Video Overload

Two fun ones. First, TDS infiltrated the AHIP conference at the Ritz last week. For a little bit, at least. Check out the good HCAN protest footage off the top:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
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And then totally stolen from Chez, here’s a really fabulous clip lambasting 24-hour cable news:

Adding Up

We are out with new ads today in 11 districts urging members who voted yes in November to vote yes again and encouraging members who voted no last time around to change their minds:

We’ve gotten some great coverage so far this morning from


The progressive groups HCAN, SEIU, AFSCME, Catholics United and MoveOn are spending $1.7 million to run ads in 17 House districts between today and Friday. The ads both support members who voted “yes” on the House bill in November and urge “no” votes to flip. A technical note, because MoveOn spends PAC money, its commercials will air separately.

WaPo’s Plum Line:

Left ramps up ads, too: In an effort to pressure wavering House Dems, Health Care for America Now is going up with a big $1.4 million buy in 11 districts, calling on Dems to “listen to US, not the insurance companies”:

WaPo’s The Fix:

The other major player will be a group led by Health Care for America Now (HCAN) as well as two major labor unions — Service Employees International Union and the American Federation for State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). That coalition will run ads in 16 Democratic-districts hammering insurance companies and urging Members not to give in to them by voting against the bill.


“We’re on the cusp of making history, and now is the time members of Congress must stand strong and side with us, not the insurance companies,” HCAN’s National Campaign Manager Richard Kirsch said in a statement. “The health insurance companies have unleashed their armies of lobbyists on Washington and have sunk millions into TV ads designed to derail reform, but Congress can and should ignore the corporate fear mongering and side with the American public.”


The ads will run in the districts of Reps. Jason Altmire (PA), John Boccieri (OH), Jim Costa (CA), Steve Driehaus (IL), Brad Ellsworth (IN), Bill Foster (IL), Suzanne Kosmas (FL), Harry Mitchell (AZ), Alan Mollohan (WV), Scott Murphy (NY) and Earl Pomeroy (ND).

and Roll Call:

The union-backed Health Care for America Now is launching a $1.2 million ad campaign that will begin airing in 11 Congressional districts today and in three to five more districts on Wednesday. The ads target a number of lawmakers who voted against the health care bill that was approved by the House last year, including Reps. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.), John Boccieri (D-Ohio) and Suzanne Kosmas (D-Fla.). The spots highlight rate hikes by health insurance companies, telling viewers that “if the insurance companies win, we lose.”

While HCAN had retreated from running ads recently, spokeswoman Jacki Schechner said, “I think it is fair to say with the date of the vote becoming more certain, we recognized there were places where it would be helpful to get our message out.”

UPDATE: More Politico:

Another late spot from Health Care for America Now, AFSCME, SEIU and Catholics United, a liberal Catholic group, focuses on insurance company premium hikes.

They’re reportedly spending $1.4 million on the ad, to target in 17 swing Democrats.

You can watch all the ads online here. The full press release is here.

UPDATE 2: Marketwatch:

Health Care for America Now, which supports the overhaul, is launching ads Tuesday along with the Service Employees International Union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and Catholics United. The groups spent $1.4 million on ads telling House members who voted yes in November to vote yes again, and also on ads urging those who voted no to vote yes now.

“We’re on the cusp of making history, and now is the time members of Congress must stand strong and side with us, not the insurance companies,” said Richard Kirsch, HCAN’s national campaign manager.

UPDATE 3: USA Today:

Updated at 11:10 p.m. ET: Another liberal coalition has just announced a $1.4 million ad buy in support of health care legislation.

The Health Care for America Now, Service Employees International Union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and Catholics United are underwriting the ads, which will start today. They will run in the districts of members of Congress viewed as swing votes on the health care bill.


A House vote on the health care package could come as early as Friday, but it is still unclear whether Democrats have enough votes to support it. A collection of pro-reform groups today are rolling out a new $1.4 million ad campaign this week in 11 key districts to coincide with the expected timing of the vote. The ads are sponsored by Health Care for America Now, SEIU, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and Catholics United.

“After a year of debate, and decades of knowing that the system needs to be fixed, it’s time to put health reform to a vote to see who sides with the American people and who sides with the insurance industry,” AFSCME International President Gerald McEntee said in a statement. “Let’s get this done – now.”

Perfectly Imperfect

I don’t write a lot about my personal life for good reason, but I engaged in a little drunk texting Saturday night, and I’m sufficiently mortified.

Friends shouldn’t let friends text drunk.

It was nothing of TFLN (nsfw) magnitude, but it was enough for me to research the possibility of installing a breathalyzer on my berry. It’d be genius. Blow more than a .08, and the sucker locks itself down.

