Politicians in Georgia are in an circular firing squad with the Bush Administration over the fate of PeachCare. This fiasco makes one thing clear: American politics has a new third rail, and it is healthcare. Also, Bush signals his real plan for healthcare (cut the budget for Medicare and Medicaid and Veterans' care), a major SEIU local endorses SinglePayer healthcare, Washington state is gearing up for the their SinglePayer bill, while a doctor’s group moves to cut the influence of drug reps.
Here’s the quick update on the PeachCare fiasco and why it suggests how ready our nation is for SinglePayer healthcare: Georgia, along with 14 other states, is running into money troubles for their subsidized children’s health plans. The federal government has yet to re-authorize the funding. Georgia has taken the step of cutting off new enrollees to the program and depriving thousands of kids of care.
Why does it matter? Because the response to this cutback has been fierce and unprecedented. Republicans in state government are attacking those at the federal level, and vice-versa. Part of the reason? The PeachCare crisis is having a strong impact on the middle-class and they are demanding action. The editor of the Savannah Morning Journal singles out private insurance companies for their role in causing our healthcare system’s larger ills:
At the bottom of what's ailing PeachCare, and America's health-care headache as a whole, isn't money. Otherwise, we're all going to be PeachCare-eligible at some point. Instead, it's where the money is going….
Meanwhile, health insurance stock prices have shot up more than 500 percent from 1997 to 2006, according to a Lehman Brothers Global Equity analysis. Even the folks paid to run Medicaid in Georgia and other states are raking it in. The Wall Street Journal reported last November that these middlemen are taking 15 percent to 20 percent off the top, compared to 4-6 percent overheads of state-run programs.
Meanwhile, according to the WSJ, Dr. William McGuire draws an $8-million annual salary and has unrealized gains on stock options totaling $1.6 billion. He's the chief executive officer of UnitedHealth Group Inc I carry a UnitedHealth card in my wallet.
And the incomparable Cynthia Tucker takes pains to point out why we have a PeachCare crisis—-because the war in Iraq is bankrupting the government.
Politicians responsible for PeachCare expected to save a few bucks by kicking kids off the healthcare rolls, similar to things they’ve done a million times before, and assumed no one would care. Instead it has blown up in their faces and demonstrated that American politics has a new third rail: healthcare. Voters are looking for immediate results, for their pocketbook to be protected, and for insurance companies to be smacked down. Politicians have to respond to this or find themselves staring down a revolt.
And the best thing to do for the career of any politician? Solve the whole mess with the SinglePayer health system at work in every other nation in the world.
George Bush will likely not get that done. He’s going the other way—trying to fix healthcare by cutting back the budgets for Medicare and Medicaid. The Washington Post reports:
Bush, citing the need for fiscal responsibility, proposed reducing by $101 billion over five years the spending growth of the two health programs, which serve 93 million people
Some of the institutions affected most would be hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies and other providers, whose Medicare payments would be more than $61 billion lower than anticipated over five years (although still higher overall).
Want a real-world example on what this means?
Bruce Yarwood, president of the American Health Care Association, said the 9,000 nursing homes he represents would receive about $10 billion less than anticipated over five years.
"We'll squeeze, cut and trim administrative costs," he said. "You take a look at your staffing patterns, and rather than four people on the night shift you have three.”
Nurses can tell you—nothing affects the quality of care more than staffing patterns. Bush is endangering our grandparents with his refusal to protect their healthcare.
The bitter irony? George Bush is also funding his war efforts by cutting veterans' health.
Elsewhere, the largest SEIU local in the Mid-West endorses SinglePayer healthcare and the Conyers “Medicare for All” bill, Obama announces for President and supports universal healthcare but no details yet, doctors are trying to get pharmaceutical companies to stop bugging them, and
Washington State is having a lobby day on Feb. 19th for their state’s SinglePayer bill.