Friday 19 March 2010


President Obama has appealed to Congress pass his historic healthcare bill upon which some believe his presidency will be judged.

But with only 28% of Americans believing the bill will help them personally, the Republican minority leader in the House of Representatives, John Boehner, has indicated that there is no way that this is going through. He told reporters: “If anyone thinks the American people are going to forgive this vote, just watch.”

He is referring to the November mid-terms which Mr Boehner hopes to turn into a referendum on healthcare, and there are already moves afoot in six states to repeal the law should Mr Obama ever sign it into law. I’m not sure how that can happen if it is Federal law... but maybe Danny will explain.

The Democrats need 216 votes in the lower House to pass a bill already approved by the Senate. Danny tells me that Nancy Pelosi and the whips are twisting arms, making deals, and counting votes.

He wrote me: “A very liberal Congressman from Ohio, Dennis Kucinich, voted against the bill that passed the House last year (the bill was not liberal enough he thought.) Last week, he prominently announced that he would vote NO on the bill this week. But his House District in Ohio was the one that Obama visited last week for a health bill political rally. So Dennis was invited to fly with the president on Air Force One to and from Ohio. This morning, Kucinich held a news conference announcing that he would vote FOR the bill when it comes up this week. Such is (sometimes) the persuasive power of the presidency and a ride on Air Force One.

“So Obama is certainly in the Oval Office this week making phone calls to congressmen.....persuading, cajoling, and threatening.

“Everyone says that Nancy Pelosi still doesn't have the required 216 votes yet, and that passage is not yet a sure thing. But all the chips are on the table, with Obama's early presidency in the balance.

“Nancy may always have a few votes in her pocket.....that is, the votes of Congressmen from difficult districts who will vote "for" the bill ONLY if their vote is absolutely necessary for passage. So, they hold back as the electronic voting progresses. If the vote totals are showing that their vote will be needed for passage, only then will the Whip tell them that they must vote YEA. High drama in the House this week for sure.”

As ever, I’m deeply appreciative to Danny for keeping me abreast of what’s going on.

Healthcare is a hard subject. There is no doubt that the public system that exists in Scotland, and throughout the UK in a pretty similar way, is far from perfect. There are better models. The French system is reckoned to be amongst the best in the world, and when I have had cause to use it, I have found it to be superb.

Whatever the system they chose, it must surely be better than the current situation where the working poor have no cover at all, and many of the moderately paid worry that an unknown pre-existing condition may invalidate their policy, or an illness outside the range of their policy will mean bankruptcy.

That’s hardly any way for the world’s richest nation to treat its people.

Update: 20.20 Sunday:

Danny just updated me: At 4:00 PM Washington time, Congressman Stupak announced agreement with the White House over the wording of the executive order about abortion language. He (and the rest of his group) will now be voting FOR the bill. This means that if nothing else goes wrong President Obama will have his bill. Hooray!




  1. It costs money, that means it has to come from taxes, this means taxes will have to rise as federal budgets cover the cost for those new into the system.
    People have a natural aversion to government rooting around in their pockets for money.
    The bill will fail because of this. Remember this isn't free, the NHS is only free at point of contact, otherwise you pay into it through taxation and if you look at its cost it can make you blanche. If I took the amount I pay in taxation and NI that goes to the NHS, I could afford a damned good private health insurance for all my family.
    Government is not necessarily the best way to finance health.

  2. Some months back I was at the point of putting my name down to be sent into space n a long journey to the edge of the Solar System. I say, putting my name down for that was what it was, they were to load peoples names on a hard disk in a spacecraft. You inscribe and then they sent you a PDF file with your name having gone to the edge of the SS.

    I changed my mind an put my ex-wife's name on it and then sent it to her. She in turn threatened me with a Court Action for harassment. She never had any sense of humour the witch.

    I said that I would try and get her off the list, this is honestly true, and she was happy until until I said she could go on her broomstick. Our grown up girls, who could see the funny side were getting their ears burned over this.

    So I had to try a new tactic. I put all our names down so we could travel together.

    She was happy with that or at least she shut the fuck up.

    This was with NASA but quite soon afterwards I was curious to receive an e-mail from President Barak Obama himself asking me donate money and support to get his healthcare bill passed.

    I have had them now from himslf, Joe Biden and now David Plouff .

    It is called The Final March for Reform

    and here is one here

    Dear Bugger Panda

    This is it: After months of hard work, the final vote on health reform in the House of Representatives is expected Sunday. It's a chance to make history and finally give Americans control over their own health care -- but it's shaping up to be incredibly close, and every member of Congress will play a critical role.

    So we're aiming for as many calls to Congress as possible from your area before offices close this evening. Whether you've called your representative before or haven't yet spoken out on health reform, it's now time to raise your voice.

