What Would Teddy Do?

The House could pass the Senate bill and get health insurance to 30 million people. What would Teddy do? Do we really need to ask?

Say you are the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and a reporter asks you whether you would support passing the Senate’s version of health care reform, which, while hardly perfect, would provide insurance to 30 million Americans who don’t currently have it.

You could say something inane like Raul Grijalva did:

Grijalva said, why not send the Senate individual bills that would, among other things, nix the “Cadillac” tax or close the donut hole, pressuring the Senate to deal with each provision separately?

“If the Senate chooses not to close the donut hole, that’s their damn problem,” Grijalva said. “They’ve had it too easy. One vote controls everything. Collectively, we’re tired of that.”

Yes– why not send the Senate individual bills?  They’re so good at following up and moving expeditiously!  Especially when it’s a progressive priority!

Or you could think about it this way: what would Teddy do?

Let’s see: you have a chance to pass a bill coming awfully close to universal health coverage for the first time in 70 years, or you could take out your (justified) frustrations on all those people who don’t have health insurance, on all the seniors facing the donut hole, on all the victims of rescission and discrimination against pre-existing conditions.  What would Teddy do?

Does anyone have to answer that one?

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

14 thoughts on “What Would Teddy Do?”

  1. Professor: You profess your belief that words have meaning, yet you repeatedly refer to the health care legislation or its proponents as "progressive." In what sense of the word? The legislation you proclaim "progressive," will effect the near completion of the federal government's take-over of the health care system, which is neither new nor progressive; the legistlation is yet another expression of the religious left("I am my brother's keeper") and their tribal mentality and a set-back for the extended order on which modern society is based. Be true to your professed belief, use the word that applies-"retrogressive."

  2. Yeah, why not send the Senate small bills? The fact that they can't pass a huge monstrosity of a bill doesn't imply that incremental reforms can't pass.

  3. Let's see, each bill requires 3 cloture motions (to introduce the bill, to cut off debate on the bill, to cut off debate on moving to a final vote) each requiring 30 hours. Let's break it into 6 bills (donut hole, Cadillac tax, rescission, community rating, subsidies, Medicaid expansion). That's 540 hours, or about 5 weeks of 24 hour sessions, just to deal with the procedural hurdles involved in the filibuster. Spend a minimum of 2 more months on health care- sounds like a great plan.

  4. the near completion of the federal government’s take-over of the health care system,

    Huh? A plan run by private insurance companies according to federal rules is a "take-over?" Talk about ignoring the meaning of words.

  5. Of those 30 million Americans, something like 98% don't have insurance because they can't afford it. Reducing the costs of insurance such that most of them still can't afford it if they actually need it (i.e. having health problems) isn't much of a fix. Especially when they are then forced to spend, at minimum, something like 10% of their income on health insurance or pay a much smaller fine. These people aren't stupid, they will pay the fine and still not have insurance. Also, increased tax revenues from rising salaries offsetting reduced benefits? Who ever said that was true hasn't been paying attention the last 20-30 years. The best thing this bill had was the end to recission and yes, I think you can pass that handily even now.

  6. "which, while hardly perfect, would provide insurance to 30 million Americans who don’t currently have it."

    I would say NO_ONE GIVES A DAMN ABOUT INSURANCE. People want HEALTHCARE. Insurance is a means to that end, not an end in itself. Every indication is that, as handled in the US, it's an insanely expensive, insanely inefficient means to that end which doesn't even work many many times.

    So why exactly do we care about how many people now get insurances? Why is that the goal, rather than the goal being ALL Americans now have assured HEALTHCARE?

  7. Assured heathcare that's also assured not to bankrupt them. This bill is as much about preventing financial catastrophe as a result of illness as it is about preventing death from lack of health care.

  8. Mark, the Senate bill sets the yearly out-of-pocket plus premiums maximum for 133% FPL at 23% of that income. That assures you that a family at that income level will not be bankrupted? If you got sick tomorrow, could you afford 23% of your income?

  9. Do people really not know there are subsidies in the bill? Complaining that the out of pocket limits in the bill are too high? There are no limits now, how is at least setting them worse? The GOP will filibuster anything it can and the Senate isn't passing anything else.

    It's the Senate bill or nothing. No reconciliation. No House bill. No do over. Pass the Senate bill and be done with it.

  10. Bernard:

    Under the proposed health care legislation,

    1. The federal government would have required substantially all individuals to purchase health insurance and would have dictated through taxes the constituent elements of the insurance policy that could be purchased.

    2. Risk and pricing based on risk, which are at the heart of the insurance product, would be abandoned as insurers are forced to provide unlimited (in duration and amount) coverage to everyone no matter the risk. Is that what you call a "private insurance company?"In a piece by Professor Epstein, he discussed how the insurers would have faired far worse than the public utilities, who are least guaranteed a fixed rate of return.

    3. Currently the Federal government spends from 50 to 60 percent of every health care dollar. (My guess is that the percentage would have been considerably higher under the proposed legislation. As Charles Krauthammer said, only a child could believe that 30 million new insureds are added and health care costs go down). This buying power allows the Federal government to control prices paid for a number of medical goods and services. I have no doubt that the federal government's pricing for flu vaccines is what caused all but one of the U.S. flu vaccine makers to abandon that business and was responsible for the shortages in I believe 2002 and the most recent one in 2009.

    So yes, I do believe that the government take-over of medicine which began with Medicare and has steadily increased over the years, would have been much closer to completion had the proposed health care legislation passed, especially if it contained a public option. And the day it happened would not have been a yom tov for anyone.

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