Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Send In the Health-Care Clowns

As the public option starts to morph into an expansion of Medicare and Medicaid in the main tent, two Senate buffoons, Harry Reid and Joe Lieberman, are stepping up their side shows in the health care circus.

The Majority Leader is dragging slavery and woman's suffrage into the debate by invoking them as precedents for Republican resistance:

"When this country belatedly recognized the wrongs of slavery, there were those who dug in their heels and said 'slow down, it's too early, things aren't bad enough'...When women spoke up for the right to vote, some insisted they simply, slow down, there will be a better day to do that, today isn't quite right."

In another corner of the freak show section, Joe Lieberman's antics are drawing so much attention that TV ads for an opponent of Connecticut's other senator, Chris Dodd, are taking shots at him: "Joe never forgets who he ran to represent: Himself. It's not about you. It's all about Joe."

Hundreds of protesters from an interfaith organization, reports the Washington Post, "showed up at Lieberman's home in Stamford and at his office in Hartford, to plead (and pray) for him to support the bill. Among them was Rabbi Ron Fish, of Congregation Beth El in Norwalk, Conn., who was so supportive of Lieberman's 2006 reelection bid that he rushed through John F. Kennedy International Airport in search of a mailbox in which to send his absentee ballot before boarding a flight to Israel."

Meanwhile, behind the vaudeville, some liberals are pushing to lower Medicare eligibility to age 55, expand Medicaid to cover those with incomes up to 150 percent of the poverty level (up to $33,075 for a family of four) and/or effectively cap insurance company profits by requiring them to spend 90 percent of premiums on clinical services and activities that improve the quality of care.

None of these proposals can compete with Reid and Lieberman for amusement value, but they indicate that some serious negotiating is going on.

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