The FDL health care team has been covering the health care debate in congress since it began last year. They have put together a fact sheet to help readers sort through the myths and facts of the health care bill:
|1. This is a universal health care bill.
||The bill is neither universal health care nor universal health insurance.
Per the CBO:
|2. Insurance companies hate this bill
||This bill is almost identical to the plan written by AHIP, the insurance company trade association, in 2009. The original Senate Finance Committee bill was authored by a former Wellpoint VP. Since Congress released the first of its health care bills on October 30, 2009, health care stocks have risen 28.35%.|
|3. The bill will significantly bring down insurance premiums for most Americans.
||The bill will not bring down premiums significantly, and certainly not the $2,500/year that the President promised.
Annual premiums in 2016, status quo / with bill:
Small group market, single: $7,800 / $7,800
Small group market, family: $19,3oo / $19,200
Large Group market, single: $7,400 / $7,300
Large group market, family: $21,100 / $21,300
Individual market, single: $5,500 / $5,800*
Individual market, family: $13,100 / $15,200*
|4. The bill will make health care affordable for middle class Americans.
||The bill will impose a financial hardship on middle class Americans who will be forced to buy a product that they can’t afford to use.A family of four making $66,370 will be forced to pay $8,628 per year for insurance. After basic necessities, this leaves them with $8,307 in discretionary income — out of which they would have to cover clothing, credit card and other debt, child care and education costs, in addition to $5,882 in annual out-of-pocket medical expenses for which families will be responsible.|
|5. This plan is similar to the Massachusetts plan, which makes health care affordable.||Many Massachusetts residents forgo health care because they can’t afford it.A 2009 study by the state of Massachusetts found that:
|6. This bill provide health care to 31 million people who are currently uninsured.
||This bill will mandate that millions of people who are currently uninsured must purchase insurance from private companies, or the IRS will collect up to 2% of their annual income in penalties. Some will be assisted with government subsidies.|
|7. You can keep the insurance you have if you like it.||
The excise tax will result in employers switching to plans with higher co-pays and fewer covered services.
Older, less healthy employees with employer-based health care will be forced to pay much more in out-of-pocket expenses than they do now.
|8. The “excise tax” will encourage employers to reduce the scope of health care benefits, and they will pass the savings on to employees in the form of higher wages.||There is insufficient evidence that employers pass savings from reduced benefits on to employees.
|9. This bill employs nearly every cost control idea available to bring down costs.
||This bill does not bring down costs and leaves out nearly every key cost control measure, including:
|10. The bill will require big companies like WalMart to provide insurance for their employees||The bill was written so that most WalMart employees will qualify for subsidies, and taxpayers will pick up a large portion of the cost of their coverage.|
|11. The bill “bends the cost curve” on health care.
||The bill ignored proven ways to cut health care costs and still leaves 24 million people uninsured, all while slightly raising total annual costs by $234 million in 2019. “Bends the cost curve” is a misleading and trivial claim, as the US would still spend far more for care than other advanced countries.
In 2009, health care costs were 17.3% of GDP.
Annual cost of health care in 2019, status quo: $4,670.6 billion (20.8% of GDP)
Annual cost of health care in 2019, Senate bill: $4,693.5 billion (20.9% of GDP)
|12. The bill will provide immediate access to insurance for Americans who are uninsured because of a pre-existing condition.||Access to the “high risk pool” is limited and the pool is underfunded. It will cover few people, and will run out of money in 2011 or 2012Only those who have been uninsured for more than six months will qualify for the high risk pool. Only 0.7% of those without insurance now will get coverage, and the CMS report estimates it will run out of funding by 2011 or 2012.|
|13. The bill prohibits dropping people in individual plans from coverage when they get sick.||The bill does not empower a regulatory body to keep people from being dropped when they’re sick.There are already many states that have laws on the books prohibiting people from being dropped when they’re sick, but without an enforcement mechanism, there is little to hold the insurance companies in check.|
|14. The bill ensures consumers have access to an effective internal and external appeals process to challenge new insurance plan decisions.||The “internal appeals process” is in the hands of the insurance companies themselves, and the “external” one is up to each state.
