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The Unapologetic Geek

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Healthcare Summit Live Special

A crazy person

9:40 a.m.

Okay, so maybe I'm crazy, but I'm actually gonna watch this thing. I'm going to try to do it with as open a mind as possible. Tune in for occasional updates, and expect me to summarize my thoughts tonight, assuming I actually make it to the end. If it turns out to just be political posturing from both sides, I don't intend to watch it for long.

But before it starts, here are my thoughts. 1) If this really were an honest attempt to bring Republicans and Democrats together, would anybody believe it? 2) Democrats stand to gain a lot of ground here if they can stay calm and rational. 3) Republicans stand to lose a lot of ground if they go into this expecting nothing. 4) Yes, this could actually be a trap: if Democrats concede a few small points to the Republicans and manage to pass an amended bill, it gives them the ability to blame Republicans if it goes bad. 5) Healthcare needs to be reformed, but the insurance industry is not the main problem; high malpractice awards are the root cause, and if it isn't addressed, healthcare reform will fail to lower costs, because high malpractice leads to fewer doctors leads to rising healthcare costs leads to rising insurance costs. 6) If Democrats and Republicans actually show up and debate in good faith, we might actually get somewhere. 7) The problem is that there is little middle ground among liberal and conservative approaches to this problem; each calls for an opposing direction, not more cooperation.

I'm definitely biased on the conservative side, but I'm going to try my damnest to forget that for the next several hours. Open mind, e., open mind...

NOTE: I am currently in the middle of a snowstorm, so if updates suddenly stop, it's because I lost my Internet connection.

10:05 a.m.

I'm really pissed off that it's not going to be on C-Span, but rather C-Span 3, which, of course, I do not get! WTF?! Who gets C-Span 3?!!!!!! So I have to try to watch it online over a really crappy connection. This experiment might fail before it begins. Motherfuckers!

10:15 a.m.

This emotional appeal is totally unnecessary, Mr. President. Rather than sounding like someone who is serious about this summit, you sound like a politician begging people to do what you want. You're not off to a good start.

10:30 a.m.

Thank you, Mr. Alexander, for mentioning malpractice awards. You're making the case for the Republican side well, but you've come out with guns blazing a little too heavy; I doubt you're going to convince anybody when you go balls-to-the-wall like this.

10:40 a.m.

Ms. Pelosi is making it clear that the Democratic argument is an emotional one, not a rational one. I am very disappointed in the Democrats. We don't want something to be done immediately, just because something--anything--needs to be done. We want it done right, dangit! Starting over does not have to take a long time.

10:45 a.m.

Lovely. Mr. Reid is now starting yet another emotional appeal. It's going to be a long summit full of hand-wringing Democrats who say, "But look at how sad this is," every time the Republicans make an argument.

10:52 a.m.

Yeah, we get it. Something needs to be done. Now can we actually talk about how?!!!!

11:00 a.m.

I record for prosterity that one hour in is the first time I am seriously considering stopping this experiment. It's clear that the Democrats have come to the table with sad stories, accusations of lying, talking points, and an absolute refusal to even consider the Republican's fundamental argument that we have to start over. But I won't stop yet, because we've only heard from one Republican so far, who apparently doesn't want to admit that there are any areas of agreement, which there clearly are at least a few.

11:05 a.m.

The Republicans need to stop bringing up reconciliation. I actually agree with the president here; let's talk about what we can do here and now and not worry about what's going to happen next.

11:12 a.m.

Sen. Coburn brings up something I'd never considered. Higher malpractice awards also leads to an increase in superfluous tests because of doctors fearing litigation. Good point. And I think this whole thing about prevention is a big place where Republicans and Democrats agree. Absolutely we have to work harder at prevention, but I'm not sure how we can do that if we make sure everybody can afford insurance, even people with pre-existing conditions.

11:15 a.m.

Rep. Hoyer started out so well when he talked about how the American people hope they're talking about us and not them. But then he devolved into another motherfucking emotional appeal. Stop it, guys! We know something has to be done. We know it sucks. Please stay on point!

11:22 a.m.

Okay, good recovery, Mr. Hoyer. You are bringing up a lot of the topics that have to be covered, and I'm amazed you dropped the "public option" bomb. Let's talk about that, and I'll go get the popcorn. Just please, all of you, stop with the sob stories.

11:30 a.m.

Senator Baucus is doing a good job trying to convince us that the differences between Republicans and Democrats aren't that great on this issue. But I don't really buy it. Focusing on poor people and insurance companies is totally missing the point, I think.

11:37 a.m.

Mr. Klein, good job trying to explain the difference of opinion on whether premiums are going to go up or down, but you're fighting a losing battle. It's very obvious the Democrats will never admit that premiums could go up and that Republicans will never admit that premiums could go down.

11:40 a.m.

Oh brother, they're actually bickering over which side is getting more time. Boo! Boo on you, Sen. McConnell. Stay on friggin point!

11:47 a.m.

I'm glad the president is discussing one of the central "philosophical" debates about whether the government should be allowed to set minimum standards for insurance companies. As a libertarian, I definitely don't think the government should. If you can create real competition--which both parties are trying to do--then standards will set themselves. At best, government standards would be moot. At worst, government standards would destroy the insurance companies and force a government takeover. I'm wary here, but I agree with the president that this is one of the central debates on this issue.

11:52 a.m.

Senator Kyl is also doing a good job framing the philosophical debate here: do you trust Washington, or do you trust doctors and people?

12:08 p.m.

And here's Rep Clyburn to tell us some more sad stories and tell us that something has to be done. Yawn.

12:10 p.m.

Senator Kyl is my new hero. He's the first person to get the president a little flustered and overly defensive. Senator Kyl's point is not a talking point; it's a legitimate question: do you trust Washington, or do you trust the people? Come on, how does it get any simpler than that? The president's dismissiveness of it as a talking point is not helpful. Then again, the Democrats aren't going to suddenly realize that Washington is untrustworthy and the Republicans aren't going to suddenly realize that Washington can do no wrong. It's not a debate that would actually get anywhere.

12:18 p.m.

Mr. Boustany does good to discuss simplification--and slyly bring up the step-by-step approach I agree that the American people want rather than this bohemoth of a bill--but now he's just saying the same things everybody else has been saying, and he's the first Republican with a sob story. I'm not sure anything is actually getting done here except political theater. What he should do, when he points out the disagreement over whether premiums will go up or down, is use that as an example as to why the American people can't have any faith in the current plan. If these guys can't agree on whether this bill will bring premiums down, how is John Q. Public supposed to know? Alas, Mr. Boustany missed it.

12:25 p.m.

Rep. Miller is doing an awesome job explaining why the pre-existing condition thing is a real problem. I never looked at it the way he's framing it, but it makes sense. Once you developing a pre-existing condition, you might get trapped with your current insurance. I haven't encountered this myself, and I did develop diabetes a couple years ago, but I think it's a valid point nonetheless. This whole pre-existing condition thing is twisting my brain in circles, because I see how being denied insurance because of one is a horrible thing, but I also don't understand how you're supposed to create incentives for prevention is you force insurance companies to accept people with one.

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-e. magill 2/25/2010

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