Category Archives: Bill Frist

Bill Frist Memory Hole

Those Republicans calling the health insurance mandate an “assault on liberty” might want to take it up with members of their own party–including Tennessee’s own Bill Frist, who wrote this op-ed last September advocating just such a mandate.

The former Senate Majority Leader wrote:

The argument for an individual mandate centers on three principles.

First, it would achieve fairness. No family in America should fear bankruptcy because of an accident, a child’s cancer, or a heart attack. That is the purpose of insurance. An individual mandate is the only way to achieve affordable insurance coverage for every American in a pluralistic, public-private sector.

Second, it would eliminate wasteful cost-shifting. Though many uninsured people do eventually get care in emergency rooms, the $30 billion to $50 billion in bills for “uncompensated care” or “bad debt” they generate are inefficiently shifted to the privately insured, wasting scarce health dollars. These economic distortions are behind the dollar aspirin tablet and the $10 Band-Aid you discover on your hospital bill. No one knows the real price of anything. Such lack of transparency destroys any hope for true market forces, like prudent purchasing by the consumer, which would normally hold the “health spending curve” in check.

And few today who remain “voluntarily uninsured” fully appreciate the risks they would face in the case of a catastrophic event.

Third, it would reduce adverse selection. When healthier people opt not to carry insurance, only those with poorer health, and thus higher costs, remain in. This leads insurance prices to spiral up. And it further impedes markets’ ability to mitigate risks and prevent personal economic catastrophe. The “free-riders” who do not purchase insurance and the “voluntarily uninsured” who depend on emergency room care paid by others would then pay their fair share for services received.

Indeed, some of my conservative commenters have mentioned over here that if you are going to ban “pre-existing conditions,” you must have an insurance mandate. Otherwise, people would go without insurance until something catastrophic happened, and the insurance pool would be dominated by sick people, without a balance of healthy people.

Of course, liberals are all over the fact that the mandate started as a Republican idea:

“The truth is this is a Republican idea,” said Linda Quick, president of the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association. She said she first heard the concept of the “individual mandate” in a Miami speech in the early 1990s by Sen. John McCain, a conservative Republican from Arizona, to counter the “Hillarycare” the Clintons were proposing.

McCain did not embrace the concept during his 2008 election campaign, but other leading Republicans did, including Tommy Thompson, secretary of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush.

Seeking to deradicalize the idea during a symposium in Orlando in September 2008, Thompson said, “Just like people are required to have car insurance, they could be required to have health insurance.”

Among the other Republicans who had embraced the idea was Mitt Romney, who as governor of Massachusetts crafted a huge reform by requiring almost all citizens to have coverage.

“Some of my libertarian friends balk at what looks like an individual mandate,” Romney wrote in The Wall Street Journal in 2006. “But remember, someone has to pay for the health care that must, by law, be provided: Either the individual pays or the taxpayers pay. A free ride on government is not libertarian.”

Romney was referring to the federal law that requires everyone to be treated in emergency rooms, regardless of their ability to pay.

In truth, I think it’s just as much a Democratic idea as a Republican one. Hillary Clinton embraced the mandate as a candidate for President, for example.

All of this arguing over the mandate, after the fact, is just so much Kabuki Theater and manufactured outrage. It’s dishonest for Democrats to say that this is purely a Republican idea but it’s even more dishonest for Republicans to run from the policy they once advocated–and it’s shameful that they would stoke outrage among their unhinged base for something they have supported for decades.

Just another sign of our broken system. I’m still waiting for the grown-ups to arrive.

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>Pocket Book Politics

>Back when I was kid I remember seeing this poster everywhere:


The poster I remember was different, though. It was rainbow colored (but then, wasn’t everything when we were kids?) and the font looked like handwriting. In other words, it was a little more hippy-dippy, but the message was the same:

”It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the air force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.”

I have been thinking about this poster a lot lately, what with all the talk about escalating the war in Afghanistan and calls by some Democrats for a war tax. So imagine my surprise when I heard Bill Frist fearmonger about the healthcare bill thusly:

Frist expects the bill will bring a lot more uninsured Tennesseans into TennCare, the state’s Medicaid program. He says TennCare’s roles could swell by 30 percent over the next decade. The extra money for that will have to come from somewhere, and Frist says one likely cut is education.

