You Can’t Fool Me, Ozark Billy Long

My congressman, Ozark Billy Long, has pushed himself away from the poker table long enough to become a national figure, in terms of GOP attempts to screw over the poor and the sick. For a while there, it looked like he was going to be something of a hero—if only 20170502_071344 (2).jpgfor those who don’t really know him—for being a critical “no” vote on the latest iteration of the anti-health act that Republicans call the American Health Care Act (AHCA).

If you’ve been with me since at least 2010, you know I was there at the beginning of Billy’s career. In fact, I did a video interview with him that year (his facial expressions in that interview were analyzed by a fellow Republican using the theories of psychologist Paul Ekman; that version of my interview has since been taken down from YouTube). At the time of the 2010 interview, Billy was involved in a controversy in which a local right-winger accused him of bribery. The right-winger, a Tea Party blogger named Clay Bowler, had been very publicly critical of Long. Ozark Billy met with him and, according to Bowler, offered him some kind of job if he’d shut the hell up by shutting down his “Long is Wrong” blog.

That was just one controversy surrounding Long that I covered, and I met him three times, the last time during the aftermath of our killer tornado in 2011. By that time, Ozark Billy recognized me and refused to talk to me about his hypocrisy involving wanting federal money to help Joplin’s post-storm recovery efforts while voting against providing federal money to help other parts of the country recover from their own disasters. In any case, Ozark Billy has now hit the big time. As I write, Sean Spicer is talking about him on national television.

It’s because I have followed Long’s career that I wasn’t fooled by his recent, and completely phony, excuse for not supporting the GOP’s second attempt at pretending to “repeal and replace” Obamacare. The liberal site Daily Kos called Long’s opposition a “big deal,” while reporting his statement of opposition:

I have always stated that one of the few good things about Obamacare is that people with pre-existing conditions would be covered. The MacArthur amendment strips away any guarantee that pre-existing conditions would be covered and affordable.

Yippee! said everyone this side of Rush Limbaugh. Even I thought it was at least a faint sign that Billy wasn’t a completely heartless jerk. But then I got to thinking about something. Long voted a gazillion times, when it didn’t matter, to repeal Obamacare. He didn’t give a damn, when he cast all those votes, about anyone with pre-existing conditions. He didn’t give a damn about anything other than sticking it to President Obama, just like all the Republicans who voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act were doing. We can see that now. We can clearly see that now.

Allow me to share with you Long’s press release (titled, “The People Have Spoken”) about the Affordable Care Act from March 23, 2011, three months into his first term. Please read it and tell me if you find any concern for folks with pre-existing health conditions:

Today, Congressman Billy Long issued the following statement on the one-year anniversary of the Obama’s health care law:

“The American people have spoken and they don’t want Washington bureaucrats coming between them and their doctors,” said Long.  “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear but that’s exactly what the majority tried to do last year by using ten years of taxes to pay for six years of expenses.”

The Obama Administration’s health care bill was pushed through the House and the Senate by the Democratic supermajority using parliamentary tactics and big pay-offs like the “Louisiana Purchase.”  The Democratic bill passed without a single Republican vote and increased Federal spending by $2.6 trillion.  The bill gave unprecedented control of the American health care system, approximately 1/6th of the economy, to the Federal government.

Congressman Long believes people, not the government, are the source of prosperity and make the American health care system the envy of the world.

“In this country we have the finest doctors, the finest nurses, the finest protocols, and the finest facilities in the world,” said Long.  “And that is not a government-run system.”

Congressman Long made repealing Obamacare his number one priority when he came to Congress and voted to repeal the intrusive and expensive law shortly after being sworn in.

Repealing the law was Long’s “number one priority.” Not number two. Not three. One. And not a word about pre-existing conditions. Not a single word. But that was early on. Perhaps he grew over the years. After all, Long, 20170501_220540 (2)in his widely published statement yesterday, said “I have always stated that one of the few good things about Obamacare is that people with pre-existing conditions would be covered.” He has “always stated” such, he said. Always.


In June of 2012, another press release was partially titled, “Marks 30th Vote to Repeal or Defund Health Care Law.” In it Long said:

My House colleagues and I will continue to work on repealing this awful law and craft better solutions that keep the federal government out of your health care.

