Monday, March 14, 2016

Hillary's Miracle Cure: Shop Around

(Optional soundtrack)

Happy Ides of March Eve of the third Super Duper Terror Tuesday of the year, everybody!

I must confess that, suffering as I am from a severe case of Presidential Horse Race overload, I paid only scant attention to last night's Democratic town hall from Ohio. But this exchange between Hillary Clinton and a middle-aged woman from the audience,named Joyce, really got my ear. It encapsulates the cynicism, cluelessness, and utter lack of empathy beneath a thin mask of technocratic concern that is at the very heart of the Clinton candidacy:

 QUESTION: I have voted for Obama, and then my health insurance skyrocketed from $409 a month to $1,090 a month for a family of four. I know Obama told us that we would be paying a little more, but doubling – over doubling my health insurance cost has not been a little more. It has been difficult to come up with that kind of payment every month. I would like to vote Democratic, but it's cost me a lot of money, and I'm just wondering if Democrats really realize how difficult it's been on working class Americans to finance Obama care.


CLINTON: Wow, Thank you for asking me that, because. May I ask you, before you were buying your family health insurance in the individual family market? Were you getting it through the employer? How were you insured before?

 QUESTION:  I was purchasing it privately, because we both had bouts of unemployment. 

CLINTON:  So you were going to a broker and buying a health insurance policy. 


CLINTON:  And in effect, it nearly tripled after you went on to the exchange and bought a policy under the Affordable Care Act, is that right? 

QUESTION:  We could not do that.  It was much more expensive than just purchasing private insurance from the insurance company. 

CLINTON:  So you are still buying private insurance directly? 


CLINTON:  OK.  Well, first of all, let me say I want very much to get the costs down, and that is going to be my mission, because I do think that for many, many people, but there are exceptions like what you are telling me, having the Affordable Care Act has reduced costs, has created a real guarantee of insurance, because if you'd had a pre-existing condition under the old system, you wouldn't have gotten affordable insurance.

So it has done a lot of really good things, but, it has become increasingly clear that we are going to have to get the costs down.  And what I would like to see happen for you and your family is that if we can get the co-pays down, the deductibles down, get the prescription drug costs under control, that you would find an affordable plan on your exchange. 

And one thing that I would like you to do, and I'm not saying it's going to make a difference, but I would like you to just go shopping on that exchange.  As I understand it, Ohio has the federal exchange, is that right, Joyce?  Because they did not set up a state exchange.

So you have the federal exchange.  And to go on and keep looking to see what the prices are, because we have to get more competition back into the insurance market.  One thing that I want to work on with my friends from Congress who are here is we've got the get more non-profits that are capable of selling insurance back into the insurance market. 

You know, Blue Cross and Blue Shield used to be non-profits.  And then they transferred themselves into for-profit companies.  And there was some effort made under the Affordable Care Act to get some competition from non-profit institutions, some of them worked and a lot of them didn't.

I want to know what we can do, because if you could get a range of insurers, some of who were not-for-profit companies, that would lower costs. 

So there is a number of things I am looking at.  And what I want to assure you and your family of is I will do everything I can as president, working with members of Congress where necessary, to try to get the costs down. 

But I do want you to keep shopping, because what you are telling me is much higher than what I hear from other families, and so I want to be sure that if there is a better option out there for you, you're going to be able to take advantage of it.  

And then I'll work as hard as I can to get the costs down for everybody, and that includes prescription cost drugs, which are skyrocketing and increasing costs for everything else. 


How does Hillary Clinton verbally diminish and insult this woman living on the edge? Let us parse the ways.

First, she disingenuously professes shock at Joyce's plight. "Wow!"  She immediately casts her questioner as an anomaly in the wonderful world of market-based medical insurance for profit. Ignoring Joyce's all-too-common experience with precarious employment, Hillary pounces on her deficient shopping skills.

Joyce's big problem, in Hillary's view, is not that insurance companies are greedy. It's that Joyce has lazily put her trust in a greedy insurance broker. She gave up on Internet shopping too easily. She didn't shop around. 

