If Massachusetts were a department store, this bait and switch would be illegal. Then-Governor Romney promised that his individual health insurance mandate proposal would allow people to buy affordable insurance with good coverage. We’ve already found out that the packages aren’t affordable; now we learn that they don’t offer good coverage. Sorry, patients—care denied and junk insurance rides again! Elsewhere, a columnist in the right-wing Washington Times advocates for SinglePayer healthcare as the answer to our national crisis and invokes Bismarck while doing so, a Des Moines Register columnist reminds us that health insurance is not health care, we learn where all the healthcare money in Texas is: corporate profits, and George Bush is helping out the wealthy again.
The big news in the movement for healthcare reform today is the continuing implosion of the Massachusetts plan. As you know, Massachusetts’ strategy of requiring individuals to purchase private health insurance has emerged as a main alternative to SinglePayer healthcare. The Globe reports:
Leaders of the business community and major health insurers called yesterday for the state to delay for two years, until July 2009, the requirement that all residents have health insurance that meets state standards.
A state board is scheduled to vote on the standards for basic coverage today. Under the state's universal health insurance law, all residents must have insurance by July 1, 2007, or pay a penalty next year, unless they obtain a waiver.
That deadline still stands, but last night the board's staff suggested a shorter delay, of 18 months, for individuals to meet minimum coverage standards.
That’s a compromise? The insurance companies will likely be free to sell junk insurance for the next year and a half…until they get their next extension. BUT individuals have to start purchasing the plans now. Who exactly compromised on that deal? Oh, the patients.
That is the power of the insurance lobbyists in action, and a main reason why plans that try to carve out a role for them (e.g., HillaryCare I, and Edwards’ new plan) can’t work: if we let the insurers keep their claws in our healthcare, they will lie, cheat, steal, bribe, and lobby for the power to keep abusing the system.
I love this sentence:
"Our comments are intended to . . . avoid unnecessary burdens on individuals that currently have coverage and the employers who provide it to them," the leaders wrote in a letter to the board of the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority released yesterday evening.
The business leaders and insurers are, of course, worried about the patients, and acting in their behalf. Some of the burdens that individuals won’t have to worry about anymore include, say, prescription drug benefits.
Because who wants the burden of prescription drug coverage, when you can just purchase the drugs at cost on the open market? AND still have to pay a premium to the health insurance company?
What’s truly scary here:
Neither the staff nor the business leaders are recommending a delay in the mandate that all individuals have some insurance coverage this year.
So we have the health regulators and the corporations climbing into bed together.
Governor Patrick—you were left this mess by Governor Romney. Fixing it, so that you’re not an accomplice to making your state poorer and sicker, should be your first task and could be your historical legacy.
Many health-care insurers are more interested in the bottom line than in the public's health. The obvious way to increase profits is to decrease benefits by excluding poor health risks from insurance programs. This adverse selection of "cherry picking" plus the 10 percent to 30 percent overhead of marketing, advertising, stockholder dividends and huge executive salaries -- none of which cures a single patient -- is largely responsible for health-care costs that have "broken" our health-care system.
The answer to our outmoded, multipayer, profit-oriented health-care industry is its replacement by a nonprofit, single-payer government agency. In short, universal health insurance (UHI) through Medicare for our entire population. President Clinton attempted to reform our health-care system along these lines but could not compete with the insurance industry's $19 million, Harry and Louise TV blitz that conned the public and Congress into believing UHI was "socialized medicine."
In this regard, UHI will not be as costly as popularly assumed -- perhaps one-tenth the eventual $2 trillion cost of the Iraq war. The uninsured are not all dying on the streets. The majority are obviously receiving care, admittedly delayed, somewhere -- emergency rooms, public hospitals or uncompensated care at private hospitals and clinics -- with a "cost shift" to the insured. We thus already largely pay for the care of the uninsured.
And he ends with a reminder as to why this is so serious:
We can no longer ignore the dire consequences of the increasing health-care costs. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke has warned us a fiscal crisis looms due to these unsustainable costs and "the U.S. economy could be seriously weakened, with future generations bearing the costs." This admonition was first raised by George Washington's 1796 Farewell Address when he impugned "ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear."
We are staring down the barrel of a nasty recession caused by a completely-broken healthcare system. Now is the time for leaders to step forward and work to save us all.
Finally, we learn where all the healthcare dollars in Texas are going: to corporate profits, an Iowa writer reminds us that health insurance is not healthcare, and—no surprise here—George Bush’s healthcare proposals are seriously tilted towards helping the wealthy.