Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sunday Reading

What’s At StakeThe New York Times editorial lays out what could happen if healthcare reform fails.

As the fierce debate on President Obama’s plan for health care reform comes to a head, Americans should be thinking carefully about what happens if Congress fails to enact legislation.

Are they really satisfied with the status quo? And is the status quo really sustainable?

Here are some basic facts Americans need to know as Congress decides whether to approve comprehensive reform or continue with what we have:

HOW REFORM WOULD WORK: Let’s be clear, the changes Mr. Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress are proposing are significant. But, despite what the critics charge, this is not a government takeover. And the program is not only fully paid for, it should actually reduce the deficit over the next two decades.

Under the new system, all people would be required to have health insurance or pay a penalty. If you are poor or middle class you would also get significant help through Medicaid coverage or tax credits to pay the premiums.

The legislation would create exchanges on which small businesses and people who buy their own coverage directly from insurers could choose from an array of private plans that would compete for their business. It would also require insurance companies to accept all applicants, even those with a pre-existing condition. And it would make a start at reforming the medical care system to improve quality and lower costs.

46 MILLION AND RISING: If nothing is done, the number of uninsured people — 46 million in 2008 — is sure to spike upward as rising medical costs and soaring premiums make policies less affordable and employers continue to drop coverage to save money.

The Congressional Budget Office projects 54 million uninsured people in 2019; the actuary for the federal government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services projects 57 million.

It should be no surprise that people without insurance often postpone needed care, and many get much sicker as a result. That is morally unsustainable. It is also fiscally unsustainable for safety net hospitals — which foist much of the cost on the American taxpayer when the uninsured end up in the emergency room. As the number of uninsured rises, that bill will rise.

The Senate’s reform bill would reduce the number of uninsured by an estimated 31 million in 2019. The Republicans’ paltry proposals would cut the number by only three million.

Read the rest here.

There’s more below the fold.

Frank Rich: It’s an up-or-down vote on more than healthcare.

Bad Credit — Carl Hiaasen on Marco Rubio’s troubles with his GOP American Express card.

It must be like a bad dream for Marco Rubio.

He goes to bed as the golden boy of the New Right, and wakes up as just another phony with a $134 haircut.

And all because he didn’t keep track of whose American Express card he was waving around while he was Florida’s speaker of the House.

He is still leading Gov. Charlie Crist in the race for the Republican Senate nomination, but the gap is certain to shrink unless Rubio tries something bold.

Like reaching out to Democrats and independents.

Here’s an offer that might have some traction: Anybody who switches to the GOP in time for the primary receives one of those nifty Republican Party credit cards.

In this battered economy, even diehard liberals would be tempted to jump ship. Judging from Rubio’s AmEx bills, Republicans let you spend their donors’ money on just about anything you please.

When his family’s minivan got banged up, the former speaker charged the party nearly $4,000 for repairs and a five-week car rental.

That’s so much nicer than having to pay for it yourself, the way ordinary folks do.

Here’s another cool way to score with a GOP credit card: Go to the Apple store online and explore. That’s where Rubio racked up $765 in ”computer supplies.”

His spokesperson — and you’ll definitely need your own spokesperson if you get this credit card — says that the $765 expenditure was for a hard drive ”to store political files.”

The GOP’s bean counters actually bought this lame story, as if political data require gobs of extra gigabytes. (Just for fun, try to find an Apple hard drive that costs $765. You can buy four for that price.)

Here’s another good one. On a day in 2007 when Rubio’s travel records said he was in Tallahassee, he charged $412 at a shop called All Fusion Electronics in Miami. His campaign claimed the bill was for “computer repairs,” although the GOP lists the expense as “supplies.”

If you visit All Fusion, you won’t see many computers. However, the company does sell drum kits, guitars and karaoke machines.

Not to worry. Whatever it was that Rubio purchased, Republican Party bosses cheerily signed off on the tab.

Critics have pointed out that the IRS requires political parties to spend their money exclusively on influencing elections, but this is no cause for concern.

Anyone who gets a GOP-issued credit card should make sure they have a political excuse ready for each expense. It doesn’t have to be a great excuse, either. Some of Rubio’s more modest bills came from Winn Dixie, Farm Stores, even a store called Happy Wine.

If the IRS expresses curiousity about the receipts, you can always tell them you were entertaining important campaign donors. That’s what the big boys do.

Doonesbury — Don’t take the bus.