Saturday, February 27, 2010

Health care reform in three sentences

The Economist explains President Obama's health insurance plan in three sentences:
Under Barack Obama’s plan, which is bogged down in Congress, the private-insurance market would expand dramatically—but so would regulation. The proposal would require all Americans to buy cover. To make it affordable, the government would regulate products and prices and offer subsidies for the poor.

The above quote is from a special report in last week's Economist on health insurance around the world, which situates the President's reform proposals in the context of how other countries treat health insurance. It's the shortest explanation of the reform bill I've yet seen (though I think my own is still the best).

The article also contained this bombshell graphic, which shows that the US health care system is hardly free of the hand of government, even relative to other countries:

Seen in this light, and explained so succinctly, the President's plan sounds like the moderate, common sense approach that it is. In contrast with its reporting on US politics, the Economist's international and business reporting is still quite good.

Since the Economist is now behind a pay wall, here's the full context of the quote:

In countries where state-financed health care is not available to all, some governments are worried that too few of their citizens have sufficient cover. They want private insurance to be expanded to cover everyone. The most prominent effort is under way in America, where about 47m people lack health insurance of any kind. Under Barack Obama’s plan, which is bogged down in Congress, the private-insurance market would expand dramatically—but so would regulation. The proposal would require all Americans to buy cover. To make it affordable, the government would regulate products and prices and offer subsidies for the poor.

This effort is similar to reforms undertaken over the past decade in the Netherlands and Switzerland. The Swiss were keen to expand access to all, and to contain costs; the Dutch saw private insurance as a boon both to consumer choice and to innovation in the delivery of health care. To ensure equitable access, both countries forbid private insurers from discriminating against applicants because they are in poor health or at high risk of falling ill. This practice, known as “lemon dropping”, continues in the American market for individual health coverage.

Inevitably, however, some insurers (say, those offering cheap, bare-bones packages) will attract younger, fitter and cheaper customers while others (with a reputation for quality or gold-plated coverage for chronic diseases) will attract the old, the sick and the costly. In the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany, which copied some earlier Swiss reforms, regulations force companies that make “excess” profits in this way to hand over that money to those who end up with costly patients. Uwe Reinhardt, a health economist at Princeton University, jokes that Germany has the illusion of 200 private health insurers but because of risk adjustment it in fact has just one. The Dutch are now shifting from risk-smoothing after the fact to doing it even before the fiscal year begins.

Such a tightly regulated expansion of private insurance—in effect, turning health insurance into a utility—can expand coverage. European countries that followed this path now enjoy near-universal access. So does the American state of Massachusetts, which has implemented similar reforms. If Congress eventually accepts Mr Obama’s proposals, the rest of America will also see coverage increase markedly.


The simplest explanation of health reform you will ever read

The catch-22 for opponents of health care reform

Friday, February 26, 2010

Tea Partay: the real force behind the Tea Party movement

Resurrecting a viral hit from years ago. Lest there be any doubt that East Coast business elites are bankrolling the crazed right wing Tea Party movement, let's all remember that before the Tea Party, there was Tea Partay:

I'd completely forgotten about this video, but now the connection is so obvious!

Monday, February 22, 2010

The silver bullet proving there's no climate conspiracy

There's another hopelessly misinterpreted story making the rounds in the denialsphere. Apparently one of the lower projections of sea level rise has been retracted due to errors in its methodology. Most people understand that when you have a set of numbers and remove one that's below average, the average rises, so the only logical conclusion to draw from this retraction is that sea level rise will likely be greater than expected. Indeed, observed sea levels over the past decade have risen at the very upper end of IPCC projections:

But leave it to the denial PR machine to twist evidence that proves them wrong into the opposite conclusion. Joe Romm lists the insanity:

Betsy Newmark: Another global warming claim that has had to be retracted because of problems with the data.

Sammy Benoit: OOPS Never-mind! Climate scientists withdraw IPCC-related article claiming sea is rising.

