Obama’s Single Payer Beat Down

Print Friendly

While his supporters and apologists, including some leading media figures, pretend that Obama is actually in favor of single payer insurance, his stance has been clear from the start, and is diametrically opposed to it.

By Glen Ford

Created 07/07/2009

State Sen. Obama (above) in 2003, back when he supported single-payer

healthcare. Obama changed his tune shortly thereafter.


By BAR executive editor Glen Ford

President Obama is mad, again, at the usual suspects: progressives that insist on speaking out in the people’s interest on single-payer healthcare. He picked up the phone last week to warn lefties and unions to watch their mouths and get with his fuzzy program on healthcare – although even White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel doesn’t seem to know what that program is. “For Obama to ‘win’ his debate, the American people must lose.”

“Debate is permitted only to the Right of his own fuzzy position.”

President Obama has escalated his campaign to suppress single-payer healthcare advocates, hinting darkly that there will be repercussions if unions and activists persist in harassing his fellow center-right Democrats. In a pre-Fourth of July teleconference with Democratic congressional leaders, Obama lectured [1], “We shouldn’t be focussing resources on each other. We ought to be focussed on winning this debate.”

The president was attempting to shut down paid media messages seeking to pressure corporatist Democrats to support some sort of public healthcare option – an option that Obama claims to favor, although in terms so vague his own chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, framed the issue as “negotiable [2].” The ads have been embarrassing to rightist Democrats who are Obama’s true political soulmates and a bridge to Republicans he seeks to woo.

Obama’s modus operandi is by now well known. His reflexive instinct is to lash out to his left when frustrated, to demand progressives stand down and await his marching orders – even when, as is the case most of the time, Obama’s own direction is unclear, at best.

“Obama’s reflexive instinct is to lash out to his left when frustrated.”

The objects of his ire are advertisements or fundraisers produced by MoveOn, Health Care for America and Democracy for America. MoveOn’s advertising plans successfully pressured North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan to endorse the idea of a public health care plan. No matter. Obama demands that the Left – such as it is – stand down and let Obama do his thing, whatever that is.

The president’s admonition that progressives focus “on winning this debate” rather than “focussing resources on each other” makes sense only to those operating under the delusion that Obama is in a real fight with corporate healthcare profiteers. In the real world, Obama is in shifting stages of embrace with Healthcare Inc. Debate is permitted only to the Right of his own fuzzy position, while the Left is shushed and hectored.

For Obama to “win” his debate, the American people must lose, since overwhelming majorities of the public support single-payer or a Medicare-for-all program, which Obama opposes. Obama has no principled program or irreducible objectives. He cares only that some kind of bill emerges to which he can claim bragging rights. Ideally, Obama would prefer to negotiate the broad outlines of legislation directly with the corporate healthcare profiteers, by assuring them his administration means their bank accounts no harm – a courtship that has been Obama’s preoccupation ever since his swearing in.

“Obama has no principled program or irreducible objectives.”

The Left complicates Obama’s agenda, because progressives want to achieve certain long-sought goals such as universal healthcare, housing as a right, wealth redistribution, etc., while Obama wants to be celebrated as the president that achieved a grand consensus that reconciles America’s classes and races. Since, as we have repeatedly learned, he will never confront entrenched economic power, it is progressives that must shut up and sit down in order for the illusion of national consensus to work its magic. That’s why Obama gets mad and starts calling people on the phone when his little progressive boys and girls make too much noise and upset the “grown folks.”

President Obama’s pattern has been set. There’s nothing authentically youthful and brash about him, really; less than six months in office, and he’s already predictable. He is a poseur, who pretends to take bold (rhetorical) positions on stubborn issues, only to seek cosmetic solutions along lines of least resistance from those in power. On war, the bankers’ meltdown, and now health care, it’s the same story. The effect on his remaining legions of progressive supporters, is to make them appear more ridiculous by the day.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com [3].


Obama administration unveils new cost-cutting plans for health care

By Joe Kishore 
9 July 2009

US Vice President Joseph Biden Wednesday announced an agreement with major hospitals to cut a projected $155 billion in future Medicare and Medicaid payments over the next ten years. The announcement is the latest in a series of deals worked out between the Obama administration and major corporate bodies and lobby groups.

The administration’s health care proposals are based on two fundamental premises: 1) The need to reduce health care costs for businesses and the government; and 2) To do this while ensuring the profit interests of all the major business interests involved: drug manufacturers, insurance giants, and hospitals. The inevitable results flowing from these premises will be higher costs and reduced care for ordinary Americans.