    As an active constituent, your voice has particular weight with your representative -- so all those who share our commitment to reform are depending on you to speak up.

    Click here to look up your representative's phone number and make a call.

    This is it: Call Your Representative

    After a century of false starts and a year of grueling negotiations, we may be just hours away from real health insurance reform in America.

    But if we fail, our next chance may not come for a generation.

    You make the call.

    Call your representative right away. Folks across the country will be calling, so if you get a busy signal, please try again. Look up your representative's phone number here:

    Let's win this thing,

    David Plouffe

    At least he got my name right and I like that slogan

    The Final March for Reform

    I think we should have one for ourselves on Westminster.

    The March would be a slow one of MPs and involve tumbrils drawn by taxpayers and guillotines. All would be televised and winners for a National Lottery Draw would able to have ring side seats.


    Bugger (the Panda)

  3. Here is one from the man himse
    Bugger --

    I just finished delivering my first State of the Union, and I wanted to send you a quick note.

    We face big and difficult challenges. Change on the scale we seek does not come easily. But I will never accept second place for the United States of America.

    That is why I called for a robust jobs bill without delay. It's why I proposed a small businesses tax credit, new investments in infrastructure, and pushed for climate legislation to create a clean energy economy.

    It's why we're taking on big banks, reforming Wall Street, revitalizing our education system, increasing transparency -- and finishing the job on health insurance reform.

    It's why I need your help -- because I am determined to fight to defend the middle class, and special interest lobbyists will go all out to fight us.

    Help me show that the American people are ready to join this fight for the middle class -- add your name to a letter to Congress today:

    We have finished a difficult year. We have come through a difficult decade. But we don't quit. I don't quit.

    Let's seize this moment -- to start anew, to carry the dream forward, and to strengthen our union once more.

    President Barack Obama


  4. I really hope that President Obama gets his bill passed I so want his presidency to be a success and don't want him to be another John Adams.

    Of course politics in the US is so difficult as Repulicans from Pensalvania have more in common with Alabama Democrats and vice versa so good luck to Nacy keeping all those balls in the air.

  5. On the face of it most of us can't see what is wrong with Obama's bill unless you live in the US. From this side of the pond I hope the bill is a success but at the other side many Americans who already pay health care insurance might be very worried that costs will go up and standards fall. American health care is far superior to our NHS but the NHS is free to all.

    Americans have a choice of choosing between a health care system that every US citizen can access but with the threat of falling standards or the status quo which benefits the privileged and punishes the poor. Obama has a real fight and his administration is cracking under this.

  6. QM: I understand that the NHS is not free of course. But I know a guy in America (well Texas, and that's nearly America) who works for a small computer company, and they can't afford to pay his healthcare, so it's not part of the package. He's not old, so he can't get Medicare, and he's not jobless so he can't get Medicaid... so he's got no insurance.

    He is around 28 or 29 so he's not too worried, but, he admits that as he gets older this will be a problem. His worry right now is that his teeth are starting to deteriorate.

    You might be able to get cover private QM, and of course, here private cover is relatively inexpensive, but in America it is.

    I wonder what level of private care we could afford; what would it cover; what would happen if suddenly one of the family members contracted an ongoing chronic problem? How would that afect the payments.

    Justin Webb was the BBC's man in Washington for a few years. His young son became diabetic and his insurance, paid for by the BBC, became prohibitive. Sometimes, in later life Americans have to sell their houses to pay for medical care, if the illness has been severe...with after care and the possibility of recurrence, because their level of cover was too low.

    Maybe Danny, or some other America reader who knows more about it than me will correct me if I'm wrong, but at present, as I understand it, the only people who are really secure in their knowledge that they will get the best are the super-rich, film stars, singers, sports stars and big businessmen, and of course politicians, who have a fabulous system, paid for by government.

    I know that our system is not perfect by a long way, and I’m sure you won’t mind me saying it is even less perfect in England than in Scotland. There are drugs we simply can’t get because the NHS can’t afford them; there are procedures that we can’t have done, and there are waiting times due to shortages of staff and equipment. Perhaps we should look at the French system and see what we can learn.... But you’re right. It costs money.

    There is however, nothing more important than health. It is surely a scandal that, in the world’s richest country there are tens of millions of people who have no cover, and tens of millions more who have poor cover.

  7. Bugger....

    I think you should auction all these emails that you got from all those top people, and then you could probably sponsor a few people for health care off the proceedings.

    Oh and sending your ex-wife to the edge of the universe....? not a bad idea. Saves on health costs for her too!

  8. I think Nancy is a pretty smart cookie Munguin. Danny once said to me that getting the Democrats together to work as a group is like herding cats.... I suspect that she's taken a night class in the subject.

    I hope it works too. I have friends in need of it.... and I want Obama to succeed.

    The current system seems to me to work on greed. People's health is too important for that.

