy the Earth’s water, air and food supplies as fast as possible, other than mass genocide and population control?

Howard Laverne Stewart's picture
Howard Laverne ... 8 years 16 weeks ago

There's no point in paying healthcare Insurance premiums if the Insurance companies are not holding up their end of the bargain.

DHBranski's picture
DHBranski 8 years 16 weeks ago

My gosh, the Reagan/Clinton Dems have been working hard against all progressive policy proposals for years. We can't implement single-payer insurance because the nation took a turn in the opposite direction, embracing the "You're On Your Own" agenda. As it is, middle classers are still having conniptions about people living the good life on (sub-poverty level) welfare, some 15 years after the last welfare check was issued. Our problem is with our inability to clarify who is "deserving," who isn't, and why.

Kend's picture
Kend 8 years 16 weeks ago

Wow Thom, pump the brakes a little. As a Canadian I can honestly tell you our system far from world class. Waiting six months to a year for knee, hip or shoulder surgery is far from world class. I have always said on this blog you would have single payer if you would have done it state by state like Romney tried to do. Forcing states to use a system that is designed by the Fed was a bad mistake. Has the Fed done anything right in the last fifty years.

aphrodite's picture
aphrodite 8 years 16 weeks ago

Thom, one of your other "home states" is also working on Single Payer...Oregon. And we just might have it shortly after Vermont.

I have been fighting insurance companies now for close to a year! They do everything possible to obstruct, to make getting care as difficult as possible. And, for the life of me, I cannot figure out why they are necessary! They do nothing for health care...they don't set broken bones, they don't prescribe meds, they don't do physicals, they don't even soothe a sore throat. The only thing they do is take our money and, sometimes, pay part of a medical bill. Even after the ACA was enacted insurance companies still deny services. My husband has been attempting to get a problem first diagnosed...nearly impossible because insurance wouldn't allow needed tests...then when we finally got the diagnoses we have to wait until January to have the life-saving procedure! With Single Payer this problem would have been diagnosed and treated last June!!!

Basically I am not all that happy with the ACA because it didn't address the concept of insurance which is totally not needed in the first place! But I am very glad that people who have never before been able to see a doctor can now do that.

RichardofJeffersonCity's picture
RichardofJeffer... 8 years 16 weeks ago

Sorry it wasn't Thom quoting Sen. Chuck "ANything for a Buck" Schumer. My bad.. I got the post confused...

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 16 weeks ago

Reply to #4: Kend, spare us the whining about your Canadian system. In Canada no one is bankrupted by medical bills and left out in the street, or dead. Compared to that, waiting six months for a knee of hip replacement -- without an ugly-ass bill to look forward to for the grand finale -- would be a piece of cake from our point of view. You're complaining to the wrong people. Don't be expecting any sympathy from us. - AIW

ChicagoMatt 8 years 16 weeks ago

Once Vermont goes single payer, how long until other states realize they are better off buying one-way tickets to Vermont for their needy? There are some cities in the North that do a similar thing with their homeless - rather than build and maintain a shelter in the winter, they find some distant relative of the homeless person in Florida or some other warm state, and buy the homeless person a one-way ticket there.

I saw a 20/20 special about a similar thing in California. When mentally ill patients are released from the hospital in the wealthy suburbs, the police give them a "courtesy ride" to downtown LA.

Jussmartenuf's picture
Jussmartenuf 8 years 16 weeks ago

Sandlewould, Your information is very well taken, thank you for taking the time. I was in total agreement with Tom's blog concerning Obama's shortfall on not demanding single payer, it was a sell out to the insurance industry and buying off Joe Lieberman. Lieberman represents Hartford, Conn which has the disinction of having the most insurance company home offices in the world. In looking for FSTV on my DircTV if find it simply does not exist. The channels run 347, 349. RSTV 348 is not listed on menu. Why is this? RT does not exist either. I live in Dallas area in Texas and Hartman is not available either on TV or radio, but Beck, Limbaugh and other right wing and religious nit wit stations are. What gives.

