Monday, March 22, 2010

On the big medical insurance bill

Ironic Times House Passes Mild Modification to Health Care System -- After 100-year debate.

Ralph Nader, "A Remnant of Reform": 

The health insurance legislation is a major political symbol wrapped around a shredded substance. It does not provide coverage that is universal, comprehensive or affordable. It is a remnant even of its own initially compromised self — bereft of any public option, any safeguard for states desiring a single payer approach, any adequate antitrust protections, any shift of power toward consumers to defend themselves, any regulation of insurance prices, any authority for Uncle Sam to bargain with drug companies, and any reimportation of lower-priced drugs.

Most of the health insurance coverage mandated by this legislation does not come into effect until 2014, by which time 180,000 Americans will die because they were unable to afford health insurance to cover treatment and diagnosis, according to Harvard Medical School researchers.

The bill’s 2,000 pages afford many opportunities for insurance companies to further their strategy of maximizing profits by denying claims, restricting the benefits of their present customers, and the benefits of the new customers who are mandated to buy their policies, all backed by hundreds of billions of dollars of federal subsidies.

Its main saving grace is that it is so inadequate and so delayed in implementation that the position supported by the majority of people, physicians and nurses –- full Medicare for all –- will have abundant opportunities to build around the country. The spiraling price hikes by the insurance industry are sure to spur the single payer movement to new popularity. (See singlepayeraction.org.)

Chris Hedges

This bill is not about fiscal responsibility or the common good. The bill is about increasing corporate profit at taxpayer expense. It is the health care industry’s version of the Wall Street bailout. It lavishes hundreds of billions in government subsidies on insurance and drug companies. The some 3,000 health care lobbyists in Washington, whose dirty little hands are all over the bill, have once more betrayed the American people for money. The bill is another example of why change will never come from within the Democratic Party. The party is owned and managed by corporations. The five largest private health insurers and their trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, spent more than $6 million on lobbying in the first quarter of 2009. Pfizer, the world’s biggest drug maker, spent more than $9 million during the last quarter of 2008 and the first three months of 2009. The Washington Post reported that up to 30 members of Congress from both parties who hold key committee memberships have major investments in health care companies totaling between $11 million and $27 million. President Barack Obama’s director of health care policy, who will not discuss single payer as an option, has served on the boards of several health care corporations. And as salaries for most Americans have stagnated or declined during the past decade, health insurance profits have risen by 480 percent.

Obama and the congressional leadership have consciously shut out advocates of single payer from the debate. The press, including papers such as The New York Times, treats single payer as a fringe movement. The television networks rarely mention it. And yet between 45 and 60 percent of doctors favor single payer. Between 40 and 62 percent of the American people, including 80 percent of registered Democrats, want universal, single-payer not-for-profit health care for all Americans. The ability of the corporations to discredit and silence voices that represent at least half of the population is another sad testament to the power of our corporate state to frame all discussions.

Margaret Flowers, Physicians for a National Health Program, in response to Howard Dean saying "Americans want choice ... Nobody in America likes the government telling them what to do":

The American people want a choice of health care provider and choice of treatment. This bill does neither. Let people choose their doctor and treatment. Under private insurance, the private insurers make the decision. This bill would entrench that system of private insurance. It’s going to continue to leave people out – with the resulting suffering, bankruptcy, foreclosure and preventable death. And that’s not acceptable.

We were excluded from this conversation. This was not a conversation based on data or evidence. It was based on the fact that the industry had their hand in this throughout this legislation and it was written in their favor.

[One might also point out that making it illegal to not have insurance and not providing a nonprofit public alternative to the private insurance market are in fact mockeries of choice. Medicare for All would maximize choice.]