Q: Are there death panels?
A: If you want to talk with your physician about end-of-life issues, you can.
Some yelling and cursing greeted this response, but Inslee didn't back off.
Q: Are you willing to support a bill without a public option?
A: Without saying yes or no, Inslee stated that a public option was "fundamental to reform."
This amplified an earlier statement to the effect that if we were going to require insurance, a public alternative to the "tender mercies of the insurance companies" "makes sense." Inslee added that the public would be financed by premiums and not taxpayer contributions.
Q: If this is such a good program, will you be on it?
A: Members of Congress will be subject to the same rights and liabilities as anyone else.
Q: Do the self-employed get help from this bill?
A: Self-employed people are eligible for tax credits and -- if living at under 400% of the poverty line -- are entitled to a sliding scale.
Presumably, the sliding scale applies to the public option.
Q: (This question was actually a series of questions that recapitulated the standard right-wing talk points about health care. Inslee chose to address issues of privacy and tort reform.)
A: He's read the Ways and Means bill (putting a cap on shouts of "read the bill" once and for all), and the assertion that the federal government will have access to people's bank accounts is "not accurate."
He added that if you are low income and if you apply for a subsidy, the government can look at your tax return -- which it already has -- to verify that you are eligible.
Regarding tort reform, "there is nothing in the bill that would change the judicial system of the United States."
Inslee pointed out that medical damages are traditionally a matter of state jurisdiction and that states that have tried tort reform have found it ineffective. He went on to state his personal philosophical objection to removing medical malpractice suits from the jury system: He thinks a jury is better positioned than the state to determine damages on a case-by-case basis.
Note: Tort reform has proven an ineffective means of bringing down medical costs for a good reason: Malpractice damages compromise an infinitesimally low portion of total costs.
Q: How does a national data base for best practices protect the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship?
A: The Ways & Means bill does not change privacy laws.
Inslee added that members of the committee have worked diligently to ensure this.
Snark Remark: Where was all of this conservative concern for privacy when Bush was tapping phones?
Q: Isn't a 1000-page bill too hard to manage? It "sorta feels" like a legal quagmire?
A: "We've done some pretty bold things in this country" and can handle this.
Q: Why should we trust government figures?
A: They're going by the CBO.
He understands the apprehension, given the false states that the Bush Administration made about the Iraq war. The jeers at the mention of Bush's name fell into two camps: The majority who routinely boo anything having to do with the man, and the minority who felt his name was unfairly injected into the debate. Bush remains a polarizing figure, and always will be.
Note: I find it odd that the same people who blamed Bill Clinton for everything that went wrong during the eight years of the Bush Administration now expect President Obama to have complete accountability for the hash Bush made of the economy after less than eight months in office. Does this mean that Bush was responsible for 9/11?
Q: Will a bill pass?
A: Inslee believes that the House and Senate will pass a bill that the president can sign. He is optimistic that it will include a public option.
If this meeting was representative, conservative opposition to health care reform coalesces around the public option, which they see as leading inevitably to socialized medicine. I'll address that further in my next blog entry. Meanwhile...
Just A Song: Death don't have no mercy in this land...
Second line to save Charity Hospital: