Friday, June 5, 2009

Hearings in the Hallowed Halls

Hearings on Health Care are about to start in the hallowed halls of Foggy Bottom. Let the pompous speeches begin.

At long last the Chairman of Health Care reform hearings, Senator Max Baucus (D-Mt) , was pushed into a meeting with 19 single-payer plan advocates. Even so, he said that t
he single-payer system is off the table. That's too bad.

The big guns, aka: insurance and pharmaceutical industries, are ramping up their opposition.
This time we don't have Harry and Louise that doomed reform last time; now they are taking a different tack. On the industries first ad they have a giant bulldozer representing big government. Just think of what this ad is costing them and think where the money came from to put it on TV. It came from the taxpayers in an indirect route. That same big government the insurance industry tries to frighten you about paid the insurance and big pharma billions for overseeing Medicare and Medicaid. And their coffers swelled. And people wonder why medical care costs so much.

Enter President Obama's plan with an option to buy into a government insurance plan while leaving the insurance industries plans available. To fight this, the insurance industry have introduced a "trigger". The explanation of this trigger can be found in the Krugman piece below.

The lobbyists are frothing at the mouth about the dangers of a sensible system and will undoubtedly get their way and weaken any meaningful reform. Our spineless Senators will look at the dollars that will come into their campaigns and forget any pragmatic solutions to reform. Am I cynical? You betcha. The only weapon we have is a massive
phone and write-in campaign. I will do my part; will you?

For those of you that still believe the propaganda about Canada's single payer plan being bad please read the post on
the great blog 20th Century Woman. The following link will take you to the real story on the Canadian health plan. I am so jealous of them. Please read it and weep, we who live south of their border.
Please scroll down to her post, "I'm Worth It".

Paul Krugman, writing for the NYT, had a great op-ed piece, Keeping Them Honest. Following are some excerpts from that article"


The devil is in the details. Health reform will fail unless we get serious cost control — and we won’t get that kind of control unless we fundamentally change the way the insurance industry, in particular, behaves. So let me offer Congress two pieces of advice:

1) Don’t trust the insurance industry.

2) Don’t trust the insurance industry.


- how can we have fundamental reform of what Mr. Obama calls a “broken system” if the current players stay in place? The answer is supposed to lie in a combination of regulation and competition.


What’s still not settled, however, is whether regulation will be supplemented by competition, in the form of a public plan that Americans can buy into as an alternative to private insurance.

Now nobody is proposing that Americans be forced to get their insurance from the government. The “public option,” if it materializes, will be just that — an option Americans can choose. And the reason for providing this option was clearly laid out in Mr. Obama’s letter: It will give Americans “a better range of choices, make the health care market more competitive, and keep the insurance companies honest.”

Those last five words are crucial because history shows that the insurance companies will do nothing to reform themselves unless forced to do so.


Back in 1993, the political strategist, William Kristol, in a now-famous memo, urged Republican members of Congress to oppose any significant health care reform. But even he acknowledged that some things needed fixing, calling for, among other things, “a simplified, uniform insurance form.”

Fast forward to the present. Topping the list of AHIP’s proposals was “administrative simplification.” Providers, the lobby conceded, face “administrative challenges” because of the fact that each insurer has its own distinct telephone numbers, fax numbers, codes, claim forms and administrative procedures. “Standardizing administrative transactions,” AHIP asserted, “will be a watershed event.”


How could the industry spend 15 years failing to make even the most obvious reforms? The answer is simple: Americans seeking health coverage had nowhere else to go. And the purpose of the public option is to make sure that the industry doesn’t waste another 15 years — by giving Americans an alternative if private insurers fall down on the job.


At this point, however, they’re trying to kill the public option in more subtle ways. The most recent ruse is the proposal for a “trigger” — the public option will only become available if private insurers fail to meet certain performance criteria. The idea, of course, is to choose those criteria to ensure that the trigger is never pulled.

And here’s the thing. Without an effective public option, the Obama health care reform will be simply a national version of the health care reform in Massachusetts: a system that is a lot better than nothing but has done little to address the fundamental problem of a fragmented system, and as a result has done little to control rising health care costs.


We need a serious, real public option to keep the insurance companies honest. “I appreciate your efforts, and look forward to working with you so that the Congress can complete health care reform by October.” So declared President Obama in a letter this week to Senators Max Baucus and Edward Kennedy. The big health care push is officially on.



Sylvia K said...

If we see any kind of real change and improvement in health care in this country -- I'm afraid that I will have long been gone. Hate to be a "downer", but I just don't see it happening. I don't blame President Obama, I blame drug companies primarily. I hope they all prove me wrong!

Kay Dennison said...

I look at the whole thing and I can't help but think that I'm going to die from lack of proper healthcare. Good health is only for the rich. If Congress had the same insurance as most people have you can bet we'd have great healthcare and damn the cost!

Darlene said...

*Sylvia - Sigh! I think you are right. It won't happen in our lifetimes, but it will have to happen eventually because it is wrecking the economy.

*Kay - You are, sadly, so right.

20th Century Woman said...

Darlene, I was startled to see that there is another 20th Century Woman blog. But when I tried the link, it didn't work. I also tried to google it. No luck. I would like to read it, and I need to rethink the name of my own blog. Can you help?

I agree with you on the health care issue. We need some sort of viable government health insurance.

Looking to the Stars said...

You go, girl! I have said it before and I will say it again, we need to get rid of the insurance companys. They are a scab on our society and the pill pushers are right behind them :)

Anonymous said...

Think how much good the money that insurance companies spend to deny people's medical claims and to warp legislation in such a way as to assure that they (the insurance companies) will not be forced to provide health could do if it were actually spent on health care.
Cop Car
P.S. On the other hand, how will world population ever be reduced to a sustainable number if we continue to allow us old people to live?! *grimmacing*

Darlene said...

*20th Century Woman - I apologize for the fact that the link is broken.

*Looking to the Stars - Yes, the insurance companies are the big elephant in the room.

*Cop Car - Also think what could be done with the money big prham spends on ads. Good point on overpopulation.

Betty said...

It scares me to think what kind of bill Congress will finally come up with.

Darlene said...

*Betty - Me too.

Everyone, I made a typo in my previous comment. I am sure you knew I meant pharm.

joared said...

The health care system definitely has to be changed. What do you think of this recent New Yorker article about "What a Texas town can teach us about health care" -- "The Cost Conundrum" at this link:

Makes me wonder if we'll ever fix the problem.

I strongly believe whatever system is adopted, they must correct the weaknesses of systems pointed to as possible models to include timely delivery of services and not just for "life threatening" medical problems.

I definitely believe dental care with teeth (whether false or otherwise) is a must for all. Sensory aids are also a necessity for hearing and vision.

Meanwhile, I see cost savings being partially made at the expense of older people, Medicare and the poor plus those with special needs. Pharmaceutical companies need to be reined in allow Medicare/group pricing negotiations.

I thought the plan articulated prior to the election was that Congress would have the same plan as the rest of the U.S. population. What happened to that?