Tag Archives: Healthcare Reform

Reflecting on the Biggest of 2009

Once again, a year has come to an end – faster than most of us would like.  This year has been no different providing us with a plethora of big stories, scandals, laughs and yes, a few tears.

The big news stories of 2009

Barack Obama inaugurated as 44th president. Eight years of Bush / Cheney have come to an end so along with that ended corporate bailouts, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, job loss, Gitmo closed and – oh well, never mind.  At least  Bush is out.  And Obama has his Nobel Peace Prize.

Healthcare Reform.  If a healthcare reform bill passes it looks like it will mean the status quo – only there will be a mandate to buy insurance when many cannot afford it.   If we didn’t have lobbyists, Fox News and politics over country, this would be a relatively simple bill to write.  This will be the story to watch in 2010 and the affect it will have on the midterm elections.

Afghan War.  With Obama winning the White House last year one thing was certain – the troops were coming out of Afghanistan.  Only Obama announced that the troops won’t begin coming home until 2011.  I’m not really seeing a change here.

Climategate.  Funniest story of the year.  A server is hacked which contains over a thousand emails from top notch Global Warming scientists where they apparently talked about ‘tricking’ the data to hide the decline in temperature and that it was a ‘travesty’ that the scientists ‘can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment’.  Skeptics claim this proves that Global Warming is a hoax meanwhile warmists say that those responsible for ‘hacking’ should go to jail but seem to ignore what was revealed with these emails.  Regardless, the Climate talks in Copenhagen were a huge stepping stone in dealing with greenhouse gas emissions.

Tainted Chinese Drywall.  Another big story that is being ignored by the media.  Homes built with Chinese Dry Wall develop a sulphur-like smell and encounter corrosion of coils and pipes.  The owners also find that there fine silver quickly tarnished.  Most builders will not take responsibility and the American government will not hold China accountable.  Instead the line is that there isn’t enough evidence to support these claims.  I’ve been on the tainted Chinese imports since 2007 from my defunct website. 

We’ve had tainted pet food, chicken and fish feed, toothpaste, imported fish, honey, tires, children’s toys and now drywall.  But the American government doesn’t think there is enough evidence and our media doesn’t believe it is newsworthy. 

Sarah Palin goes Rouge and resigns.  Palin resigned as governor of Alaska in order to avoid being a lame duck governor since she was not planning on running for reelection.  She popularized the lie that the healthcare reform legislation would contain ‘death panels’ that would kill senior citizens and her followers bought it.  The far right love her and the far left hate her.  Everyone in between just hopes she retires to Wasilla to watch the sunset on the Russian horizon.  Meanwhile, her memoir ‘Going Rogue’ is still selling well after 3 months.

Comcast / GE / NBC Universal merger.  This merger will lead to nightmares reminiscent to the AOL Time Warner merger / divorce.  Providers owning content is not a good thing as it will hurt competition and drive up prices.  I’m going to watch the next move by Time Warner Cable, DirecTV and Dish Network.  I’ll also be watching the government as this merger should be shot down courtesy of antitrust laws.

The big scandals of 2009

David Letterman.  Letterman shocked his viewers with the revelation that he has had sex with people who work on his show.  This scandal comes equipped with an extortion case as CBS News producer Robert Halderman tried to shake him down for $2 million to prevent Halderman from writing a screenplay about Letterman’s escapades.  Letterman instead went to police and Halderman was arrested in a sting operation and Letterman went public with an on-air explanation and apology.

Tiger Woods.  He made us forget about Letterman.  He wrecked his car – was apparently attacked by his wife with a golf club – and women are still coming out of the woodwork.  He took a leave of absence from golf to work on his marriage yet he and his wife, Elin separated.   He’s losing his endorsement deals.  And the jokes about a Viagra endorsement deal are running wild.

Mark Sanford & John Ensign.  What would a year in scandals be without the obligatory political sex scandal?  As usual, there were many this year but the two most prominent were Mark Sanford and John Ensign. 

After President Clinton admitted to infidelity, Ensign called on Clinton to resign saying, “he has no credibility left”.  What does it say about Ensign’s credibility that he had an affair with the wife of a top aide?  And who can forget that Ensign’s parents attempted to give Cynthia Hampton $96,000?

Meanwhile, Sanford said that Clinton’s behavior was “reprehensible.”  In June, Sanford disappeared for about a week saying that he’d be hiking on the Appalachian Trail.  In reality, he flew to Argentina with his mistress.  Let’s just say that Sanford doesn’t think this affair was reprehensible enough to resign from office.  To her credit, Sanford’s wife has since filed for divorce. 

Balloon Boy.  Has anybody seen my son?  He’s in a box attached to a balloon flying over Colorado.  The National Guard was called in along with local police.  The balloons proximity to Denver International Airport caused the airport to close down.  When the balloon turned up empty speculation led to fears that the boy had fallen during the balloon’s 50-mile trek.  Turns out the boy was hiding in his house and during an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN said ‘we did this for the show’.  And a scandal was born.

Glenn Beck – gold, loss of sponsors, crying.  The Fox News commentator began the year by saying in an appearance on Fox and Friends that President Obama has “a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.”  He further stuck his foot in his mouth by saying “I’m not saying he doesn’t like white people.  I’m saying he has a problem.  This guy is, I believe, a racist.”  As a result, about 80 advertisers pulled their ads from his show and it looked as if Beck would not last much longer.  Beck then started going after Obama’s administration, first targeting White House Council on Environmental Quality, Van Jones – who later resigned.  He later went hard after ACORN.  Meanwhile, Beck continued to cry.