Ensuring that consumers have access to “internal appeals” simply means the insurance companies have to review their own decisions. And it is the responsibility of each state to provide an “external appeals process,” as there is neither funding nor a regulatory mechanism for enforcement at the federal level.
|15. This bill will stop insurance companies from hiking rates 30%-40% per year.
||This bill does not limit insurance company rate hikes. Private insurers continue to be exempt from anti-trust laws, and are free to raise rates without fear of competition in many areas of the country.|
|16. When the bill passes, people will begin receiving benefits under this bill immediately
||Most provisions in this bill, such as an end to the ban on pre-existing conditions for adults, do not take effect until 2014. Six months from the date of passage, children could not be excluded from coverage due to pre-existing conditions, though insurance companies could charge more to cover them. Children would also be allowed to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26. There will be an elimination of lifetime coverage limits, a high risk pool for those who have been uninsured for more than 6 months, and community health centers will start receiving money.
|17. The bill creates a pathway for single payer.
||Bernie Sanders’ provision in the Senate bill does not start until 2017, and does not cover the Department of Labor, so no, it doesn’t create a pathway for single payer.
Obama told Dennis Kucinich that the Ohio Representative’s amendment is similar to Bernie Sanders’ provision in the Senate bill, and creates a pathway to single payer. Since the waiver does not start until 2017, and does not cover the Department of Labor, it is nearly impossible to see how it gets around the ERISA laws that stand in the way of any practical state single payer system.
|18 The bill will end medical bankruptcy and provide all Americans with peace of mind.
||Most people with medical bankruptcies already have insurance, and out-of-pocket expenses will continue to be a burden on the middle class.
*Cost of premiums goes up somewhat due to subsidies and mandates of better coverage. CBO assumes that cost of individual policies goes down 7-10%, and that people will buy more generous policies.
- March 11, Letter from Doug Elmendorf to Harry Reid (PDF)
- The AHIP Plan in Context, Igor Volsky; The Max Baucus WellPoint/Liz Fowler Plan, Marcy Wheeler
- CBO Score, 11-30-2009
- “Affordable” Health Care, Marcy Wheeler
- Gruber Doesn’t Reveal That 21% of Massachusetts Residents Can’t Afford Health Care, Marcy Wheeler; Massachusetts Survey (PDF)
- Health Care on the Road to Neo-Feudalism, Marcy Wheeler
- CMS: Excise Tax on Insurance Will Make Your Insurane Coverage Worse and Cause Almost No Reduction in NHE, Jon Walker
- Employer Health Costs Do Not Drive Wage Trends, Lawrence Mishel
- CBO Estimates Show Public Plan With Higher Savings Rate, Congress Daily; Drug Importation Amendment Likely This Week, Politico; Medicare Part D IAF; A Monopoloy on Biologics Will Drain Health Care Resources, Lancet Student
- MaxTax Is a Plan to Use Our Taxes to Reward Wal-Mart for Keeping Its Workers in Poverty, Marcy Wheeler
- Estimated Financial Effects of the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2009,” as Proposed by the Senate Majority Leader on November 18, 2009, CMS (PDF)
- Health insurance companies hang onto their antitrust exemption, Protect Consumer Justice.org
- What passage of health care reform would mean for the average American, DC Examiner
- How to get a State Single Payer Opt-Out as Part of Reconciliation, Jon Walker
- Medical bills prompt more than 60 percent of U.S. bankruptcies, CNN.com; The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Section‐by‐Section Analysis (PDF)
Essay by Greg Ng
The 1970s in Hollywood were a fertile time. The emergence of the director, as a legitimate artist in his or her own right, shifted focus from the studios, which by the ’60s had grown formulaic and unadventurous in their output, to a new generation of writers and directors, whose concerns and experience were markedly different from the conservative voice of the movie industry at that point.