JammieWearingFool: Another global warming myth comes crashing down. No warming since at least 1995, no melting glaciers and now no rising sea levels.

It goes on like that. To deniers, any time a scientist admits an error, it's proof that all of climate science is crashing down. And yet at the same time that deniers trumpet scientists' admissions of error, they also cling to the delusion that climate scientists are engaged in a vast conspiracy to cover up errors in their research. You can't have it both ways: either climate scientists are honest operators who make honest mistakes, or they're conspirators who never admit to the possibility that they are in error.

In this sense, far from being another brick in the conspiracy theory, this retraction is in fact the silver bullet which proves there’s no climate conspiracy at all. A couple scientists made a mistake. Other scientists spotted and pointed out the mistake. The original scientists accepted their errors and retracted the paper. No trying to cover up the mistake. No bruised egos or defensive, politician-style squirming. No intentional manipulation of data. Just an honest mistake, and an honest response. Sorry deniers, science still works.

Bottom line: Any time you read a denialist take on an error or retraction in climate science, keep three things in mind:
  1. The error is only one in a vast body of research. Retracting one study does not discredit the others.
  2. In this case, the retracted study was on the low-end of projections of sea level rise. When a below-average estimate gets eliminated from contention, the logical conclusion is not that sea levels will not rise.
  3. An admissions of error is not evidence of ineptitude or fraud. Quite the opposite: it proves that science works, and should give you more reason to trust the body of climate science as the product of honest research and rigorous review.

UPDATE (2/23/10 at 9:28am)

Right on the heels of this fallacious fracas over sea levels, new research by the US Geological Survey confirms that Antarctic ice shelves are melting faster than previously thought:

Ice shelves are retreating in the southern section of the Antarctic Peninsula due to climate change. This could result in glacier retreat and sea-level rise if warming continues, threatening coastal communities and low-lying islands worldwide.

Research by the U.S. Geological Survey is the first to document that every ice front in the southern part of the Antarctic Peninsula has been retreating overall from 1947 to 2009, with the most dramatic changes occurring since 1990. The USGS previously documented that the majority of ice fronts on the entire Peninsula have also retreated during the late 20th century and into the early 21st century.

The ice shelves are attached to the continent and already floating, holding in place the Antarctic ice sheet that covers about 98 percent of the Antarctic continent. As the ice shelves break off, it is easier for outlet glaciers and ice streams from the ice sheet to flow into the sea. The transition of that ice from land to the ocean is what raises sea level.

Retreat along the southern part of the Peninsula is of particular interest because that area has the Peninsula’s coolest temperatures, demonstrating that global warming is affecting the entire length of the Peninsula.

Yes, sea level rise will be on the high end of estimates.

h/t Financial Times Energy Source


Climate craps: Global warming and uncertainty (or what to say when you hear "the science is not settled!")

When global cooling is only in your backyard

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Study written by banks says bank regulation will hurt the economy

This is cute. A New York Times headline ominously reads, "Analysts Put Bank Reform Costs at $221 Billion." If you stop at the headline, that sounds pretty scary, and a good reason not to regulate banks. But reading the article itself, you quickly find out that the inmates are writing the report on the asylum:

If all the initiatives from regulators are implemented it would cut the average return on equity to 5.4 percent from 13.3 percent next year, hurt economic growth and raise costs for bank services, JPMorgan analysts warned.

“The cumulative impact of all the proposed regulation suggests that there is a real risk that we may move from a system that was under regulated to one that is over regulated and that that could cause a significant increase in lending costs and a negative impact on the economy,” Nick O’Donohue, head of research at JPMorgan, said in a research note.

Yes, JPMorgan is writing the report that says it should not be regulated. Can we go ahead and dismiss in advance any argument against bank reform that cites the $221 billion cost figure?