Not a word about his concern for pre-existing conditions. The law was, he said, “awful.” But the release did note—ironically, given the situation Republicans find themselves in now—that the ACA “was forced through Congress by Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.”

In August of 2013, he bragged about being a co-sponsor of a bill that would be “another important step in the House’s efforts to repeal this law by prohibiting the IRS from enforcing or implementing Obamacare.” In September of 2013, he said, “I continue to believe the best course of action is to repeal this law and start from scratch.” In May of 2016, he hailed as “a great victory” a federal court judge’s ruling that “the Obama administration unlawfully funded parts of Obamacare without congressional approval.” A July 2016 press release noted his participation in “roundtable discussions with local health and business leaders” in Springfield. Long said, in true Tr-mpian style:

Today’s roundtable discussions were a great opportunity to show my record of success in Congress, like how I’ve been fighting against America’s opioid epidemic and harmful rules and regulations that threaten businesses across Southwest Missouri.

What a great opportunity to mention protecting folks with pre-existing medical conditions. What a great missed opportunity. In fact, there are 39 press releases on Long’s congressional website that come up under the category “Health Care.” Go see if you can find a single one in which he said anything good about the Affordable Care Act. Bet you can’t.

As I said, when I heard about Ozark Billy’s opposition to the second iteration of the phony GOP repeal effort, I was tempted to think he wasn’t as bad as I thought. That was until I started remembering things, things like his newfound concern for the “good” parts of Obamacare. And things like the fact he actually supported the first iteration of the Republican’s “health” care plan. You know, the version which the Congressional Budget Office said would increase the number of uninsured people by 24 million in ten years, a majority of that number coming as a result from cuts in Medicaid, the nation’s health insurance for “low-income adults, children, pregnant women, elderly adults and people with disabilities.” You see, the Billy Long I know is the guy who would do something like cut folks off Medicaid, not champion the popular parts of Obamacare.

In any case, none of the Billy-is-a-hero stuff matters now. As of today, Ozark Billy, after a visit to the White’s House, is back on board. I just saw his mug on TV again, saying he has met with Tr-mp and convinced him that yet a third version of the plan is the way to go and Billy is now a “yes” man. A CNN headline went up:

New momentum for GOP health care bill after key votes flip

And here is a clip of Long bragging about how hard he fought for the original health-hating bill and misleading us about how much he has talked about the good parts of Obamacare:

People with pre-existing conditions “need to be covered, period,” Ozark Billy told us, as he stood in front of the White’s House, now home to the world’s most famous pathological liar. And he added, “I’ve said that in all my literature.” Well, no he hasn’t. He hasn’t said it in any literature I could find, at least in any of the literature he has posted about health care on his website. He just hasn’t. Maybe being around Tr-mp for an hour has side effects or maybe Billy was lying all those years about Obamacare or maybe he’s just lying now. Beats me.

But what about this latest amendment that Billy thinks fixes the problem he said bothered him enough to oppose the second version of the bill? Come on. You know it ain’t good. The great Sarah Kliff, of Vox, explains why in detail:

The Republican solution to sick people who need health insurance in a post-Obamacare world is increasingly coming to center on three words: high-risk pools.

The White House has reportedly secured the support of Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), a longtime legislator, by promising an additional $8 billion to fund these programs. That would mean the Republican plan has nearly $115 billion that states could use, if they wanted to, for high-risk pools.

High-risk pools are a way for the government to offer subsidized health insurance to the most expensive patients — people with illnesses that could range from diabetes to cancer. The idea is to give those people coverage but keep premiums lower for other, healthier patients by pulling these sicker patients out of the insurance pool.

But high-risk pools also have a history of running into a big problem: They cost a ton of money. Pooling together the sickest patients means that a state high-risk pool will have really high medical claims. […]

The Republican bill doesn’t require states to build high-risk pools — it just gives them the option. And it has little to say about how states should build them if they decide to do so. It is possible they would also have lifetime limits and preexisting condition waiting periods. Those details are hugely important, but are unlikely to get sorted out until after the bill passes and the Trump administration begins to write regulations.

It’s hard to estimate how much it would take to fund adequate high-risk pools. Emily Gee, an economist with the left-leaning Center for American Progress, estimates that the Republican bill would need another $200 billion in high-risk pool funding, plus the $115 billion it already appropriates, to cover 1.5 million people (5 percent of current small-group and individual market enrollees).