Due in part to falling profits and the rise of television, a vacuum arose in the industry that opened the door for fresh ideas. Hollywood was redirected and, as a result, American cinema entered a new age – an age when box-office success did not necessarily preclude sophisticated content in a movie, an age when political discourse was not relegated to non-existence or tokenism, or a niche-market. The period between 1969 and the beginning of the 1980s saw American cinema, inspired as it was by international filmmaking (such as the French New Wave), offering critical, ambiguous and highly artful movies.
At its most ambitious, the New Hollywood was a movement intended to cut film free of its evil twin, commerce, by enabling it to fly high through the thin air of art. The filmmakers of the ’70s hoped to overthrow the studio system, or at least render it irrelevant, by democratising filmmaking, putting it in the hands of anyone with talent and determination. (1)
However, as the decade passed, the promise of real change receded; the status quo prevailed. As Peter Biskind puts it, in his book Easy Riders and Raging Bulls: How the Sex ‘N’ Drugs ‘N’ Rock ‘N’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood,
although the decade of the 70s contains shining monuments to its great directors, the cultural revolution of that decade, like the political revolution of the 60s, ultimately failed. (2)
Robin Wood, in Hollywood: from Vietnam to Reagan, argues that the Vietnam War, among other things, focussed Western society’s dissenting voices, simultaneously discrediting ‘the system’ and emboldening the dissenters. However, like Biskind, Wood acknowledges “this generalized crisis in ideological confidence never issued in revolution. No coherent social/economic program emerged.” (3)
Commercial imperatives once more came to play their part in shaping the output of the industry, as previously fêted directors suffered box office losses and investment money turned to more secure propositions. Thus, a central tenet of political economy – i.e., the inherent censorship of the mass market – prevailed. Ironically, one of the films that stands as a testament to ’70s Hollywood’s freedom and ambition, Sidney Lumet’s Network (1976), depicts precisely this phenomenon.
Network is an example of a hugely successful and critically acclaimed feature film that offers a critique of television, ideology, radical chic and the consequences of American-led post-war capitalism, whilst being funny – no mean feat, and something only barely achieved in the current day by the likes of Michael Moore, et al.
Lumet’s direction and Paddy Chayefsky’s script lambaste the ills of the modern world (couched within the fast-paced soliloquies delivered by the stellar cast of Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway, Robert Duvall and William Holden) and are oft times prescient, predicting the rise of ‘reality television’, and the subsequent decline of both production and social values.
One of the central themes of Network – the decay of society and of love, concurrent with a plunge in standards and morality of the audience, which represents the world (in keeping with the mindset of both the film and its characters) – proves salutary in explaining what happened to Hollywood after the ’70s. Just as the collapse of the old studio system in the ’60s was precipitated by a change in demography and values, so too has a drift toward social conservatism and the continuing project of marketising everything affected our age.
When Howard Beale (Peter Finch), the ageing news anchor for Union Broadcasting System, is fired due to poor ratings, he announces to his friend and network executive Max Schumacher (William Holden) that he intends to “blow my brains out, right on the air, right in the middle of the 7 o’clock news” (4).
Schumacher replies, “You’ll get a hell of a rating. I’ll guarantee you that. 50 share, easy.” He facetiously begins to run with the idea: “We could make a series out of it. ‘Suicide of the Week.’ Oh, hell, why limit ourselves: ‘Execution of the week.’”
by digbyJim VanDehei was on Mitchell this morning talking about his new article which evidently reports that Obama is going to twist arms today to make sure health care reform passes before Christmas. Mitchell asked him if (as Chuck Todd absurdly posited) Lieberman actually pulled back from the brink and decided not to blow up the Democratic party or if he is sitting pretty because he actually got exactly what he wanted:
VanDeHei I don’t think there’s any question that he got what he wanted. He’s been able to kill, or help kill, the public option and now he’s single handedly killed this Medicare expansion for people over the age of 55.
