Health care: Better than nothing?

The health care reform effort at the Capitol is raising an old dilemma for some politicians: Is a bill always “better than nothing”?

North Dakota Nebraska Democrat Sen. Ben Nelson is the latest facing the issue, and he’s decided it’s not.

“Faced with a decision about whether or not to move a bill that is bad, I won’t vote to move it,” Nelson told ABC News.

Nelson is opposed to a public option.

Minnesota politicians may be faced with the same dilemma, only this one is over a tax on the medical device industry that’s in the House bill, according to MPR’s Elizabeth Stawicki.

  • John P.

    It seems like every significant bill is a hodge-podge of things included or excluded to satisfy enough legislators to get the thing passed, and at the same time not turn too many against it. There is no reason the health care bill would be different.

  • bsimon

    By my reading, Senator Nelson is choosing to join a filibuster whereby a minorty keeps the Senate from voting on a bill, thus mooting the concept of ‘majority rules.’ In other words “40 colleagues and I think its bad, therefore we won’t allow a vote, where the bill might pass with 51 votes.”

    Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post touches on this point in today’s column.

  • justacoolcat

    I like the theory, but why now and why with healthcare. This seems like posturing.

    I’ve always wished that our representatives would have to take the hippocratic oath. Sure nothing would get done, but most of the time I feel like the things lawmakers do achieve are a direct exercise in the Law of Uninteded Consequences for the worse.

  • Mike R

    I think the most important point that T.R. Reid makes in his book “The Healing of America” is that once a country decides that it wants to provide universal health coverage, designing a system to do that is not really that difficult. There are several proven models throughout the world, including some that have been in place for many decades.

    The last several months has been a real life demonstration that Reid is right. Not enough Americans actually think that universal health coverage is desirable (and no national leader has stepped up to convince them), so the inevitable results are half-measures and a Frankenstein’s monster of a bill. We simply do not have the political will as a nation to do it.

  • Michele

    @Mike

    The problem remains that the health care system, as it currently operates, is bankrupting us. This isn’t hard to understand, if you look at the facts. It simply doesn’t work and it costs way too much. It is a sad testimony to our (Americans) inability to concentrate long enough to see the facts of the situation and the consequences of inaction.

    Failure should not be an option. The stakes are way too high.

  • GregS

    “The problem remains that the health care system, as it currently operates, is bankrupting us

    So what is in this bill to address the “bankruptcy” problem?

    I notice that Ms. Pelosi included language in the bill to PREVENT states from CONTROLLING litigation costs.

    So how exactly does that lower the cost of health care?

    I will tell you what would be nice…. to limit trial lawyers and plaintiffs to only compensatory damages. For punitive damages, the would collect 100% and use that money to reimburse the public.

    Does anyone think that would happen with hopeless corrupt Congress led by a hopelessly corrupt party?

  • Michele

    People always grasp at medical malpractice as the reason health care is so expensive. It a small part of the problem. TX legistated medical malpractice reform in 2003 but the cost of health care in TX has continued to raise (it is on of the most expensive states) while the quality of care Texans enjoy has decreased.

    The overall cost problem is a result of more medical procedures and the primary factor in the number of procedures is reimbursement. Period.

  • Michele

    People always grasp at medical malpractice as the reason health care is so expensive. But it’s only a small part of the problem. TX legislated medical malpractice reform in 2003 but the cost of health care in TX has continued to rise (it’s one of the most expensive states for health care) while the quality of care Texans enjoy has decreased.

    The overall cost problem is a result of more medical procedures and the primary factor driving the number of procedures is reimbursement. Period.

  • Benny

    Health care costs must be controlled. A public option is the only way to assure all of us are covered. Litigation is responsible for less than 2 percent of actual health care costs, and defensive medicine 5 to 9 percent. The fact that MD’s and insurance set arbitrary prices in a for profit system is responsible for a bloated health care economy. If we actually had the best outcomes, it might be worth some of the costs, but we have such abysmal results considering we spend up to 17.6% of the GDP on health care. Any change is a move in the right (or left) direction, especially if a public option is available. The majority of people are ready for health care reform in this country. If we get some change, it does not mean we cannot tweak it as time goes on to get as good of results as they do in France, Germany, Japan, Canada, England….. but to continue to sit idly by is no longer an option.

  • Elizabeth T

    I’d maybe be more sympathetic, if Congress complained like this over say … the Farm Bill … or renewing the PATRIOT Act .. or any of the other monster-sized bills that go through without this much breast-beating and posturing.

    Seriously, compare the money distribution and what we get from the Farm Bill to this. How much gov’t money is appropriate for it … & then compare that to Health Care reform. The Ag committees & farm appropriations are Sacred Cows. One can’t even discuss cutting them. I wish Health Care could be equally a sacred cow.

    Congress passes bills all the time, which they don’t read completely and don’t understand. Why not this, too?

    Don’t contradict me too much on that last point – go sit through a Minn. senate committee hearing on anything controversial – been there, seen it in person, had my eyes opened pretty wide.

  • GregS

    ” Litigation is responsible for less than 2 percent of actual health care costs, and defensive medicine 5 to 9 percent.”

    Thanks, that puts everything in perspective.

    Can I assume this new perspective will be applied to the constant caterwauling about “excessive executive pay” in the healthcare industry?

    Why not? Executive pay is a lot less in the scheme of things than tort costs.

    Sorry, but I am missing the logic here.

    Are you suggesting that the way to cut healthcare costs is to tick through the major healthcare expenses and say…

    Let’s increase the cost of that, because it’s only a few percent.

    And let’s increase the cost of that too, because it’s only a few percent

    And oh yeah, let’s increase the cost of that one too, because it’s only a few percent.

    The Pelosi bill does just that, by adding page after page after page, for 2,000 pages, of “Let’s open the door for yet another cost disaster”

  • GregS

    “Seriously, compare the money distribution and what we get from the Farm Bill to this. How much gov’t money is appropriate for it “

    Q: What is the largest line item in The Department of Agriculture’s budget?

    A: Food and Nutritional Services. In other words – ‘food stamps’ and school lunches.

    Q: What is the next largest line item in The Department of Agriculture’s budget?

    A: Forest Service

    Q: What is the next largest line item after that in The Department of Agriculture’s budget?

    A: Commodities and International. The biggest expense here is sending subsidized commodities to poor under-developed countries.

    So should we cut food stamps and lunches? Or the Forest Service, or food to Africa?

    That is the trouble with big government programs…… it is impossible to cut anything, because each element has a constituency.

    We need to think about how this principle applies to healthcare.

  • JackU

    bsimon said:

    By my reading, Senator Nelson is choosing to join a filibuster whereby a minorty keeps the Senate from voting on a bill, thus mooting the concept of ‘majority rules.’ In other words “40 colleagues and I think its bad, therefore we won’t allow a vote, where the bill might pass with 51 votes.”

    Which is of course the way the system was designed to work.