Especially since the New York Times also reports that more level-headed figures on Wall Street actually support bank reform, because they recognize that bank profits are less important than the public good:

Elders of Wall St. Favor More Regulation

Put aside for a moment the political pressure to regulate banking and trading. Ask the elder statesmen of these industries — giants like George Soros, Nicholas F. Brady, John S. Reed, William H. Donaldson and John C. Bogle — where they stand on regulation, and they will bowl you over.

They certainly don’t think of themselves as angry Main Streeters. They grew quite wealthy in finance, typically making their fortunes in the ’70s and ’80s when banks and securities firms were considerably more regulated. And now, parting company with the current chieftains, they want more rules, Louis Uchitelle writes in The New York Times.

While the younger generation, very visibly led by Lloyd C. Blankfein, chief executive of Goldman Sachs, lobbies Congress against such regulation, their spiritual elders support the reform proposed by Paul A. Volcker and, surprisingly, even more restrictions. “I am a believer that the system has gone badly awry and needs massive reform,” said Mr. Bogle, the 80-year-old founder and for many years chief executive of the Vanguard Group, the huge mutual fund company.

Mr. Volcker, 82, signed up the support of nearly a dozen peers whose average age is north of 70 and whose pedigrees on Wall Street and in banking are impeccable. But while Mr. Volcker focuses on a rule that would henceforth prohibit a bank that takes deposits from also buying and selling securities for its own account — risking losses in the process — most of his prominent supporters see that as a starting point in a broader return to regulation. And most do not hesitate to speak up in interviews with The New York Times.

Listen to Nicholas Brady, a Treasury secretary in the late 1980s and early 1990s and before that chairman of Dillon Read & Company, now extinct, but in its day a prestigious Wall Street house. “If you are a commercial bank,” he said, “and you wish the government to guarantee your deposits and bail you out if necessary, then you can’t be involved in speculative activity.”

Current bank bosses cite scary cost figures to justify "heads I win, tails you lose" policies. They want to be allowed to profit from extraordinary risks, and then be bailed out when those risks blow up, because that's the best way for them to maximize profits for their shareholders. But it's important to remember that those cost figures fall on the banks' balance sheets, not America's. And just because the banks and their shareholders lose doesn't mean that the economy as a whole does.


Banks don't work in free markets either: bank regulation and the role of government

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

When global cooling is only in your backyard

Global warming seems to be obvious just about everywhere - except where the most important decision-makers live. When November's climate data came out, I commented that Sarah Palin must be confused because she could see global cooling from her house. Similarly, record snowstorms in a few parts of the country are giving boorish politicians ample opportunity to grandstand over the end of global warming.

Nevermind that snow is not indicative of cold weather (here and here). To see that weather is not the same as climate, all you have to do is look past your own backyard:

Yes, that's right: while snow has buried Washington, DC, snow must be airlifted in to the Winter Olympics due to record high temperatures. I know, I know, it's hard to believe, but it's true: the weather you experience in your day-to-day life is not necessarily being experienced in other places around the world.

The point is not to say that Vancouver's predicament is proof of global warming - my point is simply that by ignoring an opposite extreme weather event that's happening simultaneously to the East Coast snowstorms, deniers reveal the narrowness of their worldview (or extent of their deception). By any objective measure of unusualness and human interest, "no snow at Winter Olympics due to high temperatures" is at least as newsworthy a headline as "more snow than usual falls on East Coast," so the fact that deniers highlight only the latter while ignoring the former is telling.

In any case, there's still the larger point: despite record snowfalls in a few small locations, the vast majority of the globe is still experiencing uninterrupted warming. In fact, January 2010 was the warmest on record, even according to the satellite dataset deniers trust most. Anyone who points to extreme snowfall in a few locations as proof that global warming has ended is either exceedingly stupid, or exceedingly lying.

(Source for the airlift photo:; h/t Joe Romm)


Global cooling at Sarah Palin's house

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Chillibuster: government takes a third snow day!

