The Billings Outpost

Healthcare pressure grows on Obama, Baucus

The next development of any substance in the health-care reform debate is the president’s speech to Congress on Wednesday about what he’d like to see in legislation that actually gets passed and lands on his desk for a signature.

Spin doctors are already busy parsing his speech before it’s even been given, which is standard operating procedure. Most likely Mr. Obama will attempt to herd the healthcare cats into line (somewhat) and give the country an idea of his preferences, yet without drawing additional foaming-at-the-mouth criticism from the status quo crowd. Good luck with that, Mr. President.

Note that he decided to get more publicly involved after months of inaction on health-care reform by our own U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, chairman of the “powerful” Senate Finance Committee. No doubt Sen. Baucus has had plenty of his own cats to herd, but after all those decades in D.C., you’d think he could put something definitive together by now.

Complicating the scenario are those conservative Democrats known as the “blue dogs” who say they won’t vote for healthcare reform that’s “too radical,” whatever that means. Then there are the troublesome Progressive Democrats of America, who don’t want any reform unless it’s truly substantive, whatever that means.

The PDA, incidentally, has thrown down the gauntlet regarding Sen. Baucus, calling him “the single biggest stumbling block in the Senate to single-payer healthcare” and is actively soliciting a candidate to oppose him in 2014.

Health-care reform is a tough issue for many lawmakers, and it can’t be much fun having to constantly wade through a crowd of well-paid lobbyists dedicated to making sure nothing really changes in the U.S. health insurance system.

According to recent reports, there are six lobbyists representing some element of the debate (drug companies, insurance companies, hospital groups, HMOs, physicians, etc.) for every single member of Congress.

Mad docs

Speaking of physicians, a group of single-payer advocates calling themselves the “Mad as Hell Docs” are traveling across the country from the state of Washington to Washington, D.C., to deliver the message, “Health care for people, not profit.”

These doctors are scheduled to be in Helena on Thursday for a noon rally at the Capitol and a Saturday afternoon forum at Carroll College. For more information on their effort, see https://madashelldoctorstour.com.

Rehberg update

It’s starting to look like State Sen. Greg Barkus, R-Kalispell, could face criminal charges in the Aug. 27 boat accident that injured him and four others, including U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont.

The Flathead County attorney has been waiting for Sen. Barkus’ blood-alcohol test to come back from the State Crime Lab in Missoula before deciding how to proceed. Officials said that Barkus’ boat was going about 40 mph when it crashed into a rocky shore of Flathead Lake that night.

After treatment in the Kalispell Regional Medical Center ICU, Sen. Barkus was flown last Thursday to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for surgery for a broken pelvis.

Rehberg staffer Dustin Frost is still in the Kalispell hospital with a “several closed head injury.” His family released a statement this past Friday stating that, while he is showing slow improvement, there will be a long road back to recovery.

As for Rep. Rehberg, he was reportedly on his way back to D.C. by train since doctors recommended he avoid flying for a while after a three-hour operation on his left ankle, which was badly broken in the accident.

Wolf hunt

A Kamiah, Idaho, real estate agent named Robert Millage, who killed a wolf in that state’s legal hunt beginning Sept. 1, got some nasty phone calls and emails after the news got out.

He told the Lewiston Tribune that he was called a murderer and worse and threatened that his business would suffer.

“People are loons,” he was reported as saying. “If they want to call up and have a discussion, I’ll all about having a discussion. But they call me a fat redneck and a wolf killer and compare me to Michael Vick.”

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game approved 220 wolves to be shot this fall and sold wolf tags to more than 11,000 hunters. In contrast, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks had sold about 5,200 wolf licenses as of late last week, while the FWP Commission approved 50 wolves to be shot in the Montana hunt scheduled to begin Tuesday, Sept. 15.

Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy has said he would quickly rule on a request from 13 environmental groups to stop the hunt on the grounds that the wolf has not sufficiently recovered in the Northern Rockies to justify it.

A hearing on that injunction request took place in Missoula on Aug. 31, the same day that Montana wolf licenses became available.

Quote of the week

“He will talk about the public option and why he believes, and continues to believe, that it is a valuable component of providing choice and competition that helps individuals and small business, at the same time provides a check on insurance companies so they don’t dominate the market.”

– White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on what President Obama will say in his Sept. 9 speech to Congress, from a conversation with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News posted Sept. 6.

Copyright 2012 Wild Raspberry Inc.

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