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Chuck Grassley Fundraises Against Health-Care Reform

PH2009073004022.jpgChuck Grassley is facing a potentially difficult primary challenge in 2010. As such, he's been working hard to cover his right flank. That would all be fine except for one thing: As ranking member of the Finance Committee, Grassley is responsible for developing a workable compromise on health-care reform. But as this fundraising letter (pdf) shows, Grassley is running against health-care reform back in Iowa. Here's how the missive begins:

I had to rush you this Air-Gram today to set the record straight on my firm and unwavering opposition to government-run health care.

And ask your immediate support in helping me defeat "Obama-care."

I'm sure you've been following this issue closely. If the legislation sponsored by Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the House of Representatives and Chairman Ted Kennedy in the Senate is passed it would be a pathway to a government takeover of the health care svstem. lt would turn over control of your health care decisions to a federal bureaucrat ... and take it away from you and your personal physician.

It would mean government rationing in the name of cost controls.

The emphases are in the original document. Grassley does allow that he is working on "a viable alternative that is free-market based and rejects the pitfalls of government-run insurance." But that's the single constructive or compromise-oriented sentence in the letter. The rest of it, as you can read for yourself, previews a campaign strategy entirely based around Grassley's opposition to "Obama-care." As Grassley says, "the simple truth is that I am and always have been opposed to the Obama administration's plan to nationalize health care. Period."

The question of whether Grassley wants to compromise on health care is increasingly being overtaken by the reality that Grassley is not leaving himself political room to compromise on health care. He is creating a campaign premised on his role in stopping Obama's health-care reform effort. It is not clear how he could pivot to save it, even if he wanted to do so. And given the unique role Grassley occupies as the senior partner in Max Baucus's bipartisan process, the bare-knuckled partisanship of Grassley's letter does not suggest that his political team is readying itself to sell a compromise.

Photo credit: Jay Mallin -- Bloomberg News Photo.

By Ezra Klein  |  August 31, 2009; 11:46 AM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Both Grassley and Enzi have openly admitted that they will not support any Bill which supports health care reform.

I find it funny that your Ombudsman blog was just today talking about "diversions" in the health care reform discussion. And by refusing to state the facts, and mentioning Grassley and bipartisanship in the same article, you have just helped with the diversion.

Maybe you should read the comments under the blog. People want the truth in your paper.

Posted by: alysheba_3 | August 31, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Stopping that dastardly Chairman Ted Kennedy's plans, eh?

I thought the Senate was famous for its sense of decorum and comity. Maybe Grassley can roll over to Arlington and do a victory jig on Kennedy's grave if he achieves his goal.

Posted by: robbins2 | August 31, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

The Senate Finance Committee should just pass the HELP bill on September 15th on a party line vote. ALL of their work has been worse than useless to this point. Somebody introduce Max Baucus to the concept of sunk costs. He's failed on the biggest stage he'll ever hold. It's better to just start getting over it rather than keep on making the FAIL bigger.

Posted by: jamusco | August 31, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

"The question of whether Grassley wants to compromise on health care"

Let me get this straight -- Grassley is working on reform, but because he doesn't want a single payer plan he's not willing to compromise?

I would think "compromise" begins with the real reforms Grassley will accept, and other common ground. But if you want to evaluate "compromise," perhaps you should check the liberal caucus which claims can will be no bill without a public option. Now that's uncompromising.

Posted by: whoisjohngaltcom | August 31, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

what reforms has Grassley indicate he's willing to even discuss, let alone accept? All he's put forward is some vague statement that he's working on some free-market alternative. And when I hear statements liek that, i read it as "I'm content with business as usual." That's not reform and it sure as heck isn't compromise.

Posted by: RedBirdie | August 31, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, is it not clear to you now, that Grassley was never genuine about any sort of negotiating on health care? It was always about delay and obstruct. Enzi said it even more clearly this past week. (paraphrase)' If it weren't for the gang of six" we would already have national health care.'

It's remarkable to me that some people in the media or among Democrats actually thought Grassley was negotiating in good faith.

Posted by: cmpnwtr | August 31, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Grassley and all of the other senile seat warmers should do one of two things. Retire they are all old enough,or get jobs for which they qualify. In Grassley's case, it might only be flipping burgers.

What we need to do is pass a citizens amendment to the Constitution. No more than 3 consecutive terms in the House and 2 in the Senate.

Then another amendment that allows any citizen to contribute as much money as he wants to a candidate, but not to a party.

No contributions will be permitted from Lobbyists, corporations, businesses, unions, political action committees and anyone caught trying to hide their donation(not tax deductable) by giving it to others to give, will be fined twice the total amount given.

It won't be perfect and we will have to keep a close eye on this, but that's what we should have been doing all along.

