There was an error in this gadget

Saturday, June 27, 2009

THE 100,000 FOOT VIEW ON HEALTH CARE (Part II)


"Everyone should have health insurance? I say everyone should have health CARE...I'm not selling insurance!"
- U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich (D, OH) -

"The truth is that the notion of beneficial competition in the insurance industry is all wrong in the first place. Insurers mainly compete by engaging in 'risk reduction' - that is, the most successful companies are those that do the best job of denying coverage to those who need it most."
- Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman -


Fabulous blog posts on the subject of national health care continue. Burr Deming's masterful "Fair and Unbalanced" site (http://www.fairandunbalanced.com/) featured a June 25 post called "Bully For Health Care" which gave us a clever parable exposing the hypocritical folly of the Insurance Corporations and their stooges, the Congressional Republicans, clearly showing in parable form how those two allies fear real competition in health care. Mycue23, in his June 24 post "The $60 Billion Solution" at his always thoughtful and impassioned "Random Thoughts" blog, (http://hamsandwich66@blogspot.com/) dissected and destroyed the major Republican arguments against a Public Option. And KeninNY over at "Down With Tyranny!" (http://www.downwithtyranny.blogspot.com/) featured a number of outstanding pieces over the past week attacking the anti-Public Option position. A visit to the abovementioned sites would be well worth the trip, and there are many others. Today, I offer my own humble two-cents-worth; part II of my 100,000 foot view on health care, and a proposed solution for the problem of our increasingly expensive and ever more exclusive private health "care" system.

Congressional Republicans, and most of their Corporate Insurance puppetmasters, want no part of government involvement in health care. They don't care that Medicare, Medicaid, and the VA are government-run systems which seem to be providing care for their respective recipients reasonably well and reasonably efficiently, and are all government-administered. They believe the private insurance industry is doing just fine at covering medical costs for the American people, and should have no non-private competition at all. Senator John McCain (R, AZ) has stated that if taxpayers were given a (woefully) little extra money in tax credits, they could start "Health Savings Accounts" for the purchase of private health insurance. He hypothesizes that insurance companies would scramble to compete for the great influx of insurance business these accounts would create, and that would lower health care costs. I say that is complete nonsense. For one thing, insurance companies are out for one thing, and one thing only: PROFIT, and as much of that as they can possibly get their greedy little hands on. They don't care in the least about the quality of health care, or who receives coverage and who doesn't. They just want MONEY---INCOME---at as least an expense as they can get it. To achieve that goal, they stop at nothing to exclude those whom they believe would pose too great a financial risk to cover, and even discontinue covering those on their rolls if that proves monetarily advantageous. For the insurance industry can and does employ a nasty little tactic called RECISSION. Just this week, I learned of the case of a woman being booted off her insurance policy immediately after a double mastectomy and before her prolonged chemotherapy sessions were to begin. Why? Because of a mere technicality the insurance company used against her. It seems the poor woman had once been treated for a completely unrelated condition, plantar's warts, and had forgotten to include this information when she signed up for the policy. They cut off support for her expensive chemo treatments on the preposterous grounds that she had withheld information on a preexisting condition! Outrageous, to be sure, but it can and does happen to people constantly, and it illustrates perfectly the cut-throat, uncaring, and greedy nature of that overly profit conscious industry. If you are a diabetic, or have had cancer or a heart attack, you may as well forget about getting health insurance on your own. It simply won't happen; you are considered too great a risk, even though you need good health care even more than a similar individual without your history. The ONLY way you will become insured is to become grandfathered in through a work or spouse's insurance plan. These examples prove Paul Krugman's quote at the top of the page. Another flaw in the McCain position is that, under his idea, health care would not by any means be universal. Insurance companies would still be able to cherry-pick whom they would cover, just as they do today. There would be no outside pressure to keep costs down as well. So McCain's plan, as well as those of other Congressional Republicans, is a lot of malarkey which wouldn't change a thing. Yet they press on, irrationally, with their opposition to a Public Option. Senator Charles Grassley (R, IA), even went so far this week as to say that any Congressional proposal for a Public Option would be a deal-breaker. I say McCain, Grassley, and all other Republicans and Democrats who take up this anti-Public Option, pro-private insurance status quo position should resign their seats at once and get off the public payroll permanently! For their advocacy is clearly not for the well being of the American people they are being paid to represent and look after, but rather for the protection of profit for an already overabundantly profitable industry which enriches a scant few to the detriment of a great many.

Conservatives (especially Republicans) are also trying to scare us away from a Public Option with exaggerated or even untrue horror stories of inefficiencies of public health care, long delays in receiving treatment, inability to chose your own doctor, etc., etc., etc. They threw all these terror tales out before to defeat the 1994 Clinton plan, and they are as false now as they were then. A liberal friend of mine forwarded me a May 25 conservative National Review piece this past week. It was a scare story written by John C. Goodman a fierce opponent of public health care and founder, president, and CEO of the conservative Dallas-based think tank National Center for Policy Analysis. Mr. Goodman has been named by the Wall Street Journal and other such pro-free market publications as "the father of health savings plans." It is easy to see which side of the bread slice he puts his butter on. His contention was that public plans in other countries are poor systems which have long, potentially deadly, delays in treatment. Another related report told the scare story of a 17 week delay for surgeries under the Canadian system. As I have stated in my prior post, my Canadian acquaintances have all told me that treatment delays are the exceptions rather than the rule, and that nearly all delays come in the areas of cosmetic, elective, or non-life-threatening procedures. As these people have actually experienced treatment under their Canadian system, I place far more credence in their testimony than I do in an article written by an anti-government involvement, pro-free market partisan with a pro-business agenda. Aside from those allegations, preventing unnecesary bureaucratic delays can and should be a cornerstore for ANY American Public Option plan. Delays do NOT have to be an automatic feature of such a system, provided that system is set up and administered properly! After all, common "wisdom" once held that the Italian train system would always run late, and that Mussolini would never get them to run on time. Yet he did. We, too, can defy the detractors with a properly administered government health care plan. YES WE CAN, YES WE MUST, and YES WE WILL!!!

The time has come for we in the United States to cut to the chase on this nagging problem of health care. Taking the 100,000 foot view, we are beset by problems of unequal coverage and ever-rising expense. Health care, just like water and electricity, is something everyone alive needs and uses. It is a commodity in that regard. It is required for life and must be considered a basic human right, not a privilege that only a select number can afford or will be allowed to have. Therefore, I propose that HEALTH CARE BE DECLARED A PUBLIC UTILITY, WITH PRIVATE INVOLVEMENT AND OPERATION, AND EVEN PROFIT, BUT BE PLACED UNDER A STRICT, YET NEGOTIABLE, FORM OF GOVERNMENT REGULATION. As with electric or water utilities, the control of and administration of this health care utility could be done at a district, state, or regional level, with rates and policies set by a regulatory board to whom private and public clinics, hospitals, and administrators could petition and have input with on a regular basis. There you go, conservatives and Republicans: no total ownership by the government; private participation and profit, but this time by actual providers of real health care to all the population, not just by an unnecessary, cumbersome, and expensive group of greedy middlemen known as insurance companies. Gone forever would be excessively high executive salaries of piggish insurance company boards, exclusionary and recission policies, and ever-demanding hordes of stockholders constantly pressing for ever-higher profit.

Utilities come into being, of course, because the people or government feel that, left to its own devices, an entity may act contrary to the public good. If we ever saw a case of such an entity, it would surely be providers of health insurance!

Health care utilities could be funded by a combination of income taxes and/or member/user fees as well as through direct federal back-up subsidy. Existing holders of health insurance company stock could be given health care vouchers equal to the value of their stock at the time the utility came into being, and would receive virtually free health care until the value of those vouchers was used up. In cases of death, the vouchers could be willed to relatives or significant others. Such a system would eventually provide universal and equal coverage. Nobody complains much about the electricity or water they receive from a utility rather than from a greedy, profiteering, self-interested private entity, and those engaged in providing the product or service are able to prosper, albeit not in the overblown manner health insurance companies do today. The public's health needs would be met in a universal and responsible manner. There is truly benefit in this plan for everybody. I believe it is an idea worth serious consideration!

Keep in mind, this is the 100,000 foot view on a health care solution. As we get closer to the actual ground-level of everyday individual life, a huge number of details would need to be addressed and worked out. Yet this is an important starting point for a departure that MUST be made; a departure from the existing unbalanced and unfair mess we have which is draining business and consumer alike dry, for the benefit of a relatively tiny few. For the health "care" system we currently employ enriches a very scant number, at the detriment of a great many. That system must come to an end.

If you like this idea of Health Care Utilities, write your Governor, Representative, and Senators about it. If you have a better idea to provide health care universally and reduce costs, by all means submit it to them! But DO let your government officials know that, in no uncertain terms, you will no longer stand for this unfair, costly, exclusionary private system we currently have! Let them know you want ACTION and CHANGE, and do so TODAY! And again TOMORROW! And again NEXT WEEK, and REPEATEDLY, until affordable health care truly becomes an unquestioned and automatic right and reality for us ALL!

9 comments:

Mycue23 said...

Jack,
Fantastic article. I think it's important that we keep the pressure on those in Congress who would bow to their masters at the insurance companies instead of trying to help their constituants. I don't believe that there is an elected official who could make a rational argument to any of the 50 million uninsured in this country explaining why they don't deserve to have health care. And that is how this debate should be framed. The President needs to go on national TV and call out every single Democratic Senator who is opposed to this reform and ask them why they think they think that the tens of thousands of Americans who will die this year because of lack of health insurance deserve less than what the Senators themselves receive. Health care should be a right, not a privelege. I just don't know how a country as rich as ours has been able to deny this fact for so long. We should not be running a full fledged experiment in social darwinism with the lives of 50 million of our fellow Americans.

Jack Jodell said...

Thanks, Mycue23! Great minds think alike, as evidenced by the letter former Labor Secretary Reich recently sent to Obama (below). We MUST jump all over Congress until they get the message we've had enough profiteering from people's sickness and misery. Because of it's size, I must split this into 2 transmissions. Here is pt 1. I think you'll love this memo, and I sure hope Obama follows Reich's advice!
-------------
June 19, 2009, 6:39PM

Mr. President:

Momentum for universal health care is slowing dramatically on Capitol Hill. Moderates are worried, Republicans are digging in, and the medical-industrial complex is firing up its lobbying and propaganda machine.

