Whew. Saddle up, America. And say it three times, really fast: Baucus-Braly-Blue Cross Bailout, Baucus-Braly-Blue Cross Bailout, Baucus-Braly-Blue Cross Bailout.
Get ready for the next act in the intricate drama that has been unfolding under the guise of healthcare reform since last fall. Recalling those glorious chilled fall evenings of 2008 and the promise of a Presidential candidate who confidently and clearly proclaimed healthcare as a basic human right, observers of the quest to grant that right within the American system might wonder how such a welcome proclamation dissolved into a nation standing on the brink of making that right to healthcare more distant, less protected and far less secure for millions of its citizens.
Senator Max Baucus could explain. He receives the highest political contributions of any Democrat in Congress from the healthcare industry. Angela Braly of WellPoint could explain. As one of the most powerful women on earth (see Forbes' listing for the past few years of the top 100 and look among the top 10), she writes the provisions of the legislation Sen. Baucus offers to the nation. She protects the interests of Blue Cross and all other for-profit, private insurers very well indeed. And together with a few of their closest friends both in government and industry -- folks well place inside and out -- they'll be enriched many times over by the passage of reform legislation that leaves millions and millions of people with healthcare access problems and open to financial ruin.
It's all there: Take carefully scripted and timed objections by the insurance and healthcare industry giants, woefully long legislative pauses of dismay over costs or the terribly unacceptable option of inaction and lack of bipartisanship, and then punctuate it with Presidential moments of stoic determination. That's the stuff of political theatrics.
If only it were the stuff of the basic human right to healthcare, it might be a play we'd all have enjoyed watching.
What would make any American citizen watch the unfolding events and think many of these leaders -- oft cited as brilliant minds and superior intellects -- would allow any outcome in policy and law not in their own best interests to prevail? The plot is what they wrote it to be -- all the way down to the last minute objections to make it appear as though the health insurance industry doesn't really want to raise premiums and make even higher profits. The American people owe them all a very good living, don't we?
"The lady doth protest too much." Shakespeare wrote it a few centuries ago. Many have borrowed it. Braly and her pals have perfected it to an art form. And watch Congress act as though with its huge Democratic majority capable of passing real reform that they've been scared by the "teabaggers of August" or influenced by labor leaders on the left slamming their shoes on the table and objecting to weak reforms and taxation of benefits -- and now have muscled through all of that to give us insurance purchase mandates as reform.
So, watch and wonder no more America. The next few scenes will include all sorts of conflicts surrounding the details. Public option, robust or not. No matter. Amendments to add some teeth to the legislation. Sure enough. Taxation of benefits. No problem. House of Representatives stomps its feet. Of course. President steps in now and then to put his bigger than Congress' foot down. You betcha. And then on to the Rose Garden just before Christmas with all the players wrapped in holiday glow giving a gift to the American people. Maybe we can time the ceremony with the lighting of the White House Christmas tree and the placement of the Menorah. Bet we could all write the invitation list right now. And we're not on it.
Buy insurance (as an employee). Buy insurance (as an employer). Buy insurance in the private market. Buy insurance (as a taxpayer funding the subsidies). It's sort of like Jingle Bells, only a lot less fun. But that's the simple bottom line to this reform. Everyone buys the defective product or else. Sold to protect health and wealth, it does neither by law.
In the end, millions of us pay more for less coverage. Hundreds of thousands bury family members, children, neighbors, friends as they want for protection from preventable death. Millions are fined for failing to buy insurance. Financial services firms grow fatter and bolder collecting for medical providers. Millions more go bankrupt. America the beautiful continues to finish last and boldly so in measures of real health. Round and round we go.
Ten or so years down the road, the unsustainable and well-scripted healthcare reform plan crafted by team Baucus-Braly and all its supporting cast of characters will have to be redone. A gruesome sequel of sorts. I wonder if we'll have someone writing the new script that hears the cries of the people and actually acts on that suffering. Because the current cast will be long gone having claimed their victory and safely off counting their riches.