This Says It All

And something funny to round out your Friday. Here’s HCAN:

Here’s Lady Gaga:

We should have sent her our tape!

The Week We’ve Had

Where to start? We had a protest on Tuesday. More than 5,000 people turned out to let the insurance companies know enough is enough and to let Congress know it’s time to take action and get reform done:

Here are just four of the gazillion print and online clips:

WaPo: Thousands rally to support health-care reform in downtown Washington

LATimes: Rally backs health plan

NPR: Protesters, Including ‘Vampire Squid,’ Picket Health Insurers’ Confab

HuffPo: Health Care Protesters Face Off Against Insurance Lobbyists

Then there was this from the Associated Press:

Dozens of health care activists are protesting in the nation’s capital against what they call an abusive health insurance industry…

We had at least 5,000 people there, and the AP’s first write-thru said “dozens.” This is especially comical because when we had more than 10,000 back on June 25th, the AP wrote hundreds and refused to issue a correction. I don’t expect a reporter will necessarily take my word for it on an exact crowd count, but there is a sizable difference between dozens and thousands. When you’re on the scene, you can kind of tell. After two of us called to complain, a later write corrected the record:

Organizers with Health Care for America Now say thousands came in from across the country for the protest.

On Wednesday, 24 health insurance abuse survivors “testified” in a Congressional forum on the Hill. CNN did a small piece about it, but the video’s not online yet. I’ll post if it turns up.

Also yesterday, Richard took on a guy from AHIP on NewsHour. That clip is here. My favorite exchange was this one:

JIM LEHRER: But is it not a fact that — that the premiums are going up? And aren’t — I thought the records — the recent reports showed that profits are up in your — in your major health insurance companies?

MIKE TUFFIN: In the past year they were up. In 2008, according to “Fortune” magazine, our city profits were 2.2 percent, one of perhaps the smallest of all health care stakeholders, and very near the bottom of the list of the industries “Fortune” tracks.

Last year, they were about 3.5 percent. So, that’s a 50 percent increase from about 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent. Meanwhile, other sectors in health care have margins of 15 percent, 20 percent, 25 percent. So, if profits in health care are the problem, you’re not looking at the right place.

JIM LEHRER: Not looking at the right place?

RICHARD KIRSCH: Absolutely, we are looking at the right place.

And I went to business school, and he’s talking about return on sales. And if I tried to use that in my finance class, I would have gotten an F. What shareholders look at is return on equity under investment. And for the health insurance industry, it was 16 percent. That’s higher than cable TV. It’s higher than cell phones. It’s higher than beer.

Today, little 11-year-old Marcelas Owens appeared at a press conference with Majority Leader Reid and Senators Durbin, Schumer, and Murray. This is Marcelas in Sen. Murray’s office on Tuesday:

He did a great job in front of all the cameras today, but the media was infuriating. The Senators all made the point that health care reform is not about procedure but people, people like Marcelas who lost his mom because she couldn’t get the health care she needed. Marcelas got up and spoke about his mom and why he’s continuing to fight for health care reform. It was genuine and compelling. Then they opened the presser up for questions, and every single one was about procedure. Every…single…one.


It’s Time

Tomorrow we go after the health insurance CEOs and lobbyists at the Ritz. Here are the details.

Here’s the ad that goes along with the action:

Join us. If not in person, then online. Go to

AM News

First, a good write about reconciliation totally in line with our release from Friday. Salon:

[T]hough you wouldn’t know it from listening to Republicans, reconciliation is not some loophole that somehow gets around a constitutional requirement that legislation pass with 60 votes. There’s no such requirement; until the GOP started threatening filibusters against just about everything the Senate did (setting themselves on pace for a new record in the process), bills routinely passed with 51 votes, the same number that a reconciliation measure will require. And the reconciliation process has a long history in the Senate.


But the biggest way Republicans are winning the early spin war is by making it sound like the entire healthcare bill would be passed with “only” a 51-vote majority, instead of the 60 votes the GOP insists are required. In fact, the Senate has already passed a healthcare reform bill, with 60 votes. And the House has already passed a bill, as well. The only thing Democrats plan to use reconciliation for is to enact changes to the bills that already went through the usual process. And most of those changes are things everyone — Republicans and Democrats alike — would agree make the bill better.


“Reconciliation isn’t subjective; there’s actually facts to back up the fact that it’s not controversial,” said Jacki Schechner, a spokeswoman for the group. “Democrats should be talking more about what it is and the extent to which it should be used.”

Then last night, the WSJ comes out with this from WellPoint CEO Angela Braly on soaring premiums (emphasis mine):

WellPoint Inc. Chief Executive Angela Braly is facing her biggest test yet as the nation’s largest health insurer comes under fire for its plans to raise rates as much as 39% in California.