Next, Clinton goes full Pangloss, reminding Joyce that it could always be worse. At least her pre-existing conditions won't be held against her any more. Of course she'll have to pay more, because her conditions are not the fault of the profit-driven insurance cartel contributing handsomely to Hillary's campaign and paying her generously for private speeches. It's not the insurance cartel's problem that healthy people aren't signing up for product in the droves that the White House originally predicted. It's not the insurance cartel's fault that sick people are gaming the system by daring to try and use insurance product, thereby forcing the cartel members to either drop out or merge, thus driving up rates.

As sure as the wind's gonna blow, Joyce, insurance companies will come and go, and merge, and screw you any way they can. So you better shop around. Try to get a bargain for your son, and don't get sold on the very first one. You gotta shop around. It is your duty as an American citizen.

Clinton also didn't bother asking the woman how many crappy jobs she has to work in order to make ends meet. She didn't ask if Joyce even has access to a computer or an Internet connection. She didn't ask if she has any time to spare in a futile quest to save a few bucks on her monthly insurance premium, which probably nears or even surpasses the amount the family has to pay in rent or their mortgage. She didn't want to know what it will cost Joyce in co-pays and deductibles, should she ever attempt to use her overpriced insurance.

To the contrary: Hillary bragged about working with her superdelegate "friends in Congress who are here" to magically cajole the private insurance predators into acting a little less greedy. Maybe reduce the co-pays a tad, if not the premiums.Yes, folks: these platitudes come from the same woman who calls Bernie Sanders's Medicare for All plan a severe case of magical thinking.

Hillary instead doubled down in implicitly blaming Joyce for not getting a better rate. Joyce's very typical horror story is apparently not what Hillary is used to selectively hearing. Her trite response is to keep on shopping till you drop  to save a buck on overpriced insurance product. Stop being such an inept consumer, Joyce, and maybe you won't keep feeling so sad and blue now.

Because in Hillary World, health is not a basic human right. In Hillary World, there are no people who must choose between taking medicine and paying the electric bill. In Hillary World, there is no precariat.

There are only consumers ripe for extraction and exploitation.

HR 676: Medicare for All. Everybody covered from cradle to grave. Pay a slightly higher tax rate and forget about shopping around till you drop, forget about premiums, co-pays and deductibles.

You better shop around. Voting for Bernie is probably still the best bang for your buck.


Pearl said...

Yes, Karen. I was fascinated by Hillary (taking lots of time for her answer) didn't realize how the complicated explanation of what this woman should do exposed the shortcomings of the current Obamacare. I was hoping someone in the audience would get up and shout 'if we had universal coverage we wouldn't have such problems'!. I also was hoping that the interviewers would ask Hillary whether single payer would eliminate such need for anyone to have to SHOP AROUND and that the woman had the courage to say how difficult the advice would continue to make her life. And as you mentioned, how many people have the time and a computer to KEEP LOOKING which takes a lot of time according to many negative reports.

Great column and I hope people in the audience caught on how Hillary would handle problems if she god forbid became our president.

Yes bill 676 has been languishing in Congress for a long time and if nothing else we need Bernie around to at least get decent health care coverage for the greatest and wealthiest country in the world.

Great column, and reports are now coming in that Hillary is losing some numbers for the upcoming voting coming up tomorrow and next week. I'm fastening my seat belt.

Pearl said...

Not sure about any more caucuses or elections for Democrats after tomorrow. Cannot find that information on my computer so next week as mentioned above is probably not correct.
Anyone know the plans coming up after tomorrow for Democrats?

annenigma said...

Our national health plan - don't get sick.

Cynic Pearl said...

Annenigma: A difficult accomplishment.

For the average citizen, the price of healthy food is prohibitive, the air is polluted, income if you have a job is meager, worry about the future disrupts one's sleep, feeling safe especially for minorities is a constant threat, seeing a doctor for preventive reasons may not be available, worry about children who cannot afford a higher education or that someone will shoot your child in school, Housing costs, fear that the country will be invaded, that Trump is successfully running for President and that alcoholism is rising to deal with the realities as well as street drugs. Ad Infinitum. Cheers!