    Being an insurance assessor must be a heartbreaking job... or one for a real hard nosed person:

    "Sorry, I know you have brain cancer, but we can't pay out for your operation because you neglected to tell us on the form that you once fell off your bike and banged your head 55 years ago when you were three. This constitutes a pre existing condition. Have a good death now....."

  9. Yes Allan, what you say is true.

    Of course, you can always choose to pay here if the long waiting lists, poor standards of hygiene and bad nursing are too much for you to bear, and you have enough money.

    I had an elderly uncle who did just that. He was in great pain and the waiting time for an operation was long. He was old, and the waiting time constituted a large percentage of what he could reasonably expect to be his remaining life; whilst he wasn’t rich, he certainly wasn’t poor.

    So he paid for the operation, and had another 6 years of mobile life.

    Of course that means that he paid for the health service and his private care too. Americans could do that. It is difficult. I have a Swiss friend who says that their system is (and you’d expect this) brilliant. I must try to find out more.

  10. Is it me or are Presidents getting younger these days ? He looks about 17.

  11. Tris....The Republicans in the states who promise to fight any health care program through court challenges to the federal law, are engaged in political posturing. They are a part of the general Republican assault on the bill through substance, process, political ideology, etc. They are attempting to delegitimize the bill before it even passes the Congress. As for any actual state challenges, the issue of states rights, and the struggle between federal and state authority, are as old as the republic. In fact, federal law, which otherwise passes constitutional muster, is always superior to state law. Any conflict between the two, always nullifies the state law. And of course the federal constitution is the supreme law of the land, and all state constitutions must conform to it. So the state challenges are phony political posturing.

    This is the Republican stock in trade. They will oppose the bill by any means available, because a victory by Obama is a political defeat for them. It's truly ironic that the Republicans have been successful in convincing many Americans that this is a federal takeover of America's health care system. Nothing could be further from the truth. America's health delivery system is almost totally, and will remain, a private for-profit system. And Obama's bill, for all its merits, is a huge profit bonanza for the private health insurance companies who will gain tens of millions of new customers. In another political scenario, this is a bill that could have been written by Republicans during the Bush administration.

    As for cost, comparing government run and private health systems, it's simply a matter of whether you want to pay for it when you pay your taxes, or when you pay your premium to the insurance company. For myself, I'd prefer to pay taxes to an efficiently run governmental system and eliminate the profits which are skimmed off the top by the insurance companies.

    And the Democrats actually had a chance to give us an effective and efficiently run federal system like Medicare, which works within the private health delivery system, but deprives private insurance carriers of their huge profits which do not go to pay for health care in the slightest. But the congressional Democrats quarreled and wrangled, and protected their political contributions from the insurance companies. And to be brutally honest, cool, professorial, "no drama Obama" stayed in the White House and let Congress run the show.

    Obama finally caught on, and took his immense personal popularity and oratorical ability on the road....about a year too late. We are left with a decent bill that extends coverage and imposes needed medical insurance reforms. But it is a miserable ghost of what it might have been, and a windfall for insurance company profits.

    For all the Americans for which it will provide medical insurance cover, I hope it passes. But if it doesn't, I won't be all that bitter toward the Republicans. In fact, they really had no chance to defeat it with their small minorities in both houses of Congress and a Democrat sitting in the White House. It will have been defeated by the Democrats in Congress, and a President whose political miscalculation failed to provide necessary and timely leadership.

  12. Anon.....Obama does indeed look young. And he is in fact pretty young as presidents go. He was 47 years old when he took office. Of the other 42 guys who have been president, only four have been younger than Obama when they took office.....Teddy Roosevelt (42), John Kennedy (42), Bill Clinton (46), and Ulysses S Grant (46), in order from the youngest.

  13. Munguin....You're so right to point out how very crucial is the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, to the process. In the House of Representatives, the Speaker runs the place for the majority party and seldom officiates at the sessions except on ceremonial occasions. Pelosi has been very good at mediating the interests of Democrats from far flung states which sometimes have very little in common with each another. Last year, she secured House passage of a version of the health bill by a razor thin 219, of 218 votes required for approval. But as the legislative process has developed, the ultimate bill will be based on the version passed by the Senate. So Nancy must produce one more miracle in the House. With retirements, etc., the majority number for approval is now 216. And it will be no easy feat to get those votes. There is a saying in the House that the other party is the "opposition," but the Senate is the "enemy"......LOL.

  14. He does look young Anon... but the presidency tends to age them pretty quick. And look at what the far less important job of British PM did for Blair. He looks 500.

  15. Hey Danny, thanks for that post which has explained the political and financial situations behind the bill....

    (I knew if I left enough out you'd write a much better piece explaining the whole thing.... My own 'Letter from America'... shared with my mates on the blog.)

    Cheers dude.