Sadly, we’re reminded again today by Newsweek why we need to fight for single-payer healthcare. They tell of the struggle of Nathan Wilkes and his very ill son to get medical coverage through his insurer. Hint: the insurance industry didn't do the right thing. But the Wilkes are not alone—today we also learn how Insurance Corporation Gangsters practice unfair, retroactive cancellation of coverage for sick people, and their latest scam for elderly Medicare supplemental insurance patients. Nationally, experts dismiss the Bush plan as a giveaway to insurers, Hillary Clinton tells us why she SHOULD support single-payer, Schwarzencare is running into problems, and more voices around the country call for genuine healthcare reform.
Brought to you by the National Nurses Organizing Committee as we organize to make 2007 the Year of Single-Payer Healthcare.
If you aren’t committed to putting these sociopath insurance corporations out of business and replacing them with the kind of single-payer health plan that works in every other industrialized nation, read this Newsweek profile:
Nathan J. Wilkes of Greenwood Village, Colo., was so worried about the possible effects of Bush’s proposal on his ability to provide coverage for his chronically ill son that he decided to travel to the capital to make some noise. A computer network security expert who earns over $100,000, Wilkes works for a private firm outside of Denver which fits into the large-group insurance category and is allowed to shop around for different providers each year. But when his son Thomas, born with severe hemophilia, developed a resistance to treatment at age 1, Wilkes’s claims soared; his company’s insurance provider, Wilkes says, soon began hiking premiums 40 to 55 percent each year, and introduced a lifetime cap of $1 million for all employees and their families—including Thomas. Soon, Wilkes says, no other insurance companies would offer to cover the company.
His father will soon have no choice but to go bankrupt. He had health insurance—and it worked so long as nobody got sick.
A USA Today story suggests that he’s lucky he got what care he did. The new trend for insurance corporations is to comb the applications of their sick customers and try to retroactively deny them care for mistakes.
Their stories illustrate a little-recognized fact about insurance purchased by individuals: Even after being approved, policyholders can see their coverage amended to exclude certain medical conditions or revoked entirely, sometimes long after the policies are issued.
"Insurers love to market the promise, 'We'll take care of you. Just sign here,' " says Karen Pollitz of the Institute for Health Care Research and Policy at Georgetown University. "Then there is all this opportunity for the insurer not to keep the promise, and you don't find out until it's too late."…
Attorney William Shernoff, who represents Wheeler, Seals and some other patients involved in the California legal disputes, says the forms are designed to be unclear, giving insurers cover to cancel almost any policy. "I would venture to say that anyone who fills one out would make a mistake," Shernoff says. "They have compound questions, confusing questions, ambiguous questions. There's no place to answer 'I don't remember' or 'I don't know.' "
And the San Francisco Chronicle reports one more health insurance abuse—bullying or deceiving elderly customers into buying Medicare supplemental insurance that’s a total rip-off.
So are we any closer to getting rid of them? The Washington Post tells us that Bush’s plan will only make things work by allowing corporations selling junk insurance to get their hooks deeper into America:
But experts said yesterday that (Bush’s plan) would tilt that field toward a kind of health insurance that Bush has long favored -- a high-deductible plan paired with a special tax-exempt health savings account, or HSA.
This is ideological warfare on the everyday consumer. Patients, like Mr. Wilkes, would have high out-of-pocket expenses and caps that would quickly burn through their HSA’s. Insurance companies would get more customers, and would find it easier to get rid of those pesky sick ones. More risk for individuals and more profits for insurers.
Elsewhere, Hillary Clinton tells us why she SHOULD support single-payer healthcare, in an unusual speech making clear that it's affordable and her supporters like it.
Let’s pick up story. Campaigning in Iowa, Hillary says she favors universal healthcare, but on the plan:
"I'm not ready to be specific until I hear from people," she said.
… Clinton asked at one point for a show of hands from the audience to see how many would prefer employer-based health insurance, how many would prefer a system in which individuals purchased insurance, with help from the government if necessary, and how many would prefer a system modeled on Medicare.
The audience overwhelmingly favored moving toward a Medicare-like system for all Americans. But Clinton, recalling the famous "Harry and Louise" ads run by opponents of her early-'90s health-care plan, warned that until there is greater political consensus, the same kind of attacks could sink any new efforts to provide universal coverage.
Jill Lawrence from USA Today continues the story:
"That really makes a lot of sense, because you could get the costs down," Clinton said. But she said such a plan, like her 1994 proposal, is vulnerable to attacks that it is "government-run health care." Clinton said she will work this year to cover all uninsured children and seek input from voters before proposing larger changes. "This time we're going to build the consensus first," she said.
So she used to oppose Medicare for All before she supported it? Or is it the other way around?
Meanwhile, in California, Schwarzenegger’s ineffective, complicated plan is running into political problems and it looks the state will face a referendum of one kind or another in 2008.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune has some advice for him: the patchwork plans are too complicated to pass and will never work:
Yet the closer you look at these ambitious plans, the more you see they are mere patchworks. In Massachusetts, which will require most residents to buy private insurance, policies are coming on the market with higher prices and less coverage than experts hoped. Economist and columnist Paul Krugman points out that the Schwarzenegger plan will require big new state bureaucracies to regulate insurance companies and police individual behavior. As for the president's plan, even the White House admits it will cover only 5 million of the nation's 46 million uninsured; that's because it relies on tax deductions, which aren't much use to low-income families who represent the bulk of the uninsured population
The biggest argument against a single-payer system is it's "politically unrealistic" in a free-market society like the United States. We think that gives too little credit to the impatience and common sense of American voters. But then we won't know until a leader has the courage to find out.