The administration’s health care proposals are based on two fundamental premises: 1) The need to reduce health care costs for businesses and the government; and 2) To do this while ensuring the profit interests of all the major business interests involved: drug manufacturers, insurance giants, and hospitals. The inevitable results flowing from these premises will be higher costs and reduced care for ordinary Americans.

Wednesday’s announcement focused on reimbursements paid by the federal government to hospitals for treating the uninsured and poor, payments made through the Medicare and Medicaid programs. No concrete details have been released about how these cuts will be carried through. However, they will certainly most severely impact hospitals caring for the poorest layers of the population (See, “US Medicare, Medicaid cuts threaten health care”).

Currently, hospitals receive higher payments through Medicare if they treat a higher percentage of low-income patients, if they treat expensive cases, and if they are in an area with higher wages for hospital workers. These hospitals are generally not those that dominate the industry lobbying groups in discussion with the Obama administration.

The Associated Press noted: “Officials of public hospitals say they have concerns such reductions could also squeeze funding for trauma centers and burn units, which receive Medicare and Medicaid money.”

Biden repeated the administration’s claim that as more people become insured under the Obama plan, hospitals will face lower costs for treating the uninsured, and so can receive lower payments from the government. To the extent that this is the case, however, it will be because the costs are shifted from the government and the hospitals to individuals. Under the proposals being considered in Congress, individuals will be required to purchase insurance themselves and could be fined as much as $1,000 if they do not.

In announcing the new deal, Biden emphasized the support the administration was receiving from the various corporate interests, claiming that this could be reconciled with expanded coverage. “We have these hospitals working with us, and we have the pharmaceutical industry working with us; we have doctors and nurses and health care providers with us; we have the American public behind us.”

In fact, every agreement with different industry groups has come at the expense of health care for the population. For example, the drug industry had secured as part of its deal a commitment from Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, to oppose a House measure that would reduce payments to the drug industry for Medicare patients previously covered by Medicaid. There are no doubt many other backroom deals that have yet to come to light.

The administration is also indicating that it is willing to reconsider plans for a “public option”—a government-run insurance program that would compete with private insurers as part of the reform proposals. The measure is, not surprisingly, fiercely opposed by the insurance industry.

In an interview published in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said that the goal “to keep private insurers honest” was “non-negotiable,” but that the “path”—including a public option—was negotiable.

In a statement released later in the day, Obama said the administration considered a public option “one of the best ways” to bring down costs. The administration may be leaning toward accepting an alternative to the public option or including it only as a “trigger” if insurance companies are somehow deemed to be not “honest” in the future.

The New York Times and the “prostate cancer test”

The other focus of the administration’s cost-cutting plan for hospitals and health care is on reducing the use of more expensive treatments. This issue is being framed as a question of eliminating “inefficiencies,” and unnecessary costs. The main thrust, however, is on rationing and cutting back on health care for the elderly and poor.

The campaign for cost-cutting is being led by the Democratic Party and the liberal establishment, including the main newspaper of American liberalism, the New York Times.

In an editorial published on Tuesday (“Financing Health Care Reform”), the Times wrote that the administration “is right to insist that reform be fully paid for over the next decade lest it drive up the federal deficit … That means either cutting spending or raising additional money.”

The newspaper endorsed the general plans of the administration to cut costs throughout health care. In doing so, it underscored one of the main underlying goals of the administration’s proposals: reduce spending on the principal health care programs for the poor and elderly.

It is necessary to begin “cutting and reallocating hundreds of billions of dollars from projected spending on Medicare and Medicaid, as the Obama administration has proposed and Congress is considering,” the Timeswrote. “Just to be sure, Congress ought to establish a fail-safe mechanism that could impose additional cuts after a few years if savings are less than projected.”

The Times also endorsed eliminating or capping a tax exemption for employer-provided benefits and proposed a series of regressive consumption tax increases (on alcohol and sugared drinks, for example), along with limiting itemized deductions for the wealthy.

An article in the Times on Wednesday (“In Health Reform, a Cancer Offers an Acid Test,”) sheds further light on what is meant by “eliminating inefficiencies” in health care.

The author, David Leonhardt, has emerged as a leading champion of “rationing.” An earlier column by the same author insisted that there was no choice but to ration health care—it only had to be done more efficiently than at present. And it was in an interview with Leonhardt that Obama first suggested that his grandmother should not have received a government-funded hip replacement, worrying that “those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill.” (See, “The Obama recovery”).

In his latest article, Leonhardt sets his sights on a relatively expensive new treatment for prostate cancer, known as proton radiation therapy. The treatment involves proton accelerators “that can be as big as a football field,” he complained.