Posted by: mickle1 | August 31, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

"Air gram?" Do those even exist anymore? And mentioning Kennedy as he was known to be in his final stages? Not buying it.

I'm thinking this was sent without his authorization. It's too weird.

And OMG, if he doesn't disavow it...that's just unreal. Way past the line.

Posted by: theorajones1 | August 31, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse


I agree with term limits by the way but if you did that then a majority of the positive things that Senator Kennedy did would not have occured (SCHIP, COBRA, HIPAA) not to mention the non health care things he helped with.

Personally I'd rather see our representatives take the political equivalent of a driver's test for those over 65 to ensure senility hasn't set in. The fact that Jesse Helms served well into his 90's and Senator Byrd is still serving is hurting this country but by limiting it by too much you get rid of effective leaders too. There's got to be a happy medium somewhere.

Posted by: visionbrkr | August 31, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

"The question of whether Grassley wants to compromise on health care"

Let me get this straight -- Grassley is working on reform, but because he doesn't want a single payer plan he's not willing to compromise?

I would think "compromise" begins with the real reforms Grassley will accept, and other common ground. But if you want to evaluate "compromise," perhaps you should check the liberal caucus which claims can will be no bill without a public option. Now that's uncompromising.

Posted by: whoisjohngaltcom
Do you believe that it is difficult to compromise with someone who says they will vote against single payer, so it is dropped and a public option added, then the single payer is dropped because Grassley won't support it, so Co-Ops are put forth but dropped when Grassley won't support that either?

How do you compromise with someone who lies to the public about what is in the bill? (

How do you compromise with someone who lies about the process of the crafting of a bi partisan bill? (

Posted by: alysheba_3 | August 31, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse


I think Senator Grasserly is clearly stating that he doesn't want an unsustainable government run option for those under 65. Single payer, public option, co-op, are all variations of it cut from the same cloth and can be molded in the future to do the bidding of the left just like Medicare has. Once you introduce that option you can NEVER get rid of it, no matter how horrible it is. The only thing you can do is limit it (SEE EXAMPLE OF TENNCARE).

And his constituents agree with him in Iowa. You and I can say they're backwards hicks, they're being duped or whatever. If they don't like it, put a Howard Dean type up against him in Iowa and see how that goes over.

Posted by: visionbrkr | August 31, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse


anyone preaching to me that government run health care doesn't work is wasting their breath. I'm Canadian, and my American husband and I moved back to Canada when Bush started his insanities. My husband and I will never move back to the States now without health care reform because of medical issues. We couldn't afford health care for the family before, and now that we have pre-existing conditions we would never get coverage. Here our basic care is free (including his cardiologist), and our private health insurance plan covers the costs of our meds 100%, up to $5000, at which point our provincial health plan takes over. No out of pocket co-pays, no out of pocket anything. And this private plan, with dental, for 4 of us (1 kid has moved out) costs less than what my husband was paying as a single male in the states.

Posted by: alysheba_3 | August 31, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse


"I think Senator Grasserly is clearly stating that he doesn't want an unsustainable government run option for those under 65."

I don't think he's clearly saying that at all. After all, he could have just said that.

And as Klein points out (again), Grassley has not said what he would vote for. So it's utterly unclear to me what a "compromise" would look like.

"Once you introduce that option you can NEVER get rid of it, no matter how horrible it is."

Not true. Prior to 2006, the Netherlands had both public and private insurance. The government then dropped the public insurance, and it's now all private (except for semi-permanent or permanen hospitalizations).

It would be nice to have discussions that don't rest on unfounded assumptions. Even better to have them based on actual results.

Posted by: dasimon | August 31, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

@visionbrkr, what's "unsustainable" about the public option? Eliminate exec comp, marketing and overhead, and it immediately can offer 12-15% lower rates than private insurers. That is immediate benefit to all eligible Americans (and all taxpayers), except the execs and shareholders of private insurers. The benefits get greater if the public plan could aggregate with Medicare to set rates, but we could save that necessary step for another day if you really want to waste the money and tax dollars paid by hardworking Americans for the benefit of the pharmaceutical companies in Switzerland.

and: why do you think Iowans don't support reform? A majority support reform, including the public plan. (however, not a majority of Iowa Republicans, and Grassley is subverting the wishes of most of his constituents to make sure he doesn't face a wingnut primary).

So what are you trying to say?

Posted by: Dollared | August 31, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

The very public disclosure from Grassley, more than once, in the recent weeks that he never intended to negotiate within the Senate Finance Committee to pursue any kind of healthreform, is reason enough for the Democrats to throw the bathwater out and keep the baby: pass the reform that the majority Americans mandated in their election of the majority Congress and the President. There has been no good faith negotiation or participation in this process and, in fact, the contributions of this Republican Party, their special interests groups, and their surrogates has been shameful and disgraceful. I should think an old man such as Grassley and the others would be thinking of their own legacy, if nothing else. I am sure their leaving of us will guarantee a footnote in a scandal sheet publication, at this rate.