Keep well everybody.

paintedjaguar said...

With millions in bribes from Wall Street (and more to come), Hillary can pay for health care out of pocket change, and if there's any shopping to be done I'm sure she has "people" to do that for her. The Clintons left the little people behind a long time ago.

General Jinjur said...

Jay–Ottawa said...

Did Paul Krugman become a turncoat in recent times or is he the same old guy he always was? He came to my attention back when he was hammering George Bush. After Obama took over and pursued the same damn policies as Bush, what did Krugman do? He continued to hammer George Bush.

Those among us who can't forgive Krugman for his selective blindness will find another critique (short) of the great economist over at Doug Henwood's blog. Did you know that for $50,000/year Krugman served as an "advisor" to Enron. Henwood reprints an infomercial Krugman wrote for them by way of educating the rest of us about the market. Then Enron collapsed in a heap of fraud.

Was Krugman ever a teacher of economics we commoners could believe in, or just another shill? Would it be unfair to ask whether, in his current support of the DNC and Hillaryron, he's merely gone from bad to worse?

Pearl said...

Jay: thank you for a very revealing report about Krugman's past. It validates my feelings about him psychologically in that he had the weaknesses of a man who sought self importance financially as well as prestige early. I lived in a cooperative in the Bronx, which housed the older generation of Russian Jewish emigration in the early l9th century. It was fascinating to observe how people who were struggling to get a foothold in their new country, reacted to events and each other. My father whom Bernie Sanders reminds me of, was always battling with the officials who ran the cooperative (he was one of them as the education director) on their views of what were the priorities in running the cooperative and where the weaknesses of their characters showed up. The children of these emigres (my peers) were pushed to succeed which resulted in their becoming "successful" in the ways of a Wall street mentality or a professional capacity and then moving away from their parents and living in wealthier suburbs outside NYC. I have a feeling that Krugman was an example of a similar background where Jewish identity as a result of their history moved toward the neocon liberalism of today. I believe it is why so many successful Jews are part of the Clinton-Obama stable as advisors and supportive friends financially. It would be interesting to find out where and how Krugman grew up and where his intelligence found a political home.
Karen, I hope you will not be disturbed by my comments, but there IS a division among Jews throughout their history which is showing up more in the younger members now not only regarding U.S. issues but in support of Israel as well. This is not confined to Jews, but many emigres from different ethnic groups face similar challenges and react accordingly.
Krugman chose to be respected by the people he wanted to consort with and his intelligence sometimes forces him to swing back and forth, but basically the die is cast.

More information about his early years would be of interest if it can be found and he is not unique in his views and attitudes unfortunately. I think he wants to be respected by everybody.

Karen Garcia said...

Re Krugman:

I think that most liberals/Times readers were willing to overlook his sordid history with Enron and his shilling for Nafta once Bush seized power and Krugman was among the rare pundits who criticized his military adventurism right from the get-go. With the GOP in power, Krugman was then able to successfully market his own brand as the Cassandra crying out in the wilderness, castigating trickle-down Reaganomics while glossing over his own prior stint as an economic adviser in the Reagan administration, where he insisted he merely slogged away as a low-level wonk. His best-selling "Conscience of a Liberal" -- basically an homage to the New Deal -- further solidified his brand with legions of fans. Even Bernie Sanders was a y-u-u-ge fan, even going so far as to say he'd consider Krugman as his treasury secretary. Hopefully he is now reconsidering that suggestion, given that he was castigated as a "demagogue" in K's latest column.

Philip Mirowski, in "Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste," portrayed Krugman as residing on the leftward edge of what he calls the Neoliberal Thought Collective. His main criticism of Krugman is his parochialism: restricting criticism of the class war and wealth inequality to the Republican Party rather than to the free market ideology controlling both major political parties.

