Health Care Reform I & II

Those who hand-wring or those who pounce over President Obama and the Democrats’ seeming fecklessness over the issue of health care reform, be prepared to pat the aforementioned political entities on the back. They already have achieved some level of health care reform. And I bet you didn’t even notice.

In June, President Obama signed legislation placing tobacco under the purview of the Food and Drug Administration. Just this past week, FDA began its regimine, extending a ban on flavored cigarettes. The FDA now has the power to control the amount of addictive nicotine is in a tobacco product and how it may be packaged and marketed.

This is sweeping power for the federal government over an $89 billion industry, and that it’s been granted is no easy feat, one that took longer than a decade to accomplish.


Tobacco use kills more than 400,000 Americans and costs the nation $96 billion in health care bills each year. Every day, another 1,200 lives are lost and more than 1,000 kids become new regular smokers.

Yet, until now, tobacco products have escaped the FDA’s common-sense regulations that apply to other consumer products, such as food, drugs and even lipstick. The new law will:

  • Crack down on tobacco marketing and sales to kids.
  • Ban candy and fruit-flavored cigarettes.
  • Require larger, more effective health warnings on tobacco products.
  • Require tobacco companies to disclose the contents of tobacco products, as well as changes in products and research about their health effects.
  • Ban terms such as “light” and “low-tar” that mislead consumers into believing that certain cigarettes are safer.
  • Strictly regulate all health-related claims about tobacco products to ensure they are scientifically proven and do not discourage current tobacco users from quitting or encourage new users to start.
  • Empower the FDA authority to require changes in tobacco products, such as the removal or reduction of harmful ingredients.

I don’t know about you. But that sounds like health care reform to me. So stop your hand-wringing and your pouncing. We’ve brought what we promised, already: Change you can believe in.

Speaking of the ongoing effort to bring sense and rationality to the method we use in these Untied States of America to dispense health care: Here’s something for the nonbelievers to consider.

A few tidbits from Tim Dickinson of Rolling Stone (emphasis mine):

For the archenemies of Obamacare, however, [Frank] Luntz’s anti-Washington script didn’t go nearly far enough. To amp up the panic, they decided to spin the “takeover” fear to its most extreme conclusion: Washington bureaucrats plan to institute “death panels” that would deny life-sustaining care to the elderly. That portion of the script was drafted by Betsy McCaughey, the former lieutenant governor of New York, who insists that her expertise as a constitutional historian enables her to decipher the 1,017 pages of legalese that comprise the House health care bill.

McCaughey first unveiled her “findings” on July 16th, during an appearance on the radio show of former GOP presidential candidate Fred Thompson. “I have just finished reading the House bill,” McCaughey declared. “I hope that people listening will protect their parents from what’s intended under this bill.” Citing page 425 of HR 3200 — a section that outlines the same kind of optional, end-of-life counseling that Republicans have voted for in the past — McCaughey uncorked a terrifying lie. “Congress,” she said, “would make it mandatory — absolutely require that every five years, people in Medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner.” The Obama plan, she added, is financed by “shortening your mother or father’s life.”

McCaughey has run this con before. During the debate over Clinton’s health care overhaul in the early 1990s, McCaughey — then an academic at the right-wing Manhattan Institute — wrote an article for The New Republic called “No Exit,” in which she claimed that Hillarycare would prevent even wealthy Americans from “going outside the system to purchase basic health coverage you think is better.” Even though the bill plainly stated that “nothing in this Act” would prohibit consumers from purchasing additional care, McCaughey’s claim was echoed endlessly in the press, with each repetition pounding a stake further into the heart of the reform effort.

McCaughey’s lies were later debunked in a 1995 post-mortem in The Atlantic, and The New Republic recanted the piece in 2006. But what has not been reported until now is that McCaughey’s writing was influenced by Philip Morris, the world’s largest tobacco company, as part of a secret campaign to scuttle Clinton’s health care reform. (The measure would have been funded by a huge increase in tobacco taxes.) In an internal company memo from March 1994, the tobacco giant detailed its strategy to derail Hillarycare through an alliance with conservative think tanks, front groups and media outlets. Integral to the company’s strategy, the memo observed, was an effort to “work on the development of favorable pieces” with “friendly contacts in the media.” The memo, prepared by a Philip Morris executive, mentions only one author by name:

“Worked off-the-record with Manhattan and writer Betsy McCaughey as part of the input to the three-part exposé in The New Republic on what the Clinton plan means to you. The first part detailed specifics of the plan.”

Then, there’s this:

The fourth group behind the town-hall protests, Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, has direct connections to the health care industry. Its founder, Rick Scott, is the former CEO of Columbia/HCA, the world’s largest hospital conglomerate. Scott was ousted from the company after it was caught overbilling taxpayers for Medicare treatment; it eventually pleaded guilty to criminal fraud and paid a record $1.7 billion in penalties. Scott now runs a chain of urgent-care clinics that serve uninsured Americans fearful of being bankrupted by hospital emergency-room visits. “He is one of those people who’s gotten very, very, very rich off of sick people,” says Potter, the former CIGNA executive. “He doesn’t want that cash cow to go away — so that’s why you’re seeing all his money there.”

Consider this, nonbelievers: Two of the opposition’s fiercest soldiers include a proven liar and a fraudulent scumbag.

Doesn’t that taint the opposition effort’s credibility? If it was a proven liar’s assertion that had people yelling about “death panels” all the long hot stupid August, what else might they be lying to you about? If the opposition hires someone who’s defrauded the federal government, do you think he has any scruples about mischaracterizing this reform effort?


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