Wall St. Dancing On The Grave Of The Public Option


MARKET WATCH: “The public option, whether we have it or we don’t have it, is not the entirety of health-care reform,” Obama said on Saturday in Grand Junction, Colo. “This is just one sliver of it.” Bucking a bearish Monday skeleton_running.giftrend in the broader stock market, shares of health-insurance companies including UnitedHealth Group Inc.  (UNH 28.95, +0.47, +1.65%) and Aetna Inc. (AET 29.54, -0.09, -0.31%) rose after the comments by Obama as well as members of his administration over the weekend. Health insurers have fought a public plan. Republicans, long opposed to a public plan, seized on comments made Sunday by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. In an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” program, Sebelius said a government-run health-insurance option is not “essential.” There should be choice and competition in the health-insurance market, but a public option is not critical, Sebelius said. MORE

skeleton_running.gifPHAWKER: That’s funny, Wall Street sure LOVED having a public option when it came time to bail out their insolvent asses. DEAR WALL STREET: Fuck you very much. Signed, The 35 million Americans With No Health Insurance That Chipped In To Rescue You When You Were Circling The Drain Last Fall.

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Then: Obama, throughout the presidential campaign, embraced an overhaul that would mean coverage for all Americans.  Now: Last week, he said about 38 million of the 46 million people now uninsured would get coverage. MORE

skeleton_running.gifWALL STREET JOURNAL: Robert Kuttner, on Huffingtonpost, wants President Obama to pull the plug on the whole idea of seeking bipartisanship. “Will somebody please explain to me why Barack Obama is still on his bipartisan kick?” he writes. “Ever since Obama’s first efforts to reach out to Republicans, with his cabinet appointment of two Republicans, Gates at Defense and LaHood at Transportation, and his appeasement of Republican tax-cutting demands in the stimulus package, the Republican opposition has made it clear that no goodwill gesture, no effort to meet them halfway signals anything other than weakness. They are out to destroy his presidency, pure and simple. Nothing makes this clearer than the battle over health insurance reform.” MORE

skeleton_running.gifLOS ANGELES TIMES: Reporting from Washington – By dropping his insistence on a public insurance option in an overhaul of the nation’s healthcare system, President Obama angered some liberals but took a big step toward winning over moderate Democratic lawmakers — a trade-off that sharply improves the chances Congress will approve the overhaul. By backing away from the “government plan” — which would have offered consumers an alternative to private medical insurance — Obama also moved to neutralize one of his opponents’ most effective arguments, namely that the president wants the government to play a bigger role in individual healthcare decisions. MORE

RELATED: The health care reform compromise that centrist Democrats and several Republicans have indicated they’d support has shown an inability to effectively lower premiums for consumers, a newly resurfaced government study shows. In recent days, a slew of lawmakers, notably Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), have begun a renewed push to establish health care insurance cooperatives healthcare_1.jpgas an alternative to a publicly run insurance plan. But there’s a study at hand that undercuts the argument that co-ops would drastically alter the health insurance market. MORE

SHREVEPORT TIMES: Health Care for America Now, a coalition of unions and other organizations, points to the combined $12.9 billion in profits for 10 of the largest publicly traded health insurance companies in 2007. That’s a 428 percent increase from what the companies made in 2000. But the 2000-2007 time period covers a time of widespread consolidation in the industry. If companies got larger by buying other insurers, their income increased. That was the case with WellPoint Inc., which operates Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in 14 states and is the nation’s largest insurer. Company profits increased from $226 million in 2000 to $3.3 billion in 2007, a period that covers Wellpoint’s merger with Anthem and its acquisition of other companies. That’s part of the point, according to Health Care for America Now, which advocates a government-run plan that would compete against private insurers. Because of industry consolidation, the group says, there’s not enough competition in the health insurance market to keep premiums and profits down. MORE

Red_Cross101_1_1.pngPHAWKER: For most of my adult life I have been without health insurance. When checking in for doctor’s appointments and asked by the receptionist who my health insurer was, I would always respond with “I voted for Bill Clinton.” It was meant as a joke, but nobody thought it was very funny, least of all me. Mercifully, I have been reasonably healthy my whole life, but that won’t last forever. To think that the only industrialized nation on Earth NOT to offer universal health coverage to ALL its citizens will remain that way,  just so a bunch of crony capitalist predators can financially rape the sick and infirm for fun and for profit — all because true power in this country lies not with the people, nor even their elected leadership in Washington, but instead within the blinged fist of a pitiless corporate oligarchy that will crush any reform effort that threatens their ability to enrich themselves obscenely at the expense of the powerless — is too depressing for words. Next time I go to the doctor and they ask me who my health insurer is, I will tell them that I voted for Obama. And once again, no one will laugh.

INQUIRER: [Arlen] Specter also told reporters that he still favored the so-called “public option” for a national health care system, despite reports that the Obama administration might be shifting its support to some kind of “co-op” plan. Under the public option, the federal government would act an insurer for many Americans. Under the cooperative alternative, the government would fund start-ups of new types of coverage that could eventually function independently. As for the public option, “I think it is too soon to make an evaluation. Let’s see what we produce in the way of a bill,” he said. “I’m not willing to write off the public option,” he said. “. . . That I think is the best approach to give people choices.” He also said: “14,000 people a day are losing their health care, and I’ve been more than willing to lay my neck on the line.” MORE

Cover.Brendan_1.jpgBRENDAN SKWIRE: My brother Ray walked up a moment later and asked me if I’d seen the Lyndon LaRouche supporters who had set up a table at the entrance to the church. I have a special weakness for their particular brand of madness, and I was not to be disappointed.

They had set up a table adorned with an image of Rep. Barney Frank, Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson behind bars for the Wall Street bailout (a sentiment I happen to share). But they also had a picture of President Obama decorated with Hitler’s mustache.

“What’s this all about?” I asked the middle-aged woman running the table. “I get the stuff about the bailout, but how is Obama like Hitler?”

She leaned in conspiratorially. “Have you heard about the Medicare Advisory Councils?” she asked.sestakforum_1_1.jpg

“No,” I replied. “Why don’t you tell me about them?”

“The councils will be run by Ezekiel Emmanuel,” she said. “That’s Rahm’s brother. The councils will be based on Hitler’s T4 program, do you know what that is?” And she explained that this was a euthanasia program that would target the elderly and sick. “That’s what they’re going to do, just like the Nazis!”

“So, you’re telling me health care reform allows Rahm Emmanuel’s brother to run an elderly extermination program based on something Hitler implemented?”

“YES,” she replied firmly. MORE

skeleton_running.gifRELATED: Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) is resigning from DLA Piper law firm, Politico reports, because of criticism of his organization FreedomWorks and its role in town hall disruptions. MORE

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