In this post, meteorologist Jeff Masters has apparently made official the unofficial names of the first two major snowstorms to hit the Mid-Atlantic this winter:
The top 10 snowstorms on record for Washington, D.C.:

1. 28.0", Jan 27-28, 1922
2. 20.5", Feb 11-13, 1899
3. 18.7", Feb 18-19, 1979
4. 17.8" Feb 5-6, 2010 (Snowmageddon)
5. 17.1", Jan 6-8, 1996
6. 16.7", Feb 15-18, 2003
7. 16.6", Feb 11-12, 1983
8. 16.4", Dec 19-20, 2009 (Snowpocalypse)
9. 14.4", Feb 15-16, 1958
10. 14.4", Feb 7, 1936

Now that the third major snowstorm has shut down the federal government for a third straight day, I think it's only fitting that we dub this storm "Chillibuster" in honor of Republicans' efforts to bring government to a grinding halt. Over the past several months they've fibbed, flexed, and filibustered against everything President Obama could possibly want to do to keep the country running. Now they're getting a little help from Mother Nature. It's almost as if Tom Coburn were controlling the weather.

(If you missed the Coburn reference, he was one of the "Class of '94" Republicans who led the 1995 government shutdown against Bill Clinton.)

As Ezra Klein notes:
As we've discussed before, the reason holds and filibusters and cloture calls and all the rest of it is so effective is because the Senate operates amidst a scarcity of time: There's a lot the majority wants to do and not enough time to do it. But this week, the snow is holding up business, giving Republicans a much-needed break from doing it themselves.

But even when the government is shut down, at least Starbucks isn't.



President Obama the Destructor

Climate craps: Global warming and uncertainty (or what to say when you hear "the science is not settled!")

First was Snowpocalypse. Then Snowmageddon. And now the third major snowstorm to hit DC this year... Snowtf? I'm not even kidding, people are snowboarding down Lee Highway outside my window.

So naturally, it's time for a global warming post. And NYT journalist Andy Revkin's provided a good starting point, dropping an illuminating bit of insight in a post Tuesday evening:
But after reviewing the chapter myself just now, I have to say that at least one passage — as far as I can tell — did not contain a single caveat and did not reflect the underlying body of evidence and analysis at the time (or even now):
Human-induced warming of the climate system is widespread. Anthropogenic warming of the climate system can be detected in temperature observations taken at the surface, in the troposphere and in the oceans.
I have yet to see anyone provide definitive evidence — with no error bars — that the fingerprint of human-generated greenhouse gases (or other emissions or actions) is unequivocal. The only thing described as “unequivocal” in the report was the warming, not the cause, unless I really haven’t been paying attention for the last two decades.

The language around "no error bars" is what I wanted to call out here, because it reflects a widely held belief that there's a bright line between certain and uncertain - and more importantly, that it's prudent to wait until we're "certain" about something before taking any action. Indeed, it's this notion - that there's such a thing as "certainty" in science - which enables deniers and delayers to get away with spouting alarmist nonsense like, "the science is not settled!" and "we shouldn't risk trillions of dollars in GDP until we know for certain humans are causing global warming!"

The problem is, as any true skeptic knows, there's no such thing as certainty in science - at least to the degree that a scientific study could ever hope to show "no error bars." Remember, even something as obvious as gravity still has scientific uncertainty associated with it; Einstein proved that gravity's nature was different than how Isaac Newton imagined it, and even Einstein's theories are not reconciled with Quantum Mechanics.

This is especially true for climate science, which is intimately concerned with predicting the future. The earth is not a controlled experiment that allows scientists to add CO2 and empirically test the precise amount of warming that results. There are simply too many variables not in scientists' control. To predict the consequences of carbon emissions, we must therefore rely on climate models built from our best understanding of how the climate system works. And yes, those models are uncertain, with error bars greater than zero: as with any prediction of future events, you inherently can never be certain you're right until those events have already occurred. Certainty can only exist with hindsight.

