There are many ways you could frame the role of Senator Kent Conrad, one of the gang of six senators who are working very hard to preserve the profitable dominance of private health insurance in the US. A report marvel at why six senators representing less than 3% of the US population is controlling the fate of health insurance reform. A serious report might look at the obscene amounts of campaign cash flowing into these senators coffers from the for-profit health insurance industry and its allies.
Ah but not on NPR. Yesterday, on Friday's ATC Andrea Seabrook explains Kent Conrad's opposition to the pubic option and offer of health insurance co-ops as the result of his expertise on fighting government deficits and his commitment to centrism and bipartisanship.
Before introducing Seabrook's report, Siegel sets the tone, "Conrad's focus on the deficits and debt makes him a pivotal figure in the health care debate." After that it's all Seabrook:
"he's keenly aware of the long-term problems the United States faces when it comes to government spending and the national debt. And when it comes to health care? Conrad sees big, new problems with the idea of big, new government programs."
"Democratic leaders could ram a health care bill through the Senate; they'd have to use a special set of rules known as reconciliation. Conrad knows this; he just thinks it's a terrible idea."There's just one little, tiny problem with all this emphasis on expertise, budget deficits and BIG, NEW PROBLEMS, great co-ops, and winning Republican votes: it doesn't wash. First there is no consensus that deficit spending is a bad thing. As far as the danger of a BIG, NEW GOVERNMENT PROGRAM costing sooooo much more money than what we've got - that's a factually challenged assertion, too. But Health Insurance Co-ops are a good thing, like Credit Unions, right? Wrong, they are a sham. Well, at least the bit about getting Republicans on board makes sense, yes? Wrong again.
"Now, because Conrad is at the nexus of budget expertise and political centrism, Senate Democratic leaders and committee chairs asked him to devise a plan that could pass the Senate and get some Republican votes."
"Health care co-ops would be to private insurance companies what credit unions are to private banks. The co-op would provide health insurance, but it would be a nonprofit business owned by its members. A big plus, says Conrad, they'd be a lot cheaper in the long-term. The idea already has support from centrists of both parties."
"He could end up being the guy who represented the rational middle or the guy who killed real reform."