It lasted more than seven hours. It was often unbelievably boring. A bunch of mostly old white guys sitting around a table bickering at one another. That was today’s health care summit and nothing of substance will come of it.
The bottom line for Republicans is that they want to kill health care reform no matter what. And the bottom line for Democrats is that have to get health care reform through congress one way or another.
So one side is unequivocally opposed and the other a staunch proponent of health care reform.
There was an exchange between President Obama and Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley that highlights this deadlock.
“First of all,” Grassley said, “if anybody says that Medicare Advantage is a subsidy going to insurance companies, let me say what the statute says. The statute says that … 75 percent goes to beneficiaries and benefits, and 25 percent to the federal government.”
“I’m sorry Chuck, I just want to make sure about that,” Obama said, “that doesn’t sound right to me because that would mean 100 percent of it is going either to the benefits or the federal government, which means that the insurance companies aren’t making any money of it.”
“Seventy-five percent to beneficiaries and benefits,” Grassley snapped, “and 25 percent to the federal government.”
At which point Obama turned to Vice President Biden and presumably said something along the lines of, “What the hell is talking? That’s 100 percent. The insurance companies don’t get any money for selling prescription drugs to seniors. Is he drunk?”
“Probably Mr. President,” Biden threw his hand up in disgust.
“It takes 60 votes in the Senate to overrule them, so I’m not questioning the CBO,” Grassley said fidgeting in his chair.
Actually, the Congressional Budget Office does not create law and does not rule over the Senate in any way, shape or form. Grassley is making up Senate rules out of whole cloth.
“For the first time in the 225 year history of the country,” Grassley said, “the federal government’s telling you you’ve got to buy something.”
The Iowa Senator said he knows his constituents and “that just doesn’t make a lot sense to people in the grassroots of the Midwest.”
Actually the United States has been around for 233 years and citizens are forced to pay federal income taxes, Medicare and Social Security.
“Do you think we’re going to sit around in rural American, or even urban, downtown urban America, in the poverty parts of the city,” Grassley said, “that we’re going to let hospitals close down?”
Who’s closing hospitals?
At the end of his speech Grassley said, “You’ve got to take into consideration the consequences of the actions, or the unproven promises of cuts that aren’t going to materialize.”
His argument was that the Democrats bill relies on future congresses to make cuts and Grassley said that they aren’t going to have any more guts than we do, and this Congress doesn’t even have the stomach to mess with Medicare.
Obama seemed a bit shocked by Grassley’s remarks and tone, and had this to say.
“If the notion is that we can’t make some hard decisions about how entitlements work, because it’s just not realistic. Nobody’s going to have the guts to do it. Then we’re in big trouble.
Because that means that federal and state budgets, and then business budgets and family budgets, they’re all going to be gobbled up by this thing.
So I hope that we’ve got the courage to make some of these changes.”