“And it’s going to fall back in the laps of the governors – Governor Bredesen, but even more importantly the next governor, who is going to have to cut education, who is going to have to cut the police force, in order to pay for these increased expenses.”

Really? You know, I don’t remember Frist or any of his Bush Administration cronies–or, for that matter, any of the tea baggers–worrying about expenses when they crammed the Iraq War down our throats with their lies and deceptions about mushroom clouds and yellow cake uranium.

Nor do I remember any sudden jones for “fiscal responsibility” when we decided to go after the Taliban in Afghanistan. It’s fair to say one reason our government is in its current fiscal mess is due to trillion-dollar wars that were never put on the books but simply passed on to the next generation, while this generation helped themselves to some tax cuts.

Someone decided to throw a little par-tay and have the grandkids pay for it. Sorry kids, no healthcare for you! We’re spending your inheritance on war instead. Take it up with Bill Frist, he’s one of the former Senate leaders who thought this idea was just peachy.

Now, I’m going to dispute the whole “there will be cuts in education to pay for healthcare” premise anyway, since education is one of those things for which there are federal grants (including Recovery Funds), though I imagine as soon as the Recovery money stops Frist and his cohorts will shout “See! Told ya so!”

Anyway, the idea that we must choose between educating our kids and keeping them healthy is just so much bullshit. How about both? Why do we have to choose? Only a Republican would think it’s one or the other.

Again I ask: how come there is always money for war, never money for things like education and healthcare? One of the things that kills me about our discourse is how the media always couches the debate on healthcare and education as a fiscal argument. They bought the Republican talking point hook, line and sinker.

Our media asks, Can we afford this? I reply: My God, can we afford not to? But on issues of war, “can we afford this” is rarely asked. It’s, ohmygawdwe’reallgonnadie. News flash: people are already dying from lack of healthcare in this country. Crazy, ain’t it?

Does Bill Frist know how many kids in Tennessee don’t have health insurance? According to FamiliesUSA, it’s one out of every 13 kids (or was–before the economic downturn. It could be worse now). What good is education if kids are too sick to get to school?

How often do we hear war spending presented in fiscal terms like this? Rarely. Yet an additional 40,000 troops in Afghanistan is estimated to cost $40 billion a year. That’s in addition to what we are already spending on the war.

Another $40 billion. That’s $40 billion on top of the hundreds and hundreds of billions we’ve already spent there. We’ve already sank more money into blowing up two countries than we needed to fund healthcare reform and education.

Why is it when it comes to things like healthcare we quibble about the pennies and go to great lengths to make sure a bill is “budget neutral.” Why don’t our wars have to be “budget neutral”?

Why is a war of choice always viewed as a necessity, but necessities like healthcare and education are luxuries?

I’m tired of people like Bill Frist telling us we need to choose between educating our kids and keeping them healthy. That’s just wrong. We just need to shift our priorities.

It will be a great day when the country realizes we can’t afford these little, decades-long military adventures any more. Sorry but we’ve got kids to educate, and a populace to keep healthy, and senior citizens to care for. We have levees to shore up and an energy grid to repair.

If you want your little war, go have a bake sale.

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He Was Against Judicial Filibusters Before He Was For Them

Disgraced ex-Frist staffer Manuel Miranda is back:

Well guess what?  Miranda is back with the same coalition but a new letter [PDF] with new demands – namely, that Senate Republicans carry out a filibuster against Sonia Sotomayor.  But not one of those disgusting “partisan” filibusters that the Democrats used, but rather one of those glorioius and noble “traditional” filibusters that protects the Constitution.

[…]

Do I need to point out the irony in the fact that the group once known as the National Coalition to End Judicial Filibusters is now explicitly calling for the use of a judicial filibuster?

Yes, apparently you do. Because the GOP is nothing if not irony-challenged. And they have no shame. They see absolutely nothing wrong with campaigning against the judicial filibuster on all of the Sunday morning bobblehead shows and at Justice Sunday events when there’s a Republican president, then do a complete 180 when there’s a Democrat in the White House. And they’ll use a crook to carry their message and never think twice about it.

