Congressman Anthony Weiner appeared on Morning Joe last week to talk about health care reform. Weiner, from New York, is a leader of the progressive caucus. I find Scarborough an interesting character. He is a former congressman from Florida who is a conservative, but in my opinion is more of an old fashioned Republican than most in Congress today. He often scolds his fellow Republicans. On the rare occasions I get to watch Morning Joe, I have found it very interesting. But back to Weiner’s appearance last week. The summary is from Leslie Savan’s account in the Nation which contains a link to the video.
Weiner, who recently warned that President Obama could lose as many as 100 votes on a health bill if a public option is not included, really wants single payer–Medicare for all Americans is his goal. What a crazy, way-out, reckless notion, Joe went into their encounter believing. But Weiner asked some simple, direct questions that no politician, much less Obama or HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, has managed to pose:
What is an insurance company? They don’t do a single check-up. They don’t do a single exam, they don’t perform an operation. Medicare has a 4 percent overhead rate. The real question is why do we have a private plan?
“It sounds like you’re saying you think there is no need for us to have private insurance in healthcare,” Joe asked at one point.
Weiner replied: “I’ve asked you three times. What is their value? What are they bringing to the deal?”
And then Joe sees the light
He even repeated Weiner’s points clearly: The goverment would take over only the “paying mechanism” of healthcare, not the doctors or their medical decisions themselves. His ears perked up every time Weiner mentioned that the nonprofit Medicare spends 4 percent on overhead, while private insurers spend 30 percent.
And Joe, who has been criticizing mob rule at town halls, seemed to appreciate the way Weiner counters the fearmongering over Medicare: After decades of railing against the program’s wasteful, “runaway” spending, Republicans have done a 180 and are now trying to scare seniors that the Democrats’ proposed Medicare cuts will come directly from their medical care and not, as is actually proposed, from wasteful, stupid practices in the system–like, as Weiner mentions, putting people into a $700-a-night hospital bed when all they really need, and often prefer, is a visit by a homecare attendant in the two-digit-a-day range.
And here is my favorite part
Maybe the real turning point came when Weiner asked, “How does Wal-mart offer $4 prescriptions?” Joe and co-host Mika Brzezinski looked as if they’d been thwacked by a hardback copy of Atlas Shrugged, and sat back to let the congressman explain it all to them:
They go to the pharmaceutical companies and say, “Listen, we have a giant buying pool here. You’re going to give us a great deal.”
Who’s bigger than Wal-Mart? We are, the taxpayers. Do we do that? No. Because we have outsourced this to insurance companies who don’t have necessarily as much incentive to keep those costs down because, frankly, they are getting a piece of the action.
Progressives tend to understand this stuff, but many conservatives won’t trust such logic, especially in the abstract, which is how most Dems have been communicating. But Weiner, aware that if you can’t visualize something it ain’t going to stick, argued with a specific, familiar visual–that of a successful, supercapitalist, and, as Mika might say, “real American” company. And suddenly, as the mote dropped from the MJ crew’s eyes, Weiner went from “scaring American citizens,” in Joe’s words, to instant celeb.
“That was SO great!” said Mika, as she and Joe asked Anthony to please, please come back soon, this week if possible!.
So let this be a lesson to all us who favor reform, President Obama included: be concrete and be succinct