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Hullabaloo


Monday, October 30, 2006

 
They Don't Miss A Trick, Do They?

by tristero

Please understand that I think the Dems, in reality, have no incentive to backpedal or go soft on the egregiously awful, even criminal, behavior of our Republican overlords. They should hold them accountable via robust investigations, oversights, and when called for, indictments. That said, in reality there are many obstacles to doing so. The worst, of course, is that the US has a juvenile delinquent for a president who has been double-daring his opponents to make explicit the constitutional crisis he began during the Florida election debacle of 2000, and which he has renewed over Schiavo and the filibuster "nuclear option." Rightly or wrongly, the Democrats will not act in such a way as to force a serious public showdown over Bush's crackpot notion of the "unitary executive" (ie, the idea that the Constitution makes a Republican president an absolute monarch).

But there is another reason the government will remain seriously dysfunctional for a long time (and for you cynics who think government ipso facto is incompetent, far more dysfunctional than it was under previous presidents, and far more dysfunctional than it has to be). This outrage is a good example of why:
Congressional Democrats say a new government publication being sent to all Medicare beneficiaries inappropriately favors private insurance plans over the traditional government-run program.

The publication, the 2007 Medicare handbook, "presents a misleading and biased view of Medicare coverage and options," the Democrats said last week in a letter to Michael O. Leavitt, the secretary of health and human services.

Beneficiaries use the handbook as an authoritative guide. It has become more important in the last few years as Medicare has become more complex, with new insurance options and a prescription drug benefit offered by scores of competing private insurers.

"The 2007 handbook strongly favors health maintenance organizations, preferred provider organizations and other private Medicare Advantage plans over the traditional Medicare fee-for-service program," the Democrats said in the letter.

[boilerplate and vaguely worded denial from the Bush administration.]

Managed care plans often have networks of doctors and hospitals, and beneficiaries may have to pay higher fees, exceeding what they would pay under traditional Medicare, if they go outside the network. In traditional Medicare, patients can choose from a broader range of doctors and hospitals, although a small number of doctors say they do not take Medicare patients because they consider the payments inadequate.
Get it? Not only is this disgraceful in itself, it only one of many such incidents that we know of. There's the advocacy of utterly bogus abstinence-only sex education (pdf) as well as false information being provided by federally funded pregnancy centers (pdf). But it's not only health, of course. Who can forget George Deutsch insisting that NASA scientists take into account "intelligent design" creationism arguments when discussing the Big Bang? And let's also recall that until Bush came into power, FEMA was a well-respected agency.

In short, the rightwing assault on the US government since 2000 has been comprehensive and unrelenting. The Bush administration has not only mis-managed from the top, but has deliberately degraded the efficiency and integrity of government at the midlevel as well. It will take years, many years, to remove the godawful incompetents Bush has brought into bureaucracies.

And for the libertarians out there, let me be clear. I don't mind in the slightest having my tax dollars going to support Medicare. But I very much mind having my tax dollars wasted on ideological propaganda designed to undermine Medicare by misrepresenting its benefits and limitations in order to benefit the rich.



Update: Digby here. Sorry to intrude, but I have to add this link to Gary Wills' phenomenal article this week-end in the NY Review of Book on this very topic: A Country Ruled by Faith. (Let's just say Amy Sullivan won't be pleased.)

carry on.

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