At first, Leonhardt argues that there is no scientific evidence that proton treatment is any better than other forms of treatment. This is an example of wasted money, he claims. The less expensive procedures should be used instead.

At the end of the article, however, Leonhardt gets to the real issue driving the “cost” question: eliminating treatments even if they are better: “Imagine if further prostate research showed that a $50,000 dose of targeted radiation did not extend life but did bring fewer side effects, like diarrhea, than other forms of radiation. Should Medicare spend billions to pay for targeted radiation? Or should it help prostate patients manage their diarrhea and then spend the billions on other kinds of care?”

“The answer isn’t obvious. But this much is: The current health care system is hard-wired to be bloated and inefficient. Doesn’t that seem like a problem that a once-in-a-generation effort to reform health care should address?”

An article in the Washington Post on Wednesday quoted “a senior administration official who requested anonymity” asking the same question: the proposed reforms were not yet directly addressing the “harder question,” he said: What to do “if new technology does work better and reduces risks but costs a lot more, and how to evaluate that.”

In fact, this is the main issue that is being discussed behind the scenes, and for the administration and the corporate elite, the answer is clear: more expensive treatments will not be allowed for those who cannot afford them. This will extend not only to proton treatment for prostate cancer, but all manner of procedures.

The ultimate aim is to establish a system in which the vast majority of the population will receive inadequate or no health care, where the majority of the elderly simply can’t receive more expensive treatments because they are expected to die soon anyway. The rich, of course, will continue to be able to afford the best possible care.

Joe Kilgore writes regularly for the WSWS (World Socialist Web Site)

ORIGINAL Source URL: http://www.blackagendareport.com/?q=content/obama%E2%80%99s-single-payer-beat-down

8 comments on “Obama’s Single Payer Beat Down
  1. It is time for everyone to start pelting the White House itself with nasty emails saying “How Dare you threaten the people who elected you just because you want to please the Republicans and Insurance companies. It makes you a whore, an Uncle Tom and it betrays the people who thought you had cojones! Seems we are more and more wrong about you all the time …I hope we don’t reach the day when we refer to you as that Obama-nation that came out of a pandora’s box we opened thinking there might be an Audacious Wonderful Surprise inside!

    Get with the program Obama and stop lecturing the people of this country. Are you willing to give up your tax payer provided insurance? Then make up your mind to give everyone in this country the same!

    This is what needs to be said to that more and more arrogant mouth full of pretty words that lack any real innovative actions. He needs to get rid of all those Republican advisors and give the whole Republican party a time out. Go sit in the corner guys! Now the people will run this country the way we are supposed to!


    It’s official. America and the World are now in a GLOBAL PANDEMIC. A World EPIDEMIC with potential catastrophic consequences for ALL of the American people. The first PANDEMIC in 41 years. And WE THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES will have to face this PANDEMIC with the 37th worst quality of healthcare in the developed World.


    We spend over twice as much of our GDP on healthcare as any other country in the World. And Individual American spend about ten times as much out of pocket on healthcare as any other people in the World. All because of GREED! And the PRIVATE FOR PROFIT healthcare system in America.

    And while all this is going on, some members of congress seem mostly concern about how to protect the corporate PROFITS! of our GREED DRIVEN, PRIVATE FOR PROFIT NATIONAL DISGRACE. A PRIVATE FOR PROFIT DISGRACE that is in fact, totally valueless to the public health. And a detriment to national security, public safety, and the public health.

    Progressive democrats the Tri-Caucus and others should stand firm in their demand for a robust public option for all Americans, with all of the minimum requirements progressive democrats demanded. If congress can not pass a robust public option with at least 51 votes and all robust minimum requirements, congress should immediately move to scrap healthcare reform and request that President Obama declare a state of NATIONAL HEALTHCARE EMERGENCY! Seizing and replacing all PRIVATE FOR PROFIT health insurance plans with the immediate implementation of National Healthcare for all Americans under the provisions of HR676 (A Single-payer National Healthcare Plan For All).

    Coverage can begin immediately through our current medicare system. With immediate expansion through recruitment of displaced workers from the canceled private sector insurance industry. Funding can also begin immediately by substitution of payroll deductions for private insurance plans with payroll deductions for the national healthcare plan. This is what the vast majority of the American people want. And this is what all objective experts unanimously agree would be the best, and most cost effective for the American people and our economy.

    In Mexico on average people who received medical care for A-H1N1 (Swine Flu) with in 3 days survived. People who did not receive medical care until 7 days or more died. This has been the same results in the US. But 50 million Americans don’t even have any healthcare coverage. And at least 200 million of you with insurance could not get in to see your private insurance plans doctors in 2 or 3 days, even if your life depended on it. WHICH IT DOES!

