A year and a half after Katrina, its victims are still dying due to Bush administration incompetence and heartlessness. Their medical infrastructure is being held hostage by an administration that wants to starve it of funds to pay off insurance industry donors, according to a new report this morning, leading to a spike in preventable deaths. Another report reminds us that even Americans with insurance forego care due to high co-pays and deductibles. Elsewhere, the Bush administration dismisses the findings of a citizen panel on healthcare and continues to underfund Medicaid.
Eighteen months after Hurricane Katrina, the healthcare system in New Orleans remains in such disarray that patients with heart disease and cancer are getting inadequate care, local medical authorities told Congress on Tuesday. By one estimate, they said, the number of deaths may have increased by more than 40% from pre-Katrina figures.
Okay, healthcare system nationally is in meltdown. But the Bush administration is holding New Orleans public health money hostage in an idealogically-driven bid to cut public health, increase insurance company revenue, and pay back big political donors in one ugly swoop.
The Bush administration wants the state to use much of the federal funding that has always helped support public hospitals to subsidize private health insurance for people who lack coverage. Such a strategy would build on proposals President Bush outlined in his State of the Union address this year.
"It is time to level the playing field," Medicare and Medicaid Administrator Leslie V. Norwalk told the committee. The poor and uninsured should have the same kind of coverage as people with private insurance, she said.
But Louisiana officials said there was not enough money going to public hospitals to subsidize insurance for all those in need — only for about half of them.
"It's not a simple move," Louisiana Secretary of Health and Hospitals Dr. Fred Cerise told the panel. "Those funds are buying services today."
Exactly. Those funds are directly funding care. Remove them, and feed them to the insurance industy, and immediately one-third of them disappear into “overhead.” How is that good? Even worse, cut funding for public hospitals, and they will start to disappear—meaning the low-income patients forced into high-deductible/high co-pay/low cap “junk insurance” plans won’t necessarily have a convenient location for them to receive care at.
Obviously, even if people do have insurance that doesn’t mean their personal healthcare crisis is over. In fact, a new report finds that even patients with insurance in this country often forego medically-necessary care because they can’t afford the costs associatiated with it:
"We often talk about health insurance as a yes-or-no thing," said Harlan M. Krumholz, who conducted a study on follow-up care for heart attack patients, at a new conference today in Washington. "But just to get health insurance without looking at the type of coverage it entails is not enough."
Patients who said that these "financial barriers" kept them from following doctors' orders on care after a heart attack were 30 percent more likely to end up in the hospital again, the study showed. Those who said they couldn't afford necessary medications were 50 percent more likely to require additional hospitalization.
So these patients who don’t get the proper treatment end up gong to the emergency room with a crisis situation. That’ the most expensive way for our country to allocate care—and yet another indicator that a SinglePayer “Medicare for All”-style healthcare system is the only way to make care affordable for Americans.
And finally—big surprise?—the Bush administration rejected key recommendations from a citizens’ panel on healthcare, and the Medicaid safety net for lower-income people in this country is still under-funded.