And what is it with these tarnished Republicans connected to Bill Frist? First we have Medicare-fraud king Rick Scott, now leading the charge against healthcare reform with dubious infomercials.

Manuel Miranda, for those who don’t recall, was forced to resign in 2004 as Frist’s top judiciary aide, after he hacked into Democratic computers.

More on Manuel from the memory hole here. He actually sued John Ashcroft in an attempt to quash the criminal investigation into his illegal hacking activity.

They do have some brass ones. Gotta hand it to ’em.

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>Did Bill Frist Heart Torture?

>Amid all of this discussion about the Bush Administration’s approval of torture and holding Administration officials who justified its use accountable, it bears remembering that Tennessee’s own former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist played an important role in ensuring the use of torture became SOP.

He did so by quashing a Senate bill sponsored by John McCain, Lindsay Graham and John Warner which would have limited the use of torture and upheld the Geneva Conventions. And he did so at the behest of the Bush White House.

From the memory hole:

But Frist struck a more jarring tone, telling reporters that the trio’s bill is unacceptable despite its majority support.

For a bill to pass, Frist said, “it’s got to preserve our intelligence programs,” including the CIA’s aggressive interrogation techniques, and it must “protect classified information from terrorists.” He said that “the president’s bill achieves those two goals” but that “the Warner-McCain-Graham bill falls short.”

The disagreement centers on the Geneva Conventions, which say wartime detainees must be “treated humanely.” Bush backs language saying the United States complies so long as CIA interrogators abide by a 2005 law barring “cruel, inhuman, or degrading” treatment of captives. Warner and his allies say they are concerned that Bush’s approach would invite nations to interpret the Geneva Conventions in lax ways that could lead to abusive treatment of captured U.S. troops.

The Warner contingent also opposes Bush’s bid to allow detainees to be convicted on secret evidence they are not allowed to see.

So Bill Frist would not allow limits to the Administration’s use of torture. He wanted us to waterboard someone 183 times in one month, and he wanted this over the objection of the one U.S. Senator who has actually been tortured as a prisoner of war and knows torture doesn’t work.

And he’s a doctor?

(And I’m with Jon Stewart on this one: at one point does the law of diminishing returns come into play? After the 50th waterboarding, don’t you think a suspect will have figured out that he’s not actually drowning? And wouldn’t the interrogators have figured out they’re not actually getting any useful information? If torture worked, would it have been necessary to waterboard someone 183 times in one month?)

I suspect the Administration didn’t care if torture works or not. According to a Senate Armed Services Committee report, Gitmo interrogators used torture to produce a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, though none existed. They were just going to keep torturing people until someone gave them the information the Bush Administration needed to justify their illegal war. And Tennessee’s own Bill Frist had his own small role to play in making sure this happened.

I repeat: he’s a doctor???! Do no harm, Dr. Frist. Do no harm.

Bill Frist has undergone a major bluewashing in recent months. As part of his Great Political Makeover™, the kinder, gentler Bill Frist is suddenly concerned about progressive issues like global poverty and education. But that doesn’t mean we’ll forget the Bill Frist who was Senate majority leader, the one who sailed in to rescue Terri Schiavo and killed an anti-torture bill and, oh yeah, pushed Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program, too.

Does Bill Frist seriously think we’re going to forget his dirty past?

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>If Only He’d Been In A Position To Do Something About That

>
Bill Frist is milking his corporate shilling for evil soft drink giant Coca-Cola with James Carville during the Super Bowl. He says:

The theme is bringing people together in the political arena, something I wish we saw a bit more often in D.C.  I hope this commercial will encourage others to reach across divides – political or otherwise – for the greater good of our nation.

Hilarious. Bill Frist thinks we’re going to forget all of the back-door dealings and parliamentary maneuvering that he and he alone used to silence and oppress the minority party.

Like the time he held open the Medicare roll call vote for three full hours, or the time his top judiciary aide Manuel Miranda hacked into Democratic computers and was forced to resign, or what about the time he threatened the “nuclear option” if President Bush didn’t get his way on his judicial picks. That was reaching across the aisle, all right–with a baseball bat!

