Unions, White House appear to reach compromise on key sticking point

It is not health care reform in and of itself that I am opposed to. I agree the system needs work. It is the backroom closed door cram down that is going on that raises my hackles. It is the way elected officials are blatantly ignoring their constituents like they are so many spoiled children that just don't know what is in their own best interest.  It is the rampant misinformation and media bias that permeates the airwaves everyday, making honest debate impossible, that just plain pisses me off. Its having to watch our timed honored system being perverted to the point of destruction that disheartens me.

Having gotten that off of my chest I thought this story was worth a look.

The following story (minus my expert commentary) originally appeared on MSNBC

Tentative deal reached on health insurance tax
Unions, White House appear to reach compromise on key sticking point

WASHINGTON - The White House reached a tentative agreement with union leaders early Thursday to tax high-cost insurance plans, officials said, removing one of the major stumbling blocks in the way of a final compromise on comprehensive health care legislation sought by President Barack Obama.

Details were not available of the tentative deal, which the White House was expected to present to senior lawmakers later in the day.

The agreement came as the White House sought fresh concessions from drugmakers and other health care providers as they looked for funds to sweeten subsidies the bill provides for lower-income families who cannot afford coverage.

Senior Democratic lawmakers who spent hours at the White House on Wednesday rearranged their schedules to return at mid-afternoon, and Obama planned to address a closed-door meeting of the House Democratic rank and file in late afternoon.

Details were not available; closed door meeting: For an administration that promised transparency and openness in its negotiations of health care legislation it sure seems that the opposite is the rule of the day.

One participant in the overall talks, Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., said, "We're shooting for tomorrow" for an agreement in principle that would cover key issues such as how many Americans would get coverage, and how to pay for it. Certain issues, including restrictions on taxpayer funding for abortion, would be resolved later.

 "...key issues such as how many Americans would get coverage..." I thought there would be no health care rationing under the Democratic plan. I guess this doesn't count since the are separating the "wheat" from the "chaff" at the onset.

No final votes could occur in the House and Senate until the Congressional Budget Office provided a formal estimate on the cost and impact of any bill, a process that could take days.

The breakthrough on the insurance tax marked a victory for the White House, which has long sought a tax on high-cost plans as a way of curbing the rise in health care expenditures. Organized labor — backed by its allies in the House — had opposed it, arguing the impact would fall heavily on workers whose bargaining contracts gave them more robust health care coverage.

This is the part that truly confuses me; taxing health insurance plans to lower the cost of health care. I'm no economist, but I am a thinker. It seems fairly obvious that when you add a tax to something that inherently raises the cost. If the administration was truly interested in lowering the cost of health care the first priority would be tort reform.

Officials said the agreement was thrashed out over more than 15 hours of negotiating at the White House, ending after midnight. Participants included AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka; Andy Stern, head of Service Employees International Union; Anna Burger, head of Change to Win, and the leaders of unions representing teachers, government workers, food and commercial workers and electricians. Obama's deputy chief of staff, Jim Messina, was the lead White House bargainer, although Vice President Joe Biden also was involved periodically.

I think the people of this country should be concerned that union leaders were involved in the negotiations. Non-union workers can bet that the union leaders were not fighting for their rights in those closed door meetings. More likely we will find that when the dust settles unions will be in some manner exempted from the tax.

If it holds, the tentative deal should ease concerns among labor friendly lawmakers in the House, and also permit the White House and senior Democrats to move quickly through numerous other decisions as they drive for a compromise on the overall health care bill.

Union and Democratic officials spoke about the tentative deal on condition of anonymity because the talks were private.

Word of it came as the pace of negotiations on the overall health care bill quickened.

On the high-cost insurance tax, union officials were seeking chances to soften the impact of the Senate-passed measure. Under its terms, family policies with combined premiums higher than $23,000 would be subject to a tax. Official estimates by the Congressional Budget Office say the result would be consumers opting for less expensive plans to avoid paying the tax. That, in turn, would reduce the amount of money they could claim as a tax deduction, and in the end raise their income taxes.

A tax by any other name would still smell like bulls**t. Instead of fighting to increase the standard of health care for all Americans what we have are special interests looking to reduce the level of service for the many to provide coverage for the few. This is socialism at its very worst.

Public support for the health care remake continues to drop, perhaps in part because of the messy debate in Congress, and lawmakers are feeling the pressure of other issues, from unemployment to ballooning budget deficits. In Massachusetts, the race to fill the seat of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy is turning into a referendum on the health care overhaul, with Republicans hoping to capitalize on voters' misgivings.

"Republicans hoping to capitalize on voters' misgivings"; more likely they are attempting to educate the voters as to the truth of the matter. The more voters learn of the Obama health care overhaul the more they decide they do not like it and do not want it. This is more a referendum on socialized health care than on partisan politics.

House Democrats are uneasy over concessions they are being asked to make to preserve the 60 votes needed to pass the bill in the Senate. That includes dropping the government-run insurance option liberals have fought for and accepting some form of the high-cost health insurance plan tax.

House Democratic leaders are pushing for more generous subsidies to help make health insurance affordable to a greater number of middle-class households, as well as other concessions.

This is most probably the greatest lie of all. Middle-class Americans are for the most part covered by their employers and are comfortable with their level of coverage. It is the middle-class that is most likely to suffer negatively under Obama's plan losing their so called "Cadillac plans".

To help pay for that, Democrats want health care providers to bear more of the cost, said lobbyists speaking on condition of anonymity because conversations within the industry were confidential. One said Democratic proposals include adding $10 billion to the $80 billion over 10 years that the drug industry had agreed to contribute, and raising the $20 billion in Senate-approved fees imposed on medical device makers by $10 billion.

Taxes, taxes and more taxes. The gist of this reform was to reduce the cost of health care. What it has morphed into instead is a behemoth tax hike.

Susan Feeney, spokeswoman for the American Health Care Association, said Wednesday that White House and Senate officials recently have asked the nursing home industry to agree to additional concessions.

Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, predicted Thursday that despite numerous complaints from rank-and-file House Democrats about losing liberal priorities in deference to a handful of Senate moderates, the House ultimately would sign off on the deal taking shape at the White House.

House leaders "clearly go to the White House knowing what is acceptable to the caucus, so I think that once that is negotiated with the caucus' views in mind, it should be something that the caucus will accept and would pass."

Funny, no mention of what the people want. It is apparent that the will of the people has been supplanted by the will of the caucus. This is the very problem with our current representatives; they no longer represent us.

"The goal is to get it finalized and voted on in the next few weeks," Pallone said.

The House and Senate passed the bills with just one Republican vote, and the GOP was not invited to the White House talks. Republicans say they still have a chance to derail the bill.

I guess there is always a chance, slim though it may be, to derail this bill. Republicans, including myself, are holding out hope that Scott Brown may yet defeat Martha Coakley in Massachusetts thereby given Republicans the ability to filibuster this monster. But barring a small miracle it is likely this socialist, nation killing legislation will pass. Our best hopes rest with the mid-term elections. We must purge the House and Senate of these socialist elitists (on both sides of the aisle) and start fresh.

In an unrelated report Martha Coakley was endorsed by an Abortion group she donated money to. Ineresting. For more on that story visit my friends over at Jumping in Pools.

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