Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Payola and the Demise of Health Care Reform

Crossposted at CobaltVA and Docudarma.

The best solution to health care and one that has a large amount of support among the U.S. public is the simplest, the single-payer option. Single-payer puts the insurance companies out of business, period. No longer would health care be rationed by cost, services and treatments denied, permission to see doctors of choice denied. Dr. Don McCanne, a retired family physician now serving as Senior Health Policy Fellow for Physicians for a National Health Program sums up in a recent debate held on the blog at American Health Care Reform.org:

Our private plans are based on a business model designed to ensure success in the health care marketplace. Success is defined by the medical loss ratio, spending the least they can on health care. Much of their profound administrative waste is due to their elaborate efforts to avoid paying for care.

“The plethora of private plans merely demonstrates the insurers’ innovations in restricting benefits – preventing payment for non-covered services; increasing deductibles and other forms of cost sharing – erecting financial barriers to care; contracting with limited lists of providers – penalizing patients who need care outside of the restricted lists; selective marketing to healthy populations – especially the healthy workforce and their young, healthy families; using underwriting and rescissions to avoid paying for essential care; and on and on. These are great business tools, ensuring success of the insurers, but they are anathema to the more egalitarian goals of social insurance systems. They defeat the insurance function of pooling risk by segregating out the low-cost healthy into their own market, and dumping the high-cost sick onto taxpayer funded programs."

But even more importantly in the single-payer system, no longer would the health and well being of Americans on health care be determined by profiteers. Because single-payer is non-profit, the high cost of health care profits would no longer be a leading cause of bankrupcy. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, via Truth Dig:
According to a recent Harvard Medical School study, “62.1 percent of all bankruptcies in 2007 were medical.” Many of these people are not from the 50 million or so uninsured Americans, but from among the estimated 25 million who are underinsured. That a person can have health insurance and still be driven to bankruptcy over hospital bills and pharmaceutical costs is a national disgrace.

Health Care would become an investment in the American work force that would pay and enormous dividend to the nation's economy. American workers stand to gain, Health Care oligarchs stand to lose.

The model is in place, and it works world-wide; Medicare. If you have a choice to buy a service or a product at a 30% reduction in cost or pay full cost what would you do? How about if you are told that the cheaper option provides better service, more efficiently delivered and guarantees that the service will not be denied for pre-existing conditions?

For the consumer, it's a no-brainer. For the profiteers, it's the death sentence. That's a tough pill to swallow, but that's the state of health care situation in America right now. Yet, single-payer hasn't even been allowed through the door. Once again, we are being told that the health care companies are "too big to fail." President Obama has already taken single-payer off the table. Too much payola is at stake now.
The Washington Post reported this week that almost 30 members of Congress who hold key committee memberships that will impact the health-care debate also have significant investments in health-care companies.

Max Baucus, the Democrat from Montana who is Obama's point man is one of those Congress members bought and paid for by the private insurance companies. Amy Goodman:
"Mike Dennison, a reporter for The Montana Standard, found that Baucus has received more campaign money from health- and insurance-industry interests than any other member of Congress. Dennison told me, “We’re talking about the health-insurance industry and ... HMOs, hospitals, physicians, pharmaceutical companies—that’s probably where the bulk of his money has come from ... out of about almost $15 million he’s raised in the last six years, both for his campaign and his leadership PAC, 23 percent of that came from insurance and health interests ... which we believe is probably more than any other member has received.”

His hearings in Congress were disrupted recently by single-payer advocates who were allowed in the room, but were denied any input or even to participate in the round-table discussion. One by one they stood up, spoke, were arrested and led out of the room. Amy Goodman again:
"Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairs the Senate Finance Committee, key to any health-care reform. Baucus has held several high-profile Senate committee hearings on health care, with no single-payer advocates. They were present, though, until Baucus had them arrested—for standing up one by one in the audience, protesting the exclusion of a single-payer representative on the panel."
The reason single-payer is off the table is payola, pure and simple. The insurance companies are locked in. They control the debate, they control Congress, and they've forced President Obama, the great consensus seeker, to acknowledge that single-payer is no longer on the table.

Pardon me, but DAMMITT. (Two T's for emphasis!) Obama is what passes for a single-payer advocate in today's toxic political atmosphere and he can't even talk about it. Grass roots is all we have left. This writer will be sending letters to editors all over the state and to his Congressmen demanding that single-payer become the nation's health care system.

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