But, as you know, the worst news came days ago when the Congressional Budget Office weighed in with awful projections about how much the leading healthcare plans would cost and how many Americans would still be left out in the cold. Yet these projections didn't include the savings that a public option would generate by negotiating lower drug prices, doctor fees, and hospital costs, and forcing private insurers to be more competitive. Projecting the future costs of universal health care without including the public option is like predicting the number of people who will get sunburns this summer if nobody is allowed to buy sun lotion. Of course the costs of universal health care will be huge if the most important way of controlling them is left out of the calculation.

If you want to save universal health care, you must do several things, and soon:

1. Go to the nation. You must build public support by forcefully making the case for universal health care everywhere around the country. The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll shows that three out of four Americans want universal health care. But the vast majority don't know what's happening on the Hill, don't know how much money the medical-industrial lobbies are spending to defeat it, and have no idea how much demagoguery they're about to be exposed to. You must tell them. And don't be reluctant to take on those vested interests directly. Name names. They've decided to fight you. You must fight them.

2. Be LBJ. So far, Lyndon Johnson has been the only president to defeat American Medical Association and the rest of the medical-industrial complex. He got Medicare and Medicaid enacted despite their cries of "socialized medicine" because he knocked heads on the Hill. He told Congress exactly what he wanted, cajoled and threatened those who resisted, and counted noses every hour until he had the votes he needed. When you're not on the road, you need to be twisting congressional arms and drawing a line in the sand. Be tough.

3. Forget the Republicans. Forget bipartisanship. Universal health care can pass with 51 votes. You can get 51 votes if you give up on trying to persuade a handful of Republicans to cross over. Eight year ago George W. Bush passed his huge tax cut, mostly for the wealthy, by wrapping it in an all-or-nothing reconciliation measure and daring Democrats to vote against it. You should do the same with health care.

4. Insist on a real public option. It's the lynchpin of universal health care. Don't accept Kent Conrad's ersatz public option masquerading as a "healthcare cooperative." Cooperatives won't have the authority, scale, or leverage to negotiate low prices and keep private insurers honest.
- continued -

Jack Jodell said...

Here is pt 2 of Reich's memo to Obama.
---------------

5. Demand that taxes be raised on the wealthy to ensure that all Americans get affordable health care. At the rate healthcare costs are rising, not even a real public option will hold down costs enough to make health care affordable to most American families in years to come. So you'll need to tax the wealthy. Don't back down on your original proposal to limit their deductions. And support a cap on how much employee-provided health care can be provided tax free. (Yes, you opposed this during your campaign. But you have no choice but to reverse yourself on this.) These are the only two big pots of money.

6. Put everything else on hold. As important as they are, your other agenda items -- financial reform, home mortgage mitigation, cap-and-trade legislation -- pale in significance relative to universal health care. By pushing everything at once, you take the public's mind off the biggest goal, diffuse your energies, blur your public message, and fuel the demagogues who say you're trying to take over the private sector.

You have to win this.

Your obedient servant, RBR

Gwendolyn H. Barry said...

Indeed, I did zip an email to the gov! I like that, a public entity it should be. Yes, too, Burr makes headway by revealing basic wrong. And you Jack... Krugman is just plain scary as correct as he is... Great piece. Thanks for the info. and blogger buddy... I'll stand by you!

Jack Jodell said...

Thanks, Gwendolyn! I'm glad you made your voice heard! We cannot let our legislators blow us off by cow-towing to big pharma and big insurance. Health care must be a right (and not a privilege) for ALL! These big corporations have been ripping the public off for years, and it's high time those criminals were placed under very tight regulation!

SJ said...

@Jack,
A well-written and thoughtful dismantling of the lies being told on behalf of the Health Insurance industry.
The reasons you stated are among the 50 million reasons Americans need, and can't do without full healthcare coverage.
-SJ

Jack Jodell said...

Thanks, SJ, and now it's up to all of us to kick possible deviating Dems like Ben Nelson's, Blanche Lincoln's, and Max Baucus's butts into line behind a Public Option!

Max's Dad said...

Great post again., Jack. Unfortunately my rep in Congress might as well be named Pfizer's lapdog when he isn't hollering obscenities at drivers as he jaywalks in D.C. See Lee Terry (R-Ne). Ben Nelson is such a wishy washy daffodil so far into the insurance companies pockets he makes you fill out a claim form just to say hi. Obama can expect no help out of my state, so I hammer other state's reps.

Jack Jodell said...

Sorry about your having such a neanderthal rep, Max's Dad. I'm glad you are taking the next best step, though, and are hammering away at whomever you can wherever you can. It is a clear sign of just how corrupt and plutocratic we have become that the pharmaceutical and insurance industries have come to dominate and nearly control our government as they have. O, what I wouldn't give for a Congress loaded with Dennis Kuciniches!!! Keep up the great job, MD!