Krugman is now forced to tacitly admit that he was only kidding about his progressivism. His function had been to keep the liberal proles in line with his heavy sighs every time Obama was forced by those non-human forces out there to negotiate with the GOP in the name of "pragmatism."

It's pretty funny that Krugman, right along with Hillary, is now pretending to backtrack on his positions re free trade deals. Maybe if they now admit that "mistakes were made" and jobs were destroyed, their victims won't notice that centrist Dems were the original architects of Nafta.

I was once a fan of Krugman myself, until his constant shilling for Obama in general and Obamacare in particular soured me and opened my eyes to his dishonesty as well as to his empathy deficit. I used to comment on his columns quite a lot when I was among the few (besides Meredith and a few others) who criticized him. Therefore, I am glad that most other people are now on to him as well -- nobody wants to be insulted as a Berniebro, after all. Like our fellow commenter, Meredith of NYC has said, his placement of his personal blog on the NYT platform, to constantly market himself and brag about his musical tastes, has been another huge turnoff for me. He recently griped about his current employer (CUNY) having some funding cut off by Gov. Cuomo, without mentioning his own untouched outrageous salary and the fact that adjunct profs at CUNY are barely subsisting while K gets paid a quarter mil a year to teach just one class.

If there is one thing we can thank Bernie for, even if he eventually loses, it's that he has unwittingly done more than perhaps anybody else to out Krugman as a total fake and neoliberal snob. I hope the CUNY students boycott and picket him just like they boycotted and picketed David Petraeus and his cushy deal.

Karen Garcia said...


Rima Regas has touched upon the Krugman v. Sanders Jewish culture clash in her recent comments and blog essays as well. Her observation is that Krugman has successfully assimilated himself in the WASPish academic milieu, complete with WASP accent, mannerisms, etc., while Sanders has not. And that in-your-face ethnicity may be a large part of why Krugman seems to have such a huge bug up his ass about Bernie. They actually have similar histories: both their fathers were immigrants who settled in Brooklyn.

Maybe somebody can do a complete psychoanalysis on Paul Krugman someday. My own crass take is that he is just big phony jerk with a very thin skin. He was also probably bullied in school. He was also an only child.

I actually broke down and wrote a late comment (therefore buried in the shuffle) to his most recent drivel yesterday:

Let's take Krugman at his word and agree that a tiny fraction of the Tweets from the "Bernie Bros" who so chafe his thin skin might be a tad on the nasty side.

But rather than addressing the anger and despair that have been deliberately ignored by our de facto oligarchy, PK contains it within horserace politics. He equates the hate agenda of Trump with the utopian agenda of Sanders. He writes about the battle between two elite factions, rather than about the war of the predatory rich against the rest of us.

These rude young "purists" whom Paul so disdains are facing the worst job prospects since the Great Depression. According to the Federal Reserve, half of all college grads are now working at low-wage jobs that don't require a BA. If it's bad for educated young people facing mountains of debt, you can only imagine how bad it is for the high school grads battling the college crowd for jobs flipping hamburgers and cleaning the bathrooms at Goldman Sachs.

And Bernie Sanders comes along and suggests free tuition at public colleges, and the establishment goes into conniption fits. Paul clutches his pearls over a few nasty Tweets from people whose desperation occasionally gets in the way of their manners. This is all too reminiscent of Mitt Romney telling broke kids to borrow money from their broke parents. "Both-siderism" is the last refuge of scoundrels. Remember when Paul used to rightly make fun of it?

People are hurting out here, Mr. Krugman. Where's your empathy?

Meredith NYC said...

Pearl.....Can you give us any contrast with the health care system in Canada? Do they have to shop around? How would Obamacare and Hillary be regarded up there?

Also Sanders held Senate hearings on health care with witnesses from Canada, Denmark, France, Taiwan to show how other systems operate to cover all citizens.

Why he doesn't he use some info from these hearings to inform Americans and sell his proposals is a mystery to me. He just makes the same short generalities over and over and then of course his critics criticize it as unworkable.