And so now what the president is doing is calling in Democrats in the Senate and saying “listen this is the last chance we have to get health care reform and if I fail, like Clinton failed, we’re talking about generations before another Democratic president with this big of a majority can actually tackle health care reform”. His case is going to be that if we don’t do this in the next two weeks it’s never going to be done.
The big question is, will that message pacify liberals? Liberal Democrats on the hill are saying “listen we wanted a single payer system or at least we wanted the public option or at least we wanted the medicare buy-in. Now we’re getting squat on that end so what are we actually getting?”
Obama will say, you’re actually getting a lot. You’re getting coverage for everybody. You’re getting insurance reform. And he’s going to have to convince them that that is sufficient.
That doesn’t make sense and if Obama is able to persuade liberals with that incoherent line of reasoning then he really is good and they really are stupid.
If this is the only chance for reform in generations, wouldn’t it have made more sense to fight for a truly comprehensive bill that actually solved the problem? If you’ve only got one bite of the apple every couple of decades, it seems remarkably foolish not to really go for broke. To end up with a bill like this as your once in a generation liberal accomplishment is about as inspiring as a Bobby Jindal speech.
And Obama can say that you’re getting a lot, but also saying that it “covers everyone,” as if there’s a big new benefit is a big stretch. Nothing will have changed on that count except changing the law to force people to buy private insurance if they don’t get it from their employer. I guess you can call that progressive, but that doesn’t make it so. In fact, mandating that all people pay money to a private interest isn’t even conservative, free market or otherwise. It’s some kind of weird corporatism that’s very hard to square with the common good philosophy that Democrats supposedly espouse.
Nobody’s “getting covered” here. After all, people are already “free” to buy private insurance and one must assume they have reasons for not doing it already. Whether those reasons are good or bad won’t make a difference when they are suddenly forced to write big checks to Aetna or Blue Cross that they previously had decided they couldn’t or didn’t want to write. Indeed, it actually looks like the worst caricature of liberals: taking people’s money against their will, saying it’s for their own good. — and doing it without even the cover that FDR wisely insisted upon with social security, by having it withdrawn from paychecks. People don’t miss the money as much when they never see it.
And as for the idea that insurance reforms are a huge progressive victory that can only be accomplished once in a generation, well that’s a pretty sad comment on our country — and progressivism.
What this huge electoral mandate and congressional majority have gotten us, then, is basically a deal with the insurance industry to accept 30 million coerced customers in exchange for ending their practice of failing to cover their customers when they get sick — unless they go beyond a “reasonable cap,” of course. (And profits go up!) If that’s the best we can expect of progressivism for the next generation then I’m afraid we are in deep trouble.
*I realize that the subsidies and the medicaid expansion are meaningful. But they are also going to be subject to ongoing funding battles in an age of deficit hysteria. I don’t hold out much hope for any improvement on that count. Indeed, I fully expect they will be assailed as welfare and eliminated as soon as Republicans gain power. They have learned from their mistakes — don’t let any liberal “entitlement programs ” become entrenched. That’s why a big comprehensive program would have been better. It’s much harder to disassemble.
Update: I think it’s really cool being lectured to by Obama about not getting everything you want. I would imagine that Joe Liberman laughed and laughed and laughed at that one.
R A W S T O R Y
By John Byrne
Friday, October 23rd, 2009 — 8:07 am
Conservative Democrats signal they wont block public optionSupport for including some version of a public option in the Senate’s version of a healthcare overhaul appears to be solider than initially believed.
In a series of comments that have received little attention, conservative Democratic senators — even those who’ve publicly said they oppose a public option — say they are unlikely to join a Republican filibuster to block it. Under Senate rules, Democrats would need to convince 60 members to support the ability to vote on healthcare legislation with the public option (cloture), and then just 51 to pass it.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) told a reporter earlier this week that she wouldn’t join Republicans in voting against cloture.