    If President Obama has to declare a NATIONAL STATE OF EMERGENCY to rescue the American people from our healthcare crisis, he will need all the sustained support you can give him. STICK WITH HIM! He’s doing a brilliant job.



    Join the fight.

    Contact congress and your representatives NOW! AND SPREAD THE WORD!

    God Bless You

    Jacksmith – WORKING CLASS

  3. Jacksmith,
    Before you and all the others being dazed by Obuma’s politics I suggest you read the following. I may show some of the ways he is also dancing around issues and not being straight with the American People all the time. Granted, he is doing a lot. I am just saying we all need to hold him to his word and/or tell us more of what he is doing and not leave it up in the air. Here are two links that are interesting.


    WE BAILED OUT THE BANKS and this is what the administration allows to happen with our money that saved them.




  4. Finally, I understand the inconsistencies in Obama’s plans: (1) the campaign statements about being for single payer–which means being for health care, a human right (UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 25(1), 1948)–were just the duplicitous words of an unscrupulous politician who wanted to be elected. (2) It is true that the health care insurance industry is ratcheting up the costs of health care so that only the likes of Wall Street bankers can afford it. But to admit that would cross the industry he’s in bed with so he won’t do that. (3) Rather than curb the unbridled greed of said industry, he makes nonsensical statements like “imaging accounts for 20% of Medicare expenditures” so we should cut its budget, ignoring that that 20% more than it did before the technology to perform CT scans and MRIs existed isn’t too surprising. But, no, we must reduce its cost “to encourage doctors to be more efficient.” Say, why not reduce the salaries and health care of our elected officials to make them more efficient! (4) That Obama says nothing about whether imaging helps diagnose serious illnesses and so helps cure patients shows his compassionate side (zip). (5) Now we learn that he wants to pay for *his* “reform”–what a guy, what an ego–on the backs of the old people who paid taxes into Medicare all their working lives … so Medicare is a ponzi scheme. True, the Repugs are willing to spend lots of money to pay for keeping brain dead people like poor Terri Schiavo alive–remember Bush in his pajamas–and, of course, all of Cheney’s pacemakers. But let’s ignore those excessive abuses of public funds, divide the costs by the number of old people–and blame them! No moral quandry for Obama to now say his grandmother should not have had a hip replacement: she’s already dead. Tough love for the living who need hip replacements.

    Obama’s health care reform will apparently play out like his Wall Street bailout: we’re not against profit as long as you make more than 250k. Tough love for the 6.5 million and growing unemployed Americans. In other words, health care insurance profits will be maintained and costs will be contained by rationing and denying health care to the majority. I thought the President was an intelligent man; I find out, to the contrary, that he’s just clever, like a rodent, like a rat.

  5. SecularHumanist has put it very well in the comment’s summation above:

    Obama’s health care reform will apparently play out like his Wall Street bailout: we’re not against profit as long as you make more than 250k. Tough love for the 6.5 million and growing unemployed Americans. In other words, health care insurance profits will be maintained and costs will be contained by rationing and denying health care to the majority. I thought the President was an intelligent man; I find out, to the contrary, that he’s just clever, like a rodent, like a rat.”

    I suppose the sooner the American people see through this gifted but treacherous politician the better for everyone, before his deals with and on behalf of the powerful become law. We have quite a job of re-education and actually breaking the stranglehold of what amounts to a brainwash, but we have no choice. And the corporate media won’t help, only sites like this.

  6. very interesting article. Specially:
    “Obama’s reflexive instinct is to lash out to his left when frustrated.”
    Well this is the quality of most of the politicians. Hypocrisy is the first rule of politics in practice.

  7. I was aware of the articles I posted because I am on this news letter, http://www.legitgov.org/#subscribe_clg , you can get un slanted news from their news letter sent to your e-mail. As I grew up I found the first rule to being a politician was to be a LIAR. Obuma’s first scam was the FISA bill that he claimed he would filibuster. Not only did he not do that but his support of the new FISA bill caused others to support the bill which took away more of the rights of the American People. His aide said they had to vote for it before the FISA bill expired. That was a load of political crap, the FISA bill was not going to expire. Another point is, Bush expanded the powers of the President. Obuma talked about how wrong this was. Yet Obuma has not relinquished those same powers.
    Oh, yes I do know how to spell Obama. Until he starts living up to what his is always trying to potray I feel it only shows there is at least two of him.
    The bad thing is that with him we need to look a lot closer and listen to EVERY WORD very carefully. He has left himself a way out more than once and knows that people think he is saying one thing when in fact he is saying something different.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


From Punto Press



wordpress stats