Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Meet our latest batch of Senatorial extortionists

The AP characterized the senators walking away with millions and billions of your tax money and mine, in exchange for a vote for health care, as 'winners.' That makes us the losers.

Here's a look at some of the concessions lawmakers and interest groups won in the latest version of the Senate's health care overhaul bill:


SEN. BEN NELSON, D-NEB., who provided the critical 60th vote that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid needed, received numerous benefits for Nebraska, along with tighter curbs on abortion.

SEN. MAX BAUCUS, D-MONT., put in a provision to help the 2,900 residents of Libby, Mont., many of whom have asbestos-related illnesses from a now-defunct mineral mine. The Baucus provision never mentions Libby by name.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD, D-CONN., added an item making $100 million available for construction of a hospital at a public university. Dodd says more than a dozen sites could be eligible, but he hopes the University of Connecticut will be the beneficiary.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, D-VT., negotiated $600 million in additional Medicaid benefits for his state over 10 years.

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU, D-LA., withheld her support from the legislation until she was able to procure Medicaid help from the federal government worth at least $100 million in 2011.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, I-VT., held out on backing the bill until Reid, D-Nev., agreed to a $10 billion increase in support for community health centers.

SEN. BILL NELSON, D-FLA., pushed a provision he said will let about 800,000 Florida seniors enrolled in private MedicareAdvantage plans keep their extra benefits. It also helps seniors in a handful of other states. Elsewhere, Medicare Advantage patients risk losing benefits because the private plans are a major target of planned cuts to Medicare.


Doctors and hospitals in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming, will get paid more than providers in other states under formulas in the bill designed to help the so-called Frontier States.


  • Longshoremen were added to the list of high-risk professions shielded from the full impact of a new tax on high-value health insurance plans. Electrical linemen were already shielded, along with policemen, firefighters, emergency first responders and workers in construction, mining, forestry, fishing and certain agriculture jobs. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., took the lead in pushing for the longshoremen carve-out.
  • Gun rights lobbyists pushed for language to ban collection of data on gun ownership in the bill.

  • Construction industry companies won language limiting their exposure to penalties on employers who don't provide affordable health insurance to their employees.
The American Medical Association announced its coveted endorsement Monday after Reid made a series of change to please doctors, including:

1. Eliminating a 5 percent tax on elective cosmetic surgery procedures, replacing it with a 10 percent tax on indoor tanning services.

2. Eliminating payment cuts to specialty and other physicians that were to be used to pay for bonuses to primary care physicians and general surgeons in underserved areas. The bonuses remain.
3. Dropping a proposed fee on physicians who participate in Medicare. The $300 fee was to be used to fight fraud in the program.
The pharmaceutical industry scored victories including:

1. Makers of brand-name biotech drugs — expensive pharmaceuticals made from living cells — won 12 years of protection against would-be generic competitors.
2. Drugmakers fended off proposals to allow importation of cheaper drugs from Canada and other countries, and to let the government negotiate drug prices for Medicare recipients.
Source: The Tulsa World

©2007-2012copyrightMaggie M. Thornton