“I’m not right now inclined to support any filibuster,” Landrieu said.
“For the Republican Party to kind of step out of the game is very unfortunate,” she added, referring to the Senate Republicans’ intransigence on healthcare reform proposals. “I’m not going to be joining people that don’t want progress.”
Story continues below…
Indeed, Landrieu’s sentiment — that joining foes of healthcare reform would be an impediment to progress — may be the catnip that keeps Democrats on board.
Sen. Mark Pryor (R-AR), a moderate Democrat from the South, said Thursday he was open to some form of a government-run health insurance competitor.
“It depends on how it’s structured on whether I can support it,” Pryor remarked. “I just haven’t decided.”
But regardless of how he votes on the final package, he says he won’t join Republicans in filibustering the bill. Tellingly, he also signaled that he didn’t believe any other Democrats would either.
“I don’t think you’ll see me or any other Democrats do that,” Pryor told liberal blogger Mike Stark.
One conservative Democrat refused to tip his hand. Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) occasionally joins Republicans on controversial issues.
“I believe in playing chess, but that’s about three moves ahead of me, and I’m not prepared to make those moves until I see some other moves in between,” Nelson told a reporter this week.
Jake Thompson, Nelson’s Communications Director, told Raw Story that he “would decline to comment” about how Nelson will react to a potential Republican filibuster.
Arlen Specter (D-PA) has said he’ll support a public option as well. Specter defected from the Republican Party to the Democrats earlier this year, against the backdrop of a tough primary challenge from his right. In an interview Thursday evening with MSNBC’s Ed Schultz (video below), he sounded confident that Democrats had the 60 votes to prevail.
“We have 60 votes without Sen. Snowe, so we can still invoke cloture and move to a vote on the public option,” Specter said. “With 50 votes plus the Vice President and my vote is going to be for the public option, robust public option, we can get it passed, even without Sen. Snowe. I hope we have her, but we may be able to do it without her.”
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) was the only Republican to join ranks with Democrats in approving a version of healthcare legislation that passed through the Senate Finance Committee. That version didn’t include a public option.
That said, Democrats need lose only one member to lose the battle for the public option. A 60-vote majority would also need to include independent Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who’s tangled with Democrats on various issues in the past.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) won’t say how many votes he has in his arsenal on a government run plan. In a statement Thursday evening, he said only that he was looking to pass a bill with as many votes as possible.
“We’ll continue to work together to seek broad consensus on the key issues before us and to craft the strongest possible bill that can garner 60 votes,” Reid said. “We will also continue to do our best to represent the views of all members of the Senate who have a genuine desire to see reform succeed. But our mission is clear: the American people want quality, affordable health insurance and failure is not an acceptable option. I am optimistic that we are close to laying a proposal before the full Senate that will do just that.”
In the House, some version of a public option is almost certain to pass. The version will likely be more liberal than that of the Senate’s, as Democrats hold a larger majority in the lower chamber.
President Obama’s position on the public option remains unclear. A Politico report Friday said that Obama prefers a “trigger option,” under which a public insurer would only be created if private insurers fail to meet key pricing standards. The White House, however, says Obama hasn’t taken a position either way.
The following video is from MSNBC’s The Ed Show, broadcast Oct. 22, 2009.
The Reviews Are In!
Everybody’s talking about Max Baucus’ plan for health care!
Mostly, people don’t like it!
Republicans don’t like it because… it’s a health care bill. Democrats don’t like it because… it’s a bad health care bill designed to kowtow to Republicans who won’t even vote for it. Health care advocacy groups don’t like it because it “would give a government-subsidized monopoly to the private insurance industry to sell their most profitable plans – high-deductible insurance – without having to face competition from a public health insurer.” A good reason not to like it! And unions don’t like it because there’s no employer mandate and it would “tax health plans.”