But whenever there is a funding cap, like there is in the Republican bill, high-risk pools get, well, risky. The program has to live within a budget and serve a group of incredibly sick patients. The way states typically have done that in the past is by serving as few patients as possible, while also asking them to pay a lot for the program.

Kliff says that under the GOP plan the various states will have a choice whether to set up high-risk pools or choose from six other options. She also notes that the CBO has already estimated that states won’t set up those high-risk pools, but instead use the money “to stabilize the individual market and provide payments to insurers there that get stuck with especially high-cost patients.” That means, of course, that the stingy amount of money Republicans have pledged to help subsidize insurance for people with pre-existing medical conditions, even with Ozark Billy’s additional $8 billion over five years, will not be enough.

And, given they all know what the CBO has said, Republicans know it will not be enough. This is all phony. It’s all a sick game of politics, designed to save face for people like Long and for is hero, Tr-mp. As the health advocacy group Families USA put it:

The Upton-Long amendment is not even a fig leaf: It is a laughably inadequate attempt to ameliorate damage done by the provisions of the AHCA that would drastically undermine the ACA’s guarantee of affordable comprehensive coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

Billy Long can talk all day about how much he has always publicly valued Obamacare’s protection of folks with unfortunate pre-existing health problems. He can talk all day about how much his new amendment to a very bad idea is a good thing. He can try to fool folks who don’t know any better.

But he ain’t foolin’ me.

Here is a way to tell him he ain’t foolin’ you either:

Washington DC Office
Springfield, MO Office
Joplin, MO Office



  1. Tried calling. Can’t get through to D.C. yet. Springfield doesn’t answer. Apparently Billy’s reversal has gotten him some unwanted attention. Good.


  2. ansonburlingame

     /  May 4, 2017

    The GOP now finds itself in the tenuous position of trying to compromise within its own party to find a “new” solution to HC. That compromise is taking place only in the House, so far. You can bet no Dem will vote in favor of whatever comes out of the House HC bill. But fear not Duane, et al, anything that comes forth from the House will be dead on arrival in the Senate, UNLESS (and the legal arguments will go on forever) the Senate can find a way to approve some form of HC “reform” without allowing a filibuster. Hell, Trump has already said that 51 votes in the Senate should now be enough to govern America on any given topic.

    Why, might I ask, did ACA become so unpopular after it was passed into law and a very liberal administration began to regulate it? Insurance premiums began to go up, up and up. At least half the country claimed they could not afford such premiums. The obvious solution was for the federal government to shoulder such increasing costs for HC. Private insurance is obviously no longer the answer. Government controlled, single payer HC system is the clear solution for anyone claiming “we need it, no matter what it costs”.

    Well how much, really, is the cost of HC in America today. About 20% of GDP is the answer I hear today, some $3 Trillion per year, which is WRONG. (20% of our $18 Trillion GDP is $3.6 Trillion. But why worry? What’s an extra $600 Billion per year, the size of our defense budget plus or minus??) Wrong claim liberals as if government runs it the cost will go down a lot. OK, let’s assume the money paid into HC goes down to $2 Trillion per year. If you believe that is too high then just pick a number, the total $ per year required for the federal government to control any system of HC in America. By control it I mean simply pay for it, HC for all 320 million Americans today. Remember if government controls the cost (price controls is the term as I recall) then private businesses leave the market by and large. Capitalism turns into …………, which is just fine with most of you herein.

    The easiest way to come to grips with such huge numbers (people and $) is to consider the cost on a per person basis. If all Americans contribute $1 just to HC alone that generates, yep, $320 Million. $10 per person gets you $3.2 Billion, $100 gets $32 Billion, $1000 yields $320 Billion and $10,000 per man, woman and child in America gets you in the range of government run, single payer HC, $3.2 Trillion. OK, call that ridiculous as very, very few American families of 4 can pay $40,000 per year just for HC INSURANCE. Well how much can they pay? Take two zeros off that number (making it $400 per year) and add those two zeros to say the “top 1%” (of tax payers, not every man, woman and child).

