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Montana: How the local press views Max Baucus and single payer (you may be surprised)

Thanks to DCblogger [many, many thanks] we all know that Chuck Grassley and Max Baucus are members of the Senate Finance Committee, and will therefore have some say in what happens to our efforts to get HR 676 passed.

We also know, again thanks to DCb, that the Des Moines [Iowa, home state of Grassley] Register endorses single payer. Yay! Which prompted me, just out of curiosity, to go looking for what the Montana [home state of Max Baucus] papers are saying about single payer. I found this article by honest, intelligent reporter Mike Dennison. My favorite quotes from the article --

As I said earlier, it is not a national plan that simplifies things. It takes our fragmented, expensive system — the most expensive in the world, mind you — and plops another mishmash of new rules, regulations and bureaucracy on top of it, all in the name of maintaining the private, for-profit insurance market.


I could go on, but you get the idea. Yes, the Baucus plan has some good aspects. But it seems to bend over backwards to preserve much of the status quo — a status quo that just about everyone agrees is badly broken.

And when it comes to real reforms, like a national health care plan with one payer or one system, Baucus says that is “off the table,” because it’s “not politically feasible.”

Why? We’ll look at that question Tuesday.

So, Tuesday got here, and I kept checking, looking for the promised follow-up, but no luck. No hard feelings, though. Montana's having a bit of trouble with storm-related power outages, and while I just scratch my head and furrow my brow and ask what is this ice and snow of which you speak?, as a long-time resident of Hurricane Alley, I can most definitely relate to storms and power outages.

It did finally dawn on me to check the websites of other Montana papers, and sure enough, Mike Dennison, intrepid hero reporter, appears to write for the company that owns several Montana papers, and the Billings Gazette has both installments [same articles, different titles].

Part I -- Baucus plan falls short of universal coverage [quoted above], and

Part II -- Why is single-payer health reform not viable? Some excerpts:

Top Democrats who will be deciding policy in America in 2009, including Baucus and President-elect Barack Obama, say single-payer is "not politically feasible," because the public won't strongly support it.

What they really mean is that when it comes to health care reform, they don't want a political fight with some of the nation's most powerful financial interests, which have the resources and the motivation to turn public opinion against meaningful reforms.

These interests include the health insurance industry, pharmaceutical drug companies, some hospitals, highly paid medical specialists, medical suppliers and others who now profit handsomely from our current system - and who could no longer command those profits under a single-payer system or an alternative form of a national health plan.


"The only reason it's not on the table is because there is a belief that it's not politically viable," [Michael Lightly, director of public policy for California Nurses Association] said. "That is a miscalculation in our view. We believe that a real policy debate means single-payer must be a part of that debate."

Lightly also said that even the mild reforms proposed by Baucus and Obama are going to face a political fight from insurers and other interests.

If you're going to have a fight, why not fight over something worth winning? he asks.


In this second article Dennison does a good job of describing single payer, mentions T.R. Reid, John Conyers, HR 676, the 93 cosponsors of HR 676, and that nearly 500 unions are endorsing HR 676.

This does not mean that any Montana papers have endorsed, or will endorse, single payer, but we do know they've got at least one good reporter. If you'd like to express your appreciation, his contact information [from the article]: Gazette State Bureau reporter Mike Dennison can be reached at or at 800-525-4920 or 406-447-4068.

Meanwhile, if you'd like to pile on, that's me, the anonymous one snarking about pizza and broken legs, here.

No votes yet


Submitted by lambert on

The thing to remember is that people who subscribe through RSS feeds may only see the headline, so there are times the whole story has to be told there.

apolitiko's picture
Submitted by apolitiko on

....the Billings Gazette. I may be wrong, but I think they are all owned by Knight-Ridder newspapers. the Billings Gazette, however, is the only paper in the state with any real influence. It has the widest coverage and is carried throughout the state.

Montanans, after the disaster of Racicot and Martz as governors, have seen that Democratic positions aren't that bad through the awesome example of Schweitzer. Nice to know, as a [former] montana guy that the influence has made its way even into single payer.

Submitted by hipparchia on

thanks for the info about the gazette.

i always liked knight ridder papers [read the miami herald for years], so your remark inspired me to google [not that it takes much to get me to google]. the 3 mt papers i found online -- gazette, missoulian, independent record -- all appear to be lee newspapers. i see what you mean about the gazette, it's numbers are far ahead of the others.

pie's picture
Submitted by pie on

And when it comes to real reforms, like a national health care plan with one payer or one system, Baucus says that is “off the table,” because it’s “not politically feasible.”

Not politically feasible? Politically?

WTF did you get elected to do, Max? What is your job?


pie's picture
Submitted by pie on

he chose to use.

Montana folks don't need avoidable healthcare, Max baybee?

No one cares about your political butts if you don't do the people any good.

Fire them all.

Submitted by hipparchia on

senate bean soup [great blog name too].

anyway, that's what my favorite restaurant charges for a bowl, because apparently that was the price forever [still is?] that you could buy a bowl of bean soup for in the senate cafeteria. which might explain a few things....

Submitted by hipparchia on

rich indeed, on more than one level.

WTF did you get elected to do, Max? What is your job?

thanks for this, sums it up nicely. i'm going to start using it in my correspondences with various congresscritters. don't worry, i'll leave off the wtf part [at first].

dr sardonicus's picture
Submitted by dr sardonicus on

The reason we have no national health care has nothing to do with health care and everything to do with the private insurance companies. We're in a recession now, so nobody in Washington will be willing to do anything that would put private insurers out of business. During good times, nobody wants to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Health insurance premiums have built many a shopping mall, office park, and subdivision from coast to coast. We may stilll see single-payer someday, as part of the radical remaking of the US economy that seems inevitable, as well as painful.

Submitted by hipparchia on

in fact, i'm distinctly jealous of the french -- theirs is a wonderful system, fully as complex as ours, multi-payer private insurance companies, and their doctors make house calls, 24/7/365.

and germany... one of my doctors has recommended surgery for one of my many pesky [and fortunately minor] medical conditions, but suggested i wait a few years, since the american technique is downright barbaric compared to what the germans are pioneering right now. hmmm... i've got some distant relatives there, i think maybe i need to go visit them.

anyway, these countries all have multiple private insurance companies, but what the free-marketeers here don't want you to know is that all those companies over there on the other side of the pond are all-but-nationalized. but hey! we're well on our way to nationalizing our own insurance companies. this bailout could turn out to be a good thing after all.

otoh, the fastest, easiest, cheapest way to bail out medicare is to open it up to all the young, employed, healthy people. nor will all the middling healthy, middle-agers won't hurt it that much. i like old folks, i'd be willing to go canadian/australian instead of french if it meant saving the grandmas and grandpas.