But here's the kicker: once we're in a position to make hindsight judgments on CO2, once we've reached the point that we can empirically assess CO2's impact on climate in the real world, it will be too late to avert the effects. This is because once CO2 gets into the atmosphere, it takes several decades for the temperature to catch up with the new energy imbalance (see here, here, and here for explanations).  So even if you stopped all CO2 emissions today, there would still be warming left "in the pipeline."  Moreover, it's likely that once warming crosses a certain threshold, certain feedbacks will take over that drive continued warming regardless of what happens with CO2. Choices we make today commit us to consequences tomorrow.

Thus, as in any facet of life, we must make decisions today in a world of uncertainty, based on our best predictions of what will happen tomorrow; past a certain point, debating levels of certainty is a fruitless recipe for dithering and delay.  A businessman who waits for certainty that an investment will pay off will lose the opportunity to a bolder entrepreneur.

Similarly, by the time we've received empirical confirmation of how much humans are contributing to global warming, it will be too late to do anything about it. We can't be certain whether a doubling of CO2 will ultimately result in 1.1 degrees C or 6.4 degrees C of warming, but we can make a pretty good guess, and the latter end of that spectrum would result in a nightmarish world out of "science fiction."  It seems prudent, therefore, to invest a small amount of GDP as insurance against the risk of catastrophe.  (Indeed, as The Economist points out in making this argument, the investment required to curb global warming is less than the world spends on insurance every year). 73% of economists and the world's biggest re-insurance company agree with me.

The bottom line: Just because we are not certain whether or not bad events will happen in the future does not mean we should not take action to hedge against those risks. By definition, if your condition for acting on greenhouse gases is 100% certainty in the science, then we can never act in time to make an impact. If you want to gamble our future by continuing to emit greenhouse gases, the question becomes, do you feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?

Just don't expect the rest of us to play at your climate craps table.

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Obama speaks on global warming: what you need to know to be certain global warming is real

Friday, February 5, 2010


Here's the view from my office window, looking out over the Key Bridge in Washington, DC about 5:00 Friday - just hours into the great Snowpocalypse of 2010.

It also snowed in DC, much less apocalyptically, just three days ago. With no wind blowing, the snow coated the tree branches in white. It was really quite beautiful.



With all this snow, I have no doubt that climate change deniers will be crowing that global warming is over.  Obviously if it snows in the middle of winter, global warming is a hoax.

Of course it's worth noting that while snow in summer would certainly be cause for concern, snow in the middle of winter is nothing unusual. Indeed, it is almost EXACTLY the middle of winter. Today, February 5, is 45 days after December 21, and 43 days before March 21.

I may be slightly off on the exact start dates for spring and winter, but you get the picture. Global warming does not mean that we will never see snow again, and snow in the middle of winter is certainly no reason to start fueling your furnace with dirty coal.

And this doesn't even mention the fact that we just experienced the warmest January on record according to the satellite dataset global warming deniers love to cite most.


Snowed in

61 hours at Dulles Airport (or how I started my Christmas vacation)

Global cooling at Sarah Palin's House

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Calvin & Hobbes on how to solve the climate crisis

I'm with Calvin's dad on this one:


President Obama the Destructor

If you haven’t seen President Obama’s address to the House Republican retreat in Baltimore last Friday, stop what you’re doing and watch it now. Then, email the Youtube videos or this post to everyone you know. It’s long—-a 20 minute speech and an hour long Q&A—-but it will be the best-spent hour and 20 minutes of picture-and-sound watching you’ll have in a long time. Immensely entertaining and eye-opening.

I don’t think the House Republicans will be inviting the President back anytime soon. Seen side by side in the same room, with the President’s willingness to engage on substance pitted against the stale Republican talking points, the President was revealed as a man among boys. It was like Michael Jordan playing basketball against a court full of middle school kids. Bad ones.

You can read the transcript here.