    If Dems were really honest I would ask them to first tell us the total bill expected for the federal government to actually pay for HC for all Americans. THEN tell us the tax bill, on a per person basis, to pay for that bill, ONLY HC, not the rest of the federal government. Remember if you can that an extra $1,000 per person in America generates about $320 Billion per year, slightly more than the deficit spent to support Medicare for about 50 million older Americans.

    Duane honestly admits that government, single payer HC is his goal but it can only be achieved gradually, according to my recollection of his recent statement herein. OK, how gradual I wonder might satisfy him? If we freeze the cost of HC for all Americans (total bill) WHEN will all families of 4 be able to pay $40,000 year for HC insurance that fully covers the total bill for that service?

    Between Medicare and Medicaid my guess is our federal and state governments pay somewhere in the range of $1 Trillion per year for HC, today (about 1/3rd of total cost). I recently saw a figure, $5.2 Trillion per year as the total state and federal government outlay for all government operations. Put another $500 Billion (federal deficit) on top of that number and you see we already pay (thru government) about 17 % of all government funds for HC. But that does not come close to the money needed for HC for all Americans.

    If capitalism does not generate enough to pay for such things, well what system of economics will bear such costs? We already know full well that communism fails miserably to do so. That leaves socialism, taking from the rich to pay the poor, until ……….?

    Duane has spent time and effort to make a fool of OBL, again. That is easy to do just as I have now submitted a column to the Globe calling Trump a narcissistic buffoon. Billy Long couldn’t afford a plane ticket to Las Vegas, much less pay a bar bill until …….. Now he appears on NBC nightly news as someone that knows what he is talking about related to HC. Are you kidding me!! He and Trump are an embarrassment to America, but so is Bernie, etc. as well.

    I know full well what my total tax bill, federal, state and local, is today. Go ahead and tell me how much it will go up to pay just for HC for all Americans. I will check that figure and then vote yes or no like most Americans. But of course no one can (or will) tell me what the honest figure might be.



    • Anson,

      Here’s the problem with the first part of what you said. The plan is to use the reconciliation process to pass whatever comes out of the Senate with only 51 votes. The filibuster will not be allowed, depending on what the CBO comes up with after it comes out with its scoring next week or the week after. And, even if the CBO scores it unfavorably (that is, if the thing is not deficit neutral, for instance) and the parliamentarian rules that the reconciliation process is not in keeping with Senate rules, there is talk of dismissing the CBO’s judgment and using Tr-mp’s Office of Management and Budget analysis. What do you think those guys will say? Ha! The truth is that right now nobody knows how this is going to play out in the Senate, in terms of how many votes will be required to pass something.

      You’re wrong about the ACA causing insurance premiums to go up. But I don’t have the time to chase down the proof right now. But you are absolutely wrong. They were going up long before anyone ever heard of Obamacare.

      In any case, about the money. Americans already spend much more on healthcare than anyone else in the civilized world. Much more. Part of the reason is because of the for-profit system we have for folks under 65. About 20% of the cost, according to some estimates, goes into maintaining that for-profit system. Another reason is inefficiencies in the system, things like multiple health care delivery systems for different folks. You ignored my comments about the VA and comparing it to Medicare the other day, but those are examples of two very different systems. Then there is all the various “plans” out there and all the administrative costs associated with compliance among the various agreements between insurance companies and doctors and hospitals. And so on with that stuff. This leads to what is the biggest problem: the government, if it ran the entire system, could control costs much better and bring them down. That’s how it works nearly everywhere else in one way or another. But your party is fundamentally opposed to that and will die fighting against it. That’s why I say we have to bring in a single-payer system gradually. It’s just not politically doable, in my opinion, any other way. At least right now. I wish it were because I believe if people could see the end game, instead of falling for all the right-wing propaganda that would follow a serious effort to bring on single-payer much more quickly, they would see it would be cheaper for them. But, alas, we live in a country that has elected a Tr-mp.

      For the record, I didn’t just make fun of Billy Long. I pointed out how dishonest he was either yesterday or in the past. Take your pick.


      Liked by 1 person

    • By the way, I referred to “your party.” I know, I know. You are not officially a Republican. My bad.


  3. Anonymous

     /  May 5, 2017

    Duane, thank you for putting Long where he always was:In the bribery business.