A bill of particulars:
• The bill spends too little on coverage subsidies. While putting a price tag on something that is paid for inside the budget window is misleading, the fact is that Baucus artificially lowered that price tag to meet some conception of centrism, and the lowered subsidies have a direct impact on affordability.
People in Massaschusetts are by and large satisfied with the Connector. It’s toughest on the fairly small number of families earning just over 300% of FPL (of which there aren’t that many), and on the larger number of young individuals who make just over 300% of FPL (which is $32,320 for an individual, so there are a decent number of those folks). Working class families earning up to 200% of FPL have fairly low premiums. $90 per month is going to pinch, but for uninsured households, they’ll get some real value out of that: Commonwealth Care plans include dental insurance, wellness checkups have low co-payments; chronic disease care is especially well covered, and so forth. Likewise, three hundred pre-tax dollars a month for a family with a gross income of $60,000 per year is Real Money, but it’s not going to break the bank. It’s less than what they should be saving for college, for instance.
But as you can see from the graph, the Baucus bill doesn’t fare as well. It’s not even close to faring as well. The eight million individuals without insurance who earn between 200% and 300% of FPL will pay more than twice what similar households in Massachusetts currently pay. And working class families will feel a real pinch; $250 per month ($3,000 per year) for a family of four with an income of $38,000 is going to hurt.
• The community rating provision, mandating that insurers offer the same price to everyone regardless of medical history, comes with a tremendous loophole that will allow them to change five times as much for a policy based on age, which is just another way to discriminate against the sick.
• The employer “free rider” problem, called “one of the worst policy ideas I’ve ever seen” by Ezra Klein, would penalize employers for hiring anyone who qualifies for subsidies, encouraging them to find people who get coverage through a spouse or illegal immigrants. It also gives large employers like Wal-Mart a competitive advantage for paying crappy wages. And you can’t opt out
• The excise tax for violating the individual mandate could cost up to $3,800 but wouldn’t kick in if the individual could not find coverage that costs more than 10% of his income. In which case, you’ve built a robust architecture for a useless plan, because if millions opt out the coverage gets less universal and insurers want to stop come-as-you-are guaranteed issue.
• The co-ops are even weaker than imaginable:
of the garbage insurance that giant employer – let’s call them Ball Bart – might offer you.
The co-ops can only compete in the small group and individual markets. That is to say, if the co-ops prove effective, and The Washington Post would like to offer co-op coverage as an option to its workers, it can’t. The co-ops are not allowed to contract with large employers, which is to say, they can’t compete with private insurers in the largest market, and they can’t get the purchasing power that would come from a serious foothold among corporate customers.
Not only is their size restricted, so too is what they can do with their size. The co-ops can band together to increase their purchasing power, but they can’t set national payment rates for their members, a la Medicare. As I understand it, they have to bargain with each provider and drug manufacturer and hospital and so forth separately, meaning they’re denied one of the main advantages of size. The insurance industry is, in other words, being protected from not just public competition, but co-op competition.
Jay Rockefeller today sent a letter proving, based on tons of research, that co-ops were a complete sham that have failed in the marketplace on a number of occasions, saying that “I believe it is irresponsible to invest over $6 billion in a concept that has not proven to provide quality, affordable health care, when we know that a public health insurance option will rein in costs and save taxpayers billions of dollars.”
Marcy Wheeler has a lot more. There’s one promising sign that the exchanges look expandable and available to all businesses, a neat way to gradually wean the system off of exclusive employer-based insurance, but that’s about the only silver lining. Kent Conrad’s gambit of increasing the budget window to make the Senate Finance bill look better did work, as the deficit reduction aspects look improved for the bill over the House bill. But crucially, that’s a function of the funding, not the outlay in subsidies. Those will be too stingy to make the bill work for people, only for the bean-counters. In fact, the bill will start taking more and more from the middle class, much like the alternative minimum tax, and political reality will force scalebacks, so the budget picture doesn’t look as rosy as advertised.