GOP leaders were no doubt expecting a chance to retell sob stories of the President's supposed rejection of their entreaties to him, and feign willingness to work with him in a bipartisan way. Instead, the retreat turned into a stage for the President to list all the Republican ideas he has already embraced, and shine the light back on the GOP's own refusal to cooperate. The President's central point was that he is, and always has been, open to good ideas from the other side - as long as they work (or can be expected to work based on analysis by independent experts).

House Republicans are doing their best at damage control, trying to spin their destruction as a victory. "We've been locked out in the cold for the past year," they moan. "Finally the President is showing he's willing to listen to us. Finally he admits we have ideas."

And incredibly, the mainstream media seems to have accepted this narrative (or at least had before Obama's performance Friday). The media tells the tale that President Obama moved too far left, ignoring Republicans' pleas to contribute, and has now been forced to move back to the center by the Boston Massacre of 2010. Writing in Forbes, Paul Howard of the Manhattan Institute advises:

Obama campaigned as a centrist who would draw on the best ideas of both parties, but he has governed by deferring to the liberal wing of his party and locking Republicans out of Democrats' backroom health care deals…

As a sign of his (new) good faith, the president should invite the Congressional leadership of the Republican Party to the White House, listen to their concerns and find ways to hash out policy compromises that will result in truly bipartisan health care reform.

Even the ordinarily astute Economist seems suckered, writing that "After the Democrats’ stunning loss, Barack Obama has no choice but to move back to the centre."

Am I missing something? Has the President been pursuing a leftist agenda and ignoring Republicans for the past year, only to reach out to them for the first time last Friday? In that address, the President pointed out that his health care bill is quite centrist, and claimed he's been keeping an open door all year, but is that anything more than politics?

The notion that the President has kept Republicans locked out all year struck me as absurd, but as a consultant, I understand the possibility that my own partisan feelings are clouding my thinking.

So I decided to find out. I did a news search in the database Factiva over the dates 01/20/2009 (the inauguration) to 10/01/2009 (roughly three weeks after the President’s health care address), using the unsophisticated search terms: “Obama,” “reach out,” and “Republican." There were 2,582 hits. Here was the first hit, and it's quite telling:

Title: Republican Lawmakers To Obama: Give Us A (Tax) Break

Source: CongressDaily/P.M., 27 January 2009, 533 words, (English)

Text: President Obama met with Republican lawmakers today to try to win support for the $825 billion economic stimulus plan, but even before he arrived, GOP House leaders urged members to oppose the package when it comes to a vote Wednesday...

The idea that the Obama administration has been "unilaterally and universally rejecting all Republican proposals" sounds preposterous given that just seven days into his presidency, those same House Republicans were busy rejecting the President's stimulus while he was on his way to meet with them.

Here's another one. On the day after President Obama's inauguration, the New York Times wrote:

President-elect Barack Obama is set to visit a gathering of House Republicans. The incoming White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is in running cellphone contact with his former Congressional adversaries. Some Republicans say they hear more from the Obama team than they ever did from the Bush administration.

As Mr. Obama prepares to move into the White House, he and his top advisers are making a visible effort to engage Congressional Republicans, hoping to show they are serious about Mr. Obama's commitment to bipartisanship and to try to enact an economic recovery measure with solid support from both sides in the crucial early going.

The outreach has gone beyond the phone calls that Mr. Obama, Mr. Emanuel and others routinely make, though the influence of that personal contact should not be underestimated. More substantively, though, the House Republican leadership has accepted Mr. Obama's invitation to put together its own ideas for economic recovery and said it will initially offer them as a part of the economic recovery package, not as an alternative as has been the usual practice.


Mr. Emanuel said ideas from House Republicans on the economic recovery package will get serious consideration. "There is not just one way to create jobs," he said.

He and Lawrence H. Summers, Mr. Obama's economic adviser, met privately with Senate Republicans on Wednesday afternoon before Thursday's vote on freeing the remaining $350 billion in bailout money. Even Republicans who were not persuaded by the consultation said they were impressed by the candor of the two men.