  4. Anson, the cost of healthcare in the U.S. is double that of Canada’s single-payer system, even though the outcomes, including longevity and morbidity are about the same. This wiki page shows other comparisons.


  5. ansonburlingame

     /  May 5, 2017

    First, thanks for remembering the GOP is “not my party”. I add that I don’t need the reminder that “Canada does it so why can’t we do it (universal HC)”. Finally, I admit I did not respond to your challenge about VA care, etc., Duane. I did not ignore it but would have had to post a new “wall of text” to elaborate on it. “Everyone agrees” it seems that my posts are far to lengthy as it is and they are correct. But to hell with length and now I restate why a VA-like system, a “universal system of HC for all Americans” will never satisfy the American appetite for excellence, “on demand” excellence”.

    For the people that can afford it, America has the greatest HC system ever “invented” by mankind. If I feel ill, try home remedies for a day or so but still feel ill, I call my doctor (a “Mercy doctor”) and see her within 24 hours. If that is not fast enough, I go to the emergency room or an “immediate care” facility.

    I have never experienced, yet, any long term and expensive to treat illness. But if (when) that happens my insurance “covers it all”, just as it covers the less critical matters. All of that insurance coverage (Medicare and TriCare for Life) only costs me (and my wife) $2400 per year in premiums. OF COURSE I would like to see every human in the world (or at least every American citizen) receive such HC.

    To achieve that worthy goal (just for Americans) we must have something America has never had, “universal” HC, one size fits all HC. My doctor must be as good (or bad) as your doctor and what I get charged (actually my insurance gets charged) must be the exact same as your bill. I think you will admit that such equality in HC demands equal levels of care for “all”, even if such equality reduces the quality and timeliness of such HC. As well if my doctor cuts off the wrong limb I can’t sue him/her. Try suing the VA if things go wrong thru negligence and read all the stories of such negligence (alleged at least) with the VA system today.

    Of course you nor any liberal would ever advocate that “universal” HC would degenerate down to what is routinely observed in VA care today. You claim we will keep our current standards (including timeliness of treatment) through our private HC providers. Well like it or not that “system” of private HC sees more and more government demands placed on it and while none of us like it, the cost is, yep, $3 Trillion a year. You and Jim obviously agree that huge sum MUST come down. Well government price controls will do it for sure, bring down the costs, but then ………. Cut the total costs ($3 Trillion) in half (or whatever) but still demand the same quality and timeliness of care and then see what you get.

    Government tries to pull that rabbit out of a hat all the time, cut costs but maintain what “Americans demand” and see how the efficiency, attention to detail, etc. works out. Would you like to go to sea in a submarine if government demanded General Dynamics to keep “building them but cut the costs in half”. Do you want a doctor operating on you that graduated from medical school at “half the cost” of such education as it exists today.

    Something must “give” when huge costs controls are put on any system and “people still get paid very high wages and get very costly benefits”. Tell GM to cut the cost of every automobile in half but keep making them safe, fuel efficient, etc. Tell a large group of factory workers to maintain every OSHA standard in the books but still produce ………. at the same time. Tell a coal company to “protect the environment AND conform to every safety rule any bureaucrat can come up with”, pay very high wages and benefits, etc. but still produce enough coal to just break even, not make a profit at all. They watch all the coal companies declare bankruptcy and leave any and all pension and HC funds up to the government to pay instead.

    My VA example may be called extreme I suppose ask most Americans would tolerate such a system. OK, forget VA., or for that matter a Canadian system of HC. Just describe for me how any organization can achieve extraordinarily high standards of a given product AND pay extraordinarily high wages and benefits to “everyone”, AND can keep up with bureaucratic regulation mandated by people that have never built “anything” in their lives while sitting behind a desk, and at the same time will time expect others to create such a system and only pay them “middle class wages”, equality in pay, benefits, etc. or something very close to it. Who as well gets to define what is “close to it”? Why government of course, right, in any “universal HC system”.

    ONLY government can afford such a system of HC and I submit EVEN government will fail in such efforts to the extent that Americans well ever be satisfied with it and be willing to pay the extraordinary amount in taxes to sustain (not support through deficit spending “forever”) it.

    But if you lay out the honest numbers in terms of taxation and total cost to sustain “universal HC” I will read, listen and think about such numbers.



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