So far, Ms. Braly has chosen to fight back. Instead of issuing a Toyota-style apology, she is turning her critics’ argument around, citing rising health-care costs driven by doctors and hospitals, which she says aren’t addressed by the current health-overhaul bills.


Investors said they are relieved that the company is standing by the increases. Without them, Ms. Braly argues, the company can’t break even in the risky business of selling insurance to individuals, which has become more difficult as the economy has caused healthier people to forgo buying the policies.

She’s full of it. We’re releasing a report at 11:30am today that will show just how full of it she is. I’ll have a link up here when it’s public. UPDATE: Here’s the link to the press release, a recording of the conference call, and the report.

Politico’s got two HCAN stories today. One on the AHIP conference next week and the letter we sent to friends and allies asking that they not participate:

Health Care for America Now sent letters Monday to speakers invited to serve as panelists at America’s Health Insurance Plan’s annual meeting next Tuesday, urging them to pull out. “The insurance industry has been engaged in a duplicitous and cynical campaign around health reform, fueling the congressional deadlock,” says the letter signed by Richard Kirsch, national campaign manager for HCAN, a group that favors comprehensive health care reform. “We must stand in their way, not legitimize their voice.”

HCAN also warned that activists from its group and a host of other pro-reform allies are planning a major protest of the event at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. “The AHIP conference will be blocked, as civic leaders, victims of insurance abuses and other engage in a mass citizen arrest” of the insurance industry, Kirsch writes.

And then Chris Frates has a good write on how we’re stepping up action to urge the President and Congress to stand with us and get the job done:

“It’s very clear to me that the president and the congressional leadership want to get this done, and what we’re going to help be is the wind behind their backs, by showing how deeply the American people want to get this done,” said HCAN’s Richard Kirsch. “Congress really has a choice when you strip everything away: if they’re going to take the side of people who can’t afford coverage or if they’re going to take the side of an industry that’s ruining people’s lives and bankrupting them.”

In other words, HCAN plans to frame the final push as a struggle between the people dying because of a desperately broken system and the insurance companies that profit from the status quo.

March 9th is fast approaching. If you want to get in on the anti-AHIP action, click here.

Cause for the Pause

I’m slowly coming to grips with the reality that daily blogging is no longer feasible – at least for the time being. I’m short-staffed and overloaded at work, and the last thing I want to do at the end of the day is get back online.

I’ve always been so proud of my ability to keep up this site and definitely have felt guilty as the quantity and quality of posting has been tapering off.

That said, I still intend to make an effort. I just expect my contributions will be less prolific and slightly less profound than those to which you’ve grown accustomed.

But enough of the caveats. On to the content.

Here’s some stuff you may have missed in the past few days:

First, I did watch the Health Care Summit in its entirety. Doing so was more complicated than it needed to be because where I was watching didn’t get CSPAN-3, and no one cable network would carry the thing from start to finish. They all kept cutting away to give us totally useless analysis and insight. To call it frustrating would be an understatement. The point of the summit was to present the public with an unfiltered look at the conversation about health care reform between the President and Congress. Neither CNN nor Fox nor MSNBC could manage to keep their staff off the air and their opinions out of it.

Second, here’s the statement we put out in response to the Summit:

“We appreciate President Obama’s attempt to reach out to Republicans one more time, but today’s bipartisan summit proved the GOP is committed to little else than repeating the same stale talking points.

We need reform to be sure that Americans are not left out or priced out of the best health care available. While the President and Congressional Democrats clearly understand our health care system is broken, Republicans at the summit showed they are grossly out of touch with the everyday struggles of working Americans when it comes to their being able to get the health care they need.

It’s now time for the President and Democrats to finalize a bill, and with or without their Republican colleagues, pass legislation that works for us – not the insurance companies – and gives us all good health care we can afford.”

Third, we pushed out another important bit of information on Friday. It’s about reconciliation and how most of the media is getting it very wrong:

The idea that reconciliation is unprecedented or a subversion of Senate rules is wrong. It’s also wrong to say “health care reform” will be passed through reconciliation. In fact, the vast majority of health care reform has already passed the Senate despite an attempted Republican filibuster that forced repeated cloture votes in December.

If President Obama and Democratic leadership in Congress decide to use the budget reconciliation process to complete health care reform, they won’t be using it for the entire bill. In fact, they will only be using it for a narrow list of improvements to the bill, in lieu of a formal conference, which the Republicans have promised to obstruct.

And finally, we are ramping up for a big anti-insurance action here in DC on March 9th. Now is the time to get in gear and join us. Click here to find out more.