When Mike Baucus was put in charge of the Senate committee to set up the ACA, he never mentioned single payer, he was a paid tool who i wrote 5 years ago and told him he needed to have a T shirt made that said "I am a chicken shit Republican" and wear it. His passing this miserable excuse for a health care bill got him a promotion to the Ambassadorship of China. Go figger, like you say mafia type government.

Jussmartenuf's picture
Jussmartenuf 8 years 16 weeks ago

The feds have done a bunch right and have the capacity to do a lot more except the right wing keeps saying the government does not work and then sends congressional people there to make sure government fails.

On the other side, the left wing sends people there of whom many are gutless and will not stand up for their values when attacked by critics in their electorate.

Kend's picture
Kend 8 years 16 weeks ago

Alice. Of course they go bankrupt here how do you work with a bad knee, hip, or shoulder. Alice poeple die here all the time because they are waiting for health care that is what happens when it is rationed. We are also taxed to death here. You have no idea how expensive free health care is. Please don't get me wrong I don't want your system but Canada has the only the only true single payer system in the world. Everyone else has some sort of mix. We both need something in between. Here you can buy smokes booze and drugs but you can buy better health care and to me that is just wrong.

Kend's picture
Kend 8 years 16 weeks ago

That is exactly what happens here Matt. I live in Alberta and a few years ago our government gave people on welfare three months welfare and a one way bus ticket to British Columbia. They where glad to go as BC pays higher welfare payments. It didn't go over very well. Proof you are right. Oh by the way we have the lowest taxes and the highest standard of living but we offer the lowest welfare payments. . We also have the youngest population in Canada and the highest educated as they come from all over Canada as this is where all the work is.

bobbler's picture
bobbler 8 years 16 weeks ago

SINGLE PAYER: I've been saying this for years, along with all liberals and progressives, that were deeply disappointed when democrats chose to stand behind a healthcare plan that republicans and big business wanted (essentially legislating like republicans, rather than democrats the people voted for). The glaring problem of course is is that obamacare is centered around for-profit insurance companies.. Democratic apologists defending obamacare say they tried and were shot down rings hollow, because filibuster-proof majorities that Democrats had in the House and the Senate during that time..

"""The fact that insurance companies do get rich off allowing or denying health care payments, though, is at the core of what’s wrong with our healthcare system. It’s the reason why we spend so much more on healthcare than any other developed country in the world, and it’s the reason why people continue to get screwed over by their insurance companies despite the new protections in Obamacare."""

sandlewould's picture
sandlewould 8 years 16 weeks ago

Reply to; Jussmartenuf,

I think we are already being sensored in ways we can't prove... can you get FSTV on line? ..

rflood321's picture
rflood321 8 years 16 weeks ago

As a physician with more than a little slant to liberalism, I have to commend Thom... he nails all of the issues except for two: 1) Medicine often crosses state lines! I work in St. Louis and nearly 40% of our patients are from IL. So whatever system we come up with in MO will not apply to IL patients; and 2) States do not have the resources of the Federal Gov't to run budget deficits. It is quite clear that if we chose to fight illegal wars for more than a decade while decreasing taxes on the wealthy, the Federal Gov't can run as much deficit at is choses. States don't have that luxury. These are the most important reasons why we need a single payer, Federal Gov't sponsored system called Medicare for ALL! All we needed to do back in 2008 was to allow the age for Medicare start at birth and allow richer Americans to buy as much Medicare supplemental insurance as they want. We don't need the exact system of Canada but need to make health care our number one priority. So to say I was a "little disappointed" by the way our Dems sold us out to Big Pharma, Big Insurance would be the understatement of the year. We lost maybe the only opportinuity of my lifetime to provide healthcare for every American, not just the ones who can affort it.

riverside's picture
riverside 8 years 16 weeks ago

You hit the nail on the head Tom! Insurance companies do one thing: Deny!

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