But it also suggests some real dangers in the bill’s second decade. The unpopular elements of the bill become a lot bigger and more onerous. The excise tax on high-cost insurance plans begins affecting insurance plans that aren’t particularly high-cost. The Medicare and Medicaid savings begin to tighten. That said, there are a lot of potential savings that the CBO isn’t taking into account here, so that might ease the pain. Plus, at some point, we are going to have to start cutting costs in the system, and you can’t escape some eventual hurt in that. But you can be sure the GOP is going to run these numbers aggressively and spin them viciously.
The good news is that this is in no way “the bill” that will get signed by the President. It has to go through a significant amount of changes, and key Democrats are already balking at it. In fact, lil’ ol’ Roland Burris said he wouldn’t vote for anything without a public option, and with the numbers so tight, every Senator is in a bargaining position. Baucuscare is an abomination. But it doesn’t have to be the endpoint, only the beginning.
I should say that one group really, really likes the Baucus bill – insurance companies.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: Thanks, John. It’s one of the oldest rituals of democracy. Election officials getting an earful from the voters, but a handful of high decibel critics at a spate of town hall meeting on health care reform have turned out to be a magnet for the media. You know how it works. The meeting might be dull, 99 audience members might be civil, but one screamer draws the cameras. You have probably seen some of this footage constantly replayed on television and across the Web.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The cash for clunkers program is —
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You’re lying to me!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That’s right!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you waiting for?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don’t have sophisticated language. I recognize a liar when I see one.
CROWD: Just say no! Just say no! Just say no! Just say no!
LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: When they could no longer ignore the anti-Obama voters, Democrats began to dismiss them and demonize them as the hired guns of the insurance companies or Brooks Brothers protesters.
KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC: When Hamas does it or Hezbollah does it, it is called terrorism. Why should Republican lawmakers and the AstroTurf groups organizing on behalf of the health care industry be viewed any differently?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Now the press trying to unravel allegations that the Republicans have planted some of these protesters and countercharges that the Democrats are trying to discredit legitimate dissent.
Joining us now to talk about the coverage of President Obama’s health plan and whether he’s getting a bit overexposed on television, in New York, Mark Halperin, editor-at-large and senior political analyst for “TIME” magazine, and author of the blog “The Page.” S.E. Cupp, blogger and the co-author of “Why You’re Wrong About the Right.” And here in Washington, Ana Marie Cox, national correspondent for Air America Radio and a columnist for “Playboy” magazine.
Mark Halperin, are the media playing up the loudest and the angriest of these protesters to the point where it distorts what’s what’s going on at most of these town hall meetings?
HALPERIN: Yes, it distorts it and it’s also bad for America. I’m embarrassed about what’s going on as an American. I’m not an advocate for any position on the president’s proposals, but I think this is, Howie, something you have written about and seen for years, the lowest common denominator, people taking video that is meaningless.
Yes, there should be discussion. Dissent is fine. I don’t care why the protesters are showing up, but this is a horrible breakdown of our political culture and our media culture to allow people who are going in with the intent to disrupt to become the story. The biggest issue in the health care debate, things like, should there be a public plan, completely ignored by all media and crowded out the discussion by stunts and gimmicks, and the White House has exacerbated it by attacking back on the same style.
KURTZ: Ana Marie Cox, Mark Halperin says this is a breakdown in the media culture, but we couldn’t not cover these people, and they do have a right to be heard, don’t they?
COX: Right, they do. And I actually do not think it’s a breakdown of democracy. I think that it’s a wonderful expression of democracy. I’m not sure if they’re AstroTurfed or not myself. I think they probably aren’t, but I think that’s almost a worse sign for the Republican Party.
I think this is actually the death throes of a dying Republican Party, or at least in this forum, and the not sort of the start of something new.
KURTZ: S.E. Cupp, you have to admit, if you want to look at the media’s performance here, that the various outlets, and particularly television, are giving these critics ample air time.