‘Dangerously close to a parody’

‘DANGEROUSLY CLOSE TO A PARODY’…. Last week, during the Senate Finance Committee’s debate on health care reform, a frustrated Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) noted that the private insurance industry is “running certain people” in the Senate.

As the process drags on, Rockefeller’s Republican colleagues seem to be going out of their way to prove him right.

It’s getting late in the Senate Finance Committee’s writing of a health-care bill, but not too late for Republicans on Wednesday to make one more valiant stand for the health insurance industry.

Late in the afternoon, Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), the top Republican on the committee, requested consideration of the “Grassley F-1 Modified Amendment.” Its goal: eliminate $7 billion a year in fees that the government would charge private health insurance companies, and make up the shortfall by reducing benefits to poor people and legal immigrants.

It was dangerously close to a parody: Republicans demanding that fees be reduced on a profitable industry and shifted to low-income Americans. But Grassley pressed on, unafraid. The fees on the corporations, he said, are a “bad idea” and would undoubtedly result in higher insurance premiums. “I urge my colleagues to vote for my amendment, to strike the fees,” he exhorted.

I thought it was bold when Sen. Pat Roberts (R) of Kansas demanded that insurance company lobbyists be given more time to scrutinize the bill before the Finance Committee passes it, but this is far worse.

Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), not exactly a champion of progressive policy, noted that “the effect of this amendment is to take money away from lower-income people, take money away from Medicaid, in effect, and shift that income, give it to the insurance industry.”

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) responded the typical American is “hurting” because of the fees private insurance companies have to pay.

The good news is, Grassley’s reverse-Robin-Hood measure was defeated. The bad news is, every Republican voted for the ridiculous thing.