Posted by: nana4 | August 31, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

The motto and guiding force of RNC:

"Ask not what you can do for your country but what your country can do for you".

Posted by: nana4 | August 31, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse


I wasn't aware of that about the Netherlands and I'm going to read your link to wikipedia and I'd argue that the US is different in that senior citizens would revolt if you took away their Medicare. I think that's evident by the town halls going on and the fact that a majority of the people there are seniors.


i love your blanket numbers you give, 12-15% is that taken from the Democratic textbook of 30% profit and waste from private insurance?

I'll tell you what, in my state of NJ the most recent year's report was just released and it shows that the loss ratio was 85% in NJ last year and the largest insurer, Horizon BCBS had a loss ratio of 88.2%. Exactly where is that waste and overhead you speak of?

YOu don't think the public plan would have advertising cost? admin cost?, marketing cost? Yes it absoultely will. The only way the public option saves is if it sets rates to medicare and then when hospitals that show a 1% profit margin right now can't afford that they'll go under, plain and simple. It won't affect the larger cities as much because there's enough hopsitals there to go around but the rural areas will absolutely be affected by that.

Posted by: visionbrkr | August 31, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse


That is the bottom line... Being denied by private health care for any treatment is the true "Death Panel" - wondering if Grassley really understands the consequences of DENIAL of TREATMENT... or COVERAGE means...

It MEANS... we want to END your life! Senator.

Posted by: Munki | August 31, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse


Senator - is that what you are saying?

Totally disappointed...

Posted by: Munki | August 31, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

visionbrkr: "I'd argue that the US is different in that senior citizens would revolt if you took away their Medicare."

You wouldn't have to take away their Medicare. The system can stay the same for them (and those near retirement so as not to upset their expectations) while others work with the new system.

As for public plans, it's my understanding that there are many examples elsewhere where they coexist with private (though not-for-profit) plans. And I appreciate you're looking at the Netherlands for an example where the public plan was taken out of operation. Plus even places with single-payer (Canada) and truly nationalized health care (Britain) have private supplemental insurance.

So getting back to the OP, Grassley's assertion that Obama is going to "nationalize" health care (which among our peer nations I think exists only in Britain) is another canard, and should at least raise questions as to what if anything he'd support.

Posted by: dasimon | August 31, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Every time is see that phrase about government coming between you and your doctor, I want to toss my cookies. I just got a call from my doctor's office today. My insurance company refused to cover the prescription he had written for me. This is not the first time and won't be the last time.

Posted by: andreams | August 31, 2009 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Stupidity, Fraud and Duplicity in the Healthcare Reform DebateSo, who is he supporting? Grassley came under fire in late June for a Washington, D.C., fundraiser he held for representatives of the health insurance and mortgage industries. The healthcare industry has donated over $2 million to his campaigns since 2003. He last faced an election in 2004. Does that $2 million mean that he is more willing to support the healthcare industry than his Iowan voters? Maybe it’s just coincidence. Although it’s legal to take such contributions, it still feels like fraud to me. He’s fraudulently representing his constituents wishes.

Posted by: verna2 | August 31, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

What is it that you people in Washington don't understand? Nobody out here gives a hoot about bipartisanship; it's a construct that has meaning only in the confines of Capitol Hill, and the meaning, apparently, is that Democrats should give Republicans what they want just because they're ... there.

Chuck Grassley never wanted any shred of health insurance regulation. He has said so many times. Now that he says he would rather sit home and drink motor oil than accept any Democratic proposal in "negotiations," all of you --- even you, Ezra --- wonder whether he isn't "ready" to compromise. Is it something in the D.C. water system that's made you all stupid?

Posted by: phillygirl2 | August 31, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

"I'll tell you what, in my state of NJ--"

Bzzt. Cherry pick alert:

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | August 31, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

You are a coward Sen. Grassley, you know this country needs health care reform yet you selfishly are thinking only of yourself. How unChristian of you, perhaps you should be taking a page from your recently departed colleague Ted to see how a true follower of Christ operates.

You have been given the gift of years, how many people will be denied them because of your actions?

Posted by: AverageJane | August 31, 2009 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Enough is enough lets drop the idea of Bipartisan and get what must be done done.

Obama may lose the left of center for good and that helps no one.
The time we live in is full of danger not only to a collapsing economy but to the danger of fringe groups that threaten us all..
The inherent dangers of Global warming and a population that may not be able to survive global warming is now on the agenda of the "global Elite"

Posted by: dan_laurie | August 31, 2009 6:24 PM | Report abuse


the loss ratio of Medicare is 95%, and you say the statewide loss ratio of private insurers in NJ is 85%. So....there's 10% right there. Seems to me that you just proved my point. And this is completely independent of Medicare rates - this is just assuming standard reimbursement rates as set by private insurance.

