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Ornaments on Senate healthcare Christmas tree -- boon to pharmaceutical, insurance companies?

While many Americans were sleeping, at 1:18 this morning, the Senate cleared President Obama's healthcare bill over a procedural hurdle, presaging a Christmas Eve vote. Or, more accurately, Senate Democrats did.

On a strict 60-40 vote, Democrats, joined by Independents Vermont's Bernard Sanders and Connecticut's Joe Lieberman, agreed to send the gift-laden Christmas tree toward passage. Given the need to reconcile with the House version, there's a lot of drama still ahead. And, no doubt, a lot of Americans likely will benefit, including the estimated 30 million Americans not now covered.

Still, early reaction on Wall Street to the healthcare bill -- United Health Group, Aetna and Humana all experienced big stock jumps Friday -- suggests the insurance industry is pleased. Which is not surprising, given the amount of money it invested in defeating certain provisions, like the trigger.

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According to a landmark study by the Tribune and the Center for Responsive Politics, healthcare lobbyists spent $635 million in the last two years, much of it on a revolving door of congressional aides who came back to Capitol Hill to carry the day. In fact, the study found that at least 166 former aides from the nine congressional leadership offices and five committees involved in shaping health overhaul legislation -- along with at least 13 former lawmakers -- registered to represent at least 338 healthcare clients since the beginning of last year.

Industry goodies aren't the only ornaments on the tree. Republicans complained about all the sugar plums attached to the bill -- "the Louisiana Purchase," which secured Democrat Mary Landrieu's vote with an extra $300 billion in Medicaid funds and exemption from Medicaid expansion for Nebraska in exchange for Democrat Ben Nelson's help in crafting anti-abortion language that passed muster with the Democratic Senate.

As the New York Times' Katharine Seelye noted, on Capitol Hill, decorating the Christmas tree is always in season.

-- Johanna Neuman

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Comments () | Archives (4)

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This 'Health Care' (sic) bill reminds me of the illogic of the Vietnam war:

"It became necessary to destroy the bill in order to save it"

And, in fact, the reason that this illogic applied then in the Vietnam War "abroad", and now in the corporatist oppression of health care "at home" is precisely the same reason ---- that a ruling-elite corporate/financial/militarist EMPIRE makes all decisions, and not the people of America.

As Hannah Arendt presciently warned from her direct experience with empires:

"Empire abroad (always) entails tyranny at home".

Alan MacDonald
Sanford, Maine

Let’s use the Health Care bill as an Obama “teaching moment” --- not him ‘teaching us’ but us ‘teaching him’!

This 'Health Care' (sic) bill reminds me of the illogic of the Vietnam War:

"It became necessary to destroy the bill in order to save it"

And, in fact, the reason that this illogic applied then in the Vietnam War "abroad", and now in the corporatist oppression of health care "at home" is precisely the same reason --- that a ruling-elite corporate/financial/militarist EMPIRE makes all decisions, and not the people of America.

As Hannah Arendt presciently warned from her direct experience with empires:

"Empire abroad (always) entails tyranny at home".

Let’s teach Obama a critical lesson that he needs to understand. The famous old phrase was, “What goes around, comes around”. But today, “What goes around, comes home to roost” as his own minister tried to teach him.

Let’s tell Obama:

“If you are only going to pose as another front-man for the ruling-elite Global corporate/financial/militarist EMPIRE that controls our country --- by hiding behind the façade of its two-party ‘Vichy’ sham of democracy --- then that’s not the ‘hope’ and ‘change’ that we voted for.

We’ve been fed that old “Okie Doke” (as you called it) since the Vietnam War, for forty years!

Now if you really believe that times they are a changing, and that you don’t need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowin, and that ‘Yes we can’ confront Empire, then why don’t you give us a chance, and help lead us in a second American Revolution for democracy against Empire --- cause if you’re not going to lead, then at least ‘get out of the way’.”

Alan MacDonald
Sanford, Maine

The passage of the healthcare bill now makes the score...
Poor and Needy-1
Cold-hearted Corporate backing Republicans-0

If president obama's healthcare bill pass I will not have to worry about my health anymore. I will tell all my relatives and friends to find their way to america because they will not be refused good doctors and healthcare. If you don't have money to pay for it, the rich and working people will pay the cost. Thank you mr. obama.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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