"I think they have been pretty impressive," said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader. "They are saying all the right things, and I think they did themselves some good in the briefing."
(Source: Hulse, Carl. "Obama Team Makes Early Efforts to Show Willingness to Reach Out to Republicans." New York Times, 1/20/2009. Found on Factiva)

In other words, not only had President Obama met with Republicans from day one, Republicans had also agreed to submit their ideas with the understanding that they would be incorporated into the broader package, not as the sort of all-or-nothing alternative proposals they've been offering since.

On health care, the story is equally telling. I went back and edited the search terms to include "health care," and found some interesting stories from the first nine months of the administration.

For example, on July 27, 2009, Adam Nagourney wrote in the International Herald Tribune:

The decision by Senate Democratic leaders last week to devote more time to winning Republican support for a health care overhaul has allowed President Barack Obama to keep alive the possibility of bipartisanship on one of the most contentious issues on his agenda.

Why did hopes for bipartisanship subsequently fail? Was it because President Obama and Democrats had locked Republicans out and ignored their ideas? To the contrary: two months later, Kaiser Health news (of the non-partisan not-for-profit Kaiser Family Foundation) found that as the final Senate bill was unveiled, "Republicans are denouncing the Democrats' latest health care proposal, even though some Republican ideas are embedded in the plan." The article explains that the Senate health reform bill contains several "Republican-inspired" provisions, including:
  • Cross-state sales of insurance to individuals and small businesses: The Baucus bill would allow two or more states to form "compacts" that would allow individuals to buy policies from insurers in the other states. The insurers would be subject only to the laws and regulations of the states in which the policies were written. In a separate measure, insurers could create national policies with uniform, federally set benefits that could be sold in any states in which the companies are licensed. The policies would be exempt from state benefit rules.
  • Medical malpractice: The legislation says Congress should consider creating state demonstration programs to evaluate alternatives to the current litigation system. Republicans had called for creating special malpractice courts and limits on damage awards.
  • High-risk pool for people with pre-existing medical conditions: Within a year of the enactment of the legislation, a high-risk pool would be set up for people with pre-existing conditions. The pool would continue until 2015, when the new state insurance exchanges would be up and running and insurers would be required to sell policies to all who apply, regardless of their medical conditions.
  • Prevention and wellness incentives: Medicare beneficiaries would become eligible for annual "wellness visits" with their doctors, paid for by the government program. They no longer would have to pay out of their pockets for certain tests and treatments, such as flu vaccinations or diabetes screening. Financial incentives also would be offered to beneficiaries who completed certain "healthy lifestyle" programs targeting risk factors such as high cholesterol, diabetes or smoking. This isn't just from the Republicans; Democrats embrace the idea as well.
(Source: Pianin, Eric and Julie Appleby. "Republican attacks on Baucus health plan ignore its GOP ideas." Kaiser Health News, McClatchy Washington Bureau, 9/17/2009, found on Factiva)

So when you hear someone complain that President Obama has refused to consider Republican ideas like tort reform and allowing the purchase of insurance across state lines, you can tell them that THEY'RE IN THE BILL.

Of course, the fact that these Republican-inspired provisions are in the Democratic health care bills will not stop Republicans from saying they are not. And it certainly won't stop them from voting against the bill. After all, all 40 Senate Republicans just voted "no" to pay-as-you-go legislation. They filibustered defense appropriations 37-3. These are Republican bread-and-butter issues - deficits and defense - and yet the GOP is voting against them. As Steve Benen points out, "GOP lawmakers are so reflexive in saying 'no' to everything, they end up opposing ideas they support, and at that point, reason has no meaning."


State of the Union Smackdown, PLUS Republicans' hilarious plan for health care reform

The simplest explanation of health care reform you will ever read

Yes, government creates jobs