(as for 12-15%, the nationwide loss ratio is about 80%, so there's your 15%....)

So what's your point? That everyone in New Jersey should pay 10% more because you personally believe in Free Enterprise?

Posted by: Dollared | August 31, 2009 7:54 PM | Report abuse


why wouldn't i speak of what i know. As you know (well as a paid person to be on here i hope you know) that the loss ratio nationwide would be 85%. Isn't that enough to cut insurers at the knees, get everyone covered with an end to pre-ex and take away their subsidies for MA. Lemme guess you won't be happy until your get your claim paid, right?

Posted by: visionbrkr | September 1, 2009 12:27 AM | Report abuse


Medicare is not 95% like you and your sort say. They're a captive market so they don't have admin cost. Plus fraud and abuse upwards of $60 billion isn't factored in. Plus there are no capitalized costs of buildings etc in Medicare because the government hides it. Check your facts please before you spout out talking points like pseudo.

And the point is hosptials at this point can't survive on just medicare rates. Maybe if in time they become more efficent but the number of hospital bankruptcies are growing. I heard on CSPAN radio today a hospital administrator that had their profit margin at 1% which is very common. if they have a bad year they're screwed. If they get told they're getting cuts from a public option they'll go out of business. If you want to close hospitals around this country then go ahead with your public option. Sorry I'd rather have someplace for everyone to go when they need emergency care.

Posted by: visionbrkr | September 1, 2009 12:32 AM | Report abuse


i'm sorry i meant they're a captive market so they don't have marketing costs. They don't advertise and don't have to and a public plan would have to advertise and would have marketing costs.

Posted by: visionbrkr | September 1, 2009 12:38 AM | Report abuse

It's this simple: Obama could not have picked a worse time to force the healthcare debate.

Posted by: zumwalt | September 1, 2009 12:42 AM | Report abuse

"Check your facts please before you spout out talking points like pseudo."

Oh, spare us your BS, workslckr. I posted a link that made it clear that NJ isn't representative of the monopoly/duopoly market in most states -- its two main insurers only grab 59% of the market between them, and so have to play a tiny bit nicer than

"(well as a paid person to be on here i hope you know)"

Stop making crap up. Just because you're getting paid for sitting around and commenting here doesn't mean everyone else is. If you want to indulge your paranoid fantasies, there are plenty of other websites to visit, though your office filter might block them.

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | September 1, 2009 1:16 AM | Report abuse


well we agree then. Every state should work like NJ (except for the fact that we don't have an individual mandate and need one so that everyone shares the risk and will bring the costs down). In fact the reforms being asked for (a medical loss ratio of 85%) are greater than what are in NJ but that's fine, we can tighten our belt further to make sure we're where we all need to be to get costs down, everyone covered and we can do it all without a public option.

And actually I'm not getting paid to comment here. I realize there are other paranoid websites like ones that you've been on trying to make sure Bush and Cheney get what's coming to them, white house email tracking etc that your paranoid left wing buddies and you go on. (amazing thing google is). I'm just a poor working stiff whose industry your conspiracy groups are trying to destroy.

And actually, since I own my own company I doubt I'd filter myself (DUH) but thanks for your concern.

Posted by: visionbrkr | September 1, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

No, we don't agree. Just because NJ isn't in the hands of one or two insurance behemoths doesn't mean it's any good. After all, it keeps pool-boys like you in work, railing against dumb patients and crooked doctors.

But since your time is yours to spend as you see fit, I would encourage you to spend every waking hour commenting.

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | September 1, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse


I can't tell if you are misinformed or lie deliberately.

1. the Medicare loss ratio is officially 98%, and the inclusion of capital costs of buildings, etc. brings it to 95%. Waste and fraud are irrelevant to the loss ratio - that is included in the 95%, just like there is waste and fraud in the insurance companies' 85%.
2. And public option marketing costs would be the same as Medicare's: "here I am, I cost this much, and if cheaper and just as good is not what you want, then buy private if you can."
3. And Medicare payout rates are irrelevant to the loss ratio discussion. You really know nothing about accounting and simple mathematics, do you? My example assumes equal payout between public option and private insurance. If the public option paid Medicare rates, then the public option loss ratio would GO DOWN, because the admin services would then represent a larger portion of the whole, even though overall less money would be spent. It's a ratio.....

But I repeat: nowhere does any of the bills suggest that the PO should use Medicare payouts. That's what "level playing field" means - it means that Big Pharma and the Hospital Operators are protected. Too bad, but that's the reality.

Please work with facts in the future. You will have to admit we're right, but you'll find it easier to live in a world where you don't have to constantly try to remember what you made up last time.

Posted by: Dollared | September 1, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

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