So the h/c plans of dozens of other nations might as well be on another planet. In fact, they are.
This leaves Hillary to say whatever she wants. The liberals make it so easy for the opposition.

All she has to say is America is not Denmark. And that's the end of it. Very convenient. This is a ridiculous campaign.

Pearl said...

Thanks Karen for your excellent response. As you have said, I am sure Krugman is hoping to be a trusted advisor to god forbid President Clinton, and earn even more income than he can possibly spend. I am sure her comments on Obamacare have been from his advice.
Focusing on Krugman is important as he represents a class of officials and ex presidents of both parties who have been responsible for the deterioration in the United States.
As you have said, even if Bernie 'loses', he will have left his mark. I have a lovely lady who does the heavy cleaning in my condo and I pay $30 an hour for her work. Today she told me she gets $13 after the owners of the private section that runs the place get their share and that is the set up everywhere. Canada is also run by capitalism although a bit more civilized. However Justin Trudeau is trying to figure out what to do about all the issues the U.S. is facing regarding 'free' trade etc. and his lovefest with Obama was disturbing. So it goes. Hope the voting today brings some pleasant surprises.

Pearl said...

Meredith; I think Jay if he wishes to could give an honest answer about health care in Canada. It is running into financial problems due to the way money was handled by the Harper regime plus the increase in care for people (like myself who live so long)and the tax set up is superior to the U.S. but not all that great. Cutbacks for elderly care are occurring and it depends on how Justin Trudeau allocates a reduced budget. At least the military expenditures are not as corrupt as in the U.S. but the country still deals with trading inequities and we are not a democratic socialist country.
I have heard Bernie allude to the other countries regarding health care and agree he should cover the waterfront better but perhaps they feel focussing on the job and financial situation is what will get the votes in.
Although we may find Bernie repetitive, there are many voters in the states coming up that do not know much about him and although I would wish for improvements in his speeches, the core of what he represents does come through although many people are deaf to what he has to say regardless. There are no easy answers unfortunately and although Hillary is very focused and organized which is effective it is a blanket covering corruption of the highest order under the rocks which we may be stuck with seemingly forever. Those who are left after her coronation and have the energy will have to cut her down to size as much as possible. We are certainly living in interesting (cursed) times and I would like to see a little daylight before I expire.

Jay–Ottawa said...

I've read that Hillary could lose her old home state of Illinois in today's primary. If that happens, it could mark the beginning of the end for her. One more upset like that (Illinois 182 delegates) and the momentum will shift to Bernie. Even if Hillary wins Florida (246), which is expected, the DNC will have to sit down to remap its strategy through the convention.

Nor can the newspaper of record afford to blow its remaining bridges to Bernie who is becoming less of a long shot with each passing day. Notice how the digital Times of this morning had a number of articles about Bernie, some of the headlines and teases kinda even handed? Maybe editors do read the comments, which, when I take a look, are mostly enthusiastic for Bernie and damning for Hillary.

Back to Illinois. I have a bottle of bubbly on hand and a fluted glass. That's for when Bernie takes Illinois. But if Hillary wins, I'll still drain a glass––for to ease the pain and minus the toast to Vermont.

Jay–Ottawa said...


Meredith nyc said...

Karen ....
yes let’s psychoanalyze Krugman. He's asking for it. He’s got some kind of cockamamie inferiority complex that he’s compensating for. Immigrant parents in Brooklyn---then he goes to MIt/Princeton, etc. Who knows?

But he obviously knows which side to identify with for his advantage, prestige and influence. All while painting himself as the rational, scientific Humanitarian concerned with inequality. But there’s another H word that is now inescapable.

I don’t think he cares too much about the distress of the masses as much as that the elites are getting away with something. That accounts for his wisecracking insults to the Zombie/Derp Gop crazies in constant columns.

So what ARE his proposals on tax rates, bank regulations, college tuition, retirement plans? And ACA h/c which will someday be ‘improved’. When will we find out? When he’s one of Hillary’s courtier advisors after she dons the crown, scepter and cape.