I expect we’ll see more and more of this kind of soft-focus reimaging of hard-boiled GOP partisans and Bush water carriers in the coming months. Yes, the country’s political pendulum is moving back to the left, hard-right conservatism is out of vogue, and political opportunists like Bill Frist who aren’t ready to go out to pasture are hoping we’ll forget their very active roles in the hyper-partisan Bush/Rove years.

Hah. Fat chance, Fristie. As if. You really think we’re going to forget Terry Schiavo and Justice Sunday because you’re mouthing a lot of pretty words now in a desperate attempt to revive your dead political career? Not on your life.

(h/t, Volunteer Voters)

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>Those Are Some Nice New Spots You’re Wearing, Dr. Frist

>That’s funny, I don’t remember Bill Frist caring about poverty and AIDs patients back when he was Senate Majority Leader:

In what is the largest issue ad campaign of the cycle so far, ONE Vote 08, an arm of Bono’s ONE Campaign, will go up with a $1.8 million political ad buy starting Thursday in Iowa, New Hampshire and on cable nationally.

The ads name each of the candidates, but doesn’t target anyone specifically. The bipartisan ONE Vote 08, co-chaired by former Sens. Tom Daschle (D) and Bill Frist (R) seeks to influence the agenda of the next president.

Gee, as I remember it, Bill “you-can-catch-AIDs-from-tears-and-sweat” Frist had an opportunity to influence the agenda of the current president. And while President Bush made lots of bold promises for African AIDs relief in his 2003 SOTU, as with so many things President Bush does, the reality fell far short of the hype:

First he handed the top job of his Global AIDS Initiative to a Big Pharma boss, then he broke his $3 billion promise of AIDS relief and now there are concerns that he may sabotage a plan to send cheap drugs to countries ravaged by AIDS.

This past August, the World Trade Organization announced a new deal on drug patents that was supposed to give poor countries facing health problems the right to import generic drugs. But the deal seemed unworkable: The United States, at the behest of the pharmaceutical lobby, had successfully pushed for so many conditions that the agreement exploded from a straightforward forty-nine words to a sprawling 3,200-word maze.

Countries wanting to import cheap generics must jump through multiple hoops to prove they are truly in need, unable to afford patented drugs and incapable of producing the medicines domestically. Meanwhile, there is no guarantee that there will be a sufficient supply of drugs for them to buy, since the deal also puts up hurdles for countries wanting to export. “A ‘gift’ tightly bound in red tape,” declared a coalition of NGOs, including Médecins Sans Frontières and Third World Network.

And don’t get me started on the Bush Administration’s ridiculous “anti-condom policy” :

(London, March 30, 2005)—U.S.-funded “abstinence-only” programs are jeopardizing Uganda’s successful fight against HIV/AIDS, Human Rights Watch said in a new report today. Abstinence-only programs deny young people information about any method of HIV prevention other than sexual abstinence until marriage.

The 80-page report, “The Less They Know, the Better: Abstinence-Only HIV/AIDS Programs in Uganda,”documents the recent removal of critical HIV/AIDS information from primary school curricula, including information about condoms, safer sex and the risks of HIV in marriage. Draft secondary-school materials state falsely that latex condoms have microscopic pores that can be permeated by HIV, and that pre-marital sex is a form of “deviance.” HIV/AIDS rallies sponsored by the U.S. government spread similar falsehoods.

The arrogance of trying to impose a fundamentalist, right-wing ideology on people who are dying! You’d think the Senate majority leader at that time would have stepped in, since he cares so much about people with AIDs. Oh, wait, I forgot, back then Frist was Bush’s water carrier; when Bush said “jump,” Frist asked “how high?” Frist and Big Pharma also go way back, so doing the pharmaceutical lobby’s bidding where global AIDs is concerned was a given.

And as for poverty, well, I’m sure we all remember how Sen. Frist sat on the sidelines while hundreds of thousands of low- and middle-income Tennesseans lost their healthcare coverage (and I’d hazard a guess that a lot of those folks had AIDs!) Or what about how in the days after Hurricane Katrina, he scheduled a vote to repeal the Estate Tax, which would have been “a major blow to the nation’s charities” which rely on contributions and bequests from wealthy donors.

Yeah, those sure are some nice new spots you’re wearing, Dr. Frist. I wonder if this sudden lip service to compassion has anything to do with your desire to resurrect your political career? Maybe run for POTUS in 2012?

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