As far as I’m concerned, the biggest issue in 2009 involving Beck is his conflict of interest.  It came to light in, of all places, a feature on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.  They pointed out that Beck’s radio program is sponsored by Goldline International and aired a number of examples where Beck is promoting the investment in gold.

Personal notes of 2009

Seinfeld reunion.  Like millions of others, I was a huge Seinfeld fan.  I even had written an episode with the promise that my friend’s uncle who was an executive at NBC at the time would walk the episode over.  (My friend lied to me and never sent the script to his non-existent uncle at NBC.)  Though I enjoyed The Finale, I feel it came up a little flat.  I have also been a big fan of Curb Your Enthusiasm so I was thrilled to hear that they were doing a season long Seinfeld reunion arc similar to what they did with The Producers a few years ago.

The final episodes of the season was the walk-thru for ‘The Reunion’ and ended with Larry David watching the show on his television.  It was great to see the gang back on the air.  ‘Having said that’ it definitely made up for the finale.

10 year anniversary of Y2K.  It’s hard to believe that ten years have passed since the Y2K scam.  Companies around the world were panicking.  In preparation, we had to make certain that all of our computer programs and databases were capable of handling the 4-digit year.  Older languages and systems were at most risk so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we were told to take out extra money from the bank in case bank computers got all messed up; power companies could shut down leaving millions, if not billions in the dark; do not fly as planes could fall out of the sky; and unexploded bombs could explode.  On a summer 1999 vacation in the mountains of North Carolina I saw a Year 2K supply store which sold Y2K survival kits.  I had to work that evening in case the computers shut down and I had to physically be on site in case remote access became a problem.

The scam that was perpetrated on the American public that came close to the level of Y2K was Geraldo Rivera opening Al Capone’s vault live on television 23 years ago.  Of course the vault was empty.

My2Buck$ on Twitter and new domain.  This year, My 2 Buck$ debuted on Twitter which has been fun.  I have determined that by following news sources, it is the best way to receive my news updates.  I can get details and stories that lacked coverage later.  I have also dropped ‘wordpress’ from my domain name which still seems to have Google confused.  Additionally, I have ghostwritten a couple of posts for a couple of friends on a Global Warming Facts blog. 

People / Things I hope stay in 2009 and never surface again.

This feature scares me now as last year I listed Billy Mays and he passed away in 2009.  Of course, during 2009, I became more of a fan of Mays especially since the Sham-Wow guy came on the scene.

Update on Joe the Plumber – still on the scene – sort of.  He was much quieter but did pop up occasionally.  And Sarah Palin – well we know what she’s been up to.  She’s the winner of the 15 minutes that won’t end.

For 2009, let me be clear – go away does not mean die.  RIP Billy. 

Rush Limbaugh / Glenn Beck / Sean Hannity.  Generally, anyone who would love to see Americans struggle and America disgraced for financial or political gain needs to go.  They clearly hate America.  That said, add nearly all Republicans who spent 2009 breaking filibuster records, obstructing progress and lying and distorting the truth.  And take the corporate lobbyists while you’re at it.  And Brett Favre.

2009 – A year of Loss

Each year the list hits closer to home.  We lost people I grew up with like original Charlie’s Angel Farrah Fawcett, Fantasy Island’s Mr. Roarke Ricardo Montalban, and Maude (Bea Arthur).

The news world lost pioneers Walter Cronkite and Don Hewitt.  Also, Tim Russert and Paul Harvey (‘Good Day’). 

Thank you to Larry Gelbart for adapting M*A*S*H for television which provided me years of laughs . . . and tears.

When MTV first explored programming other than videos, they ran a game show called Remote Control.  Host Ken Ober passed away November 15th.  (Adam Sandler came out of that show).

John Updike, Ron Silver, Natasha Richardson, Dom DeLuise, Ed McMahon, John Hughes, Les Paul,  Patrick Swayze, Henry Gibson also left this year along with scores of others.

Brittany Murphy dies at 32 presumably of natural causes – except there is nothing natural about dying at 32.  Nor is there anything natural about dying at 28 as Avenged Sevenfold drummer The Rev did yesterday.

Politics lost the Liberal Lion, Ted Kennedy and his sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

Stunningly, the King, Michael Jackson makes this list.

And the television show Monk ended its 8 season run a few weeks ago.

Happy New Year.  In case this is the last post you read from me in 2009 – May you and yours have a happy and healthy 2010.    

Hope to see you in 2010.

Gene – My 2 Buck$

Advertisements

The Senate Healthcare Reform bill gets worse every day

I admit it.  I think the single payer government run option is the best option and anyone who thinks that it will be more expensive really isn’t paying attention.

It really should be a topic of a different post but I will add the following:  think of how much money will be saved alone if we eliminate CEO salaries and bonuses, corporate profits, senior staff salaries, corporate lobbyists (who are cleaning up today) and advertising (for the company and against health care reform).

Okay – to my next point.

All we are really left with is a very detailed, very expensive plan introduced by Max Baucus and the Senate Finance Committee and what they did to bend over backward to get Olympia Snowe’s vote.

Now the debate is hinging on a so-called public option. 

The problem with this is Healthcare reform is really quite simple.  You have to resolve the following questions.

  • Cover 100 percent of Americans. 
  • For Americans 65 and older, cover the portion not currently covered by Medicare. 

If we’re going to allow the insurance companies to continue servicing Americans, the following needs to be solved:

  • No restrictions for pre-existing conditions.
  • Allow for an opt out for employees unhappy with their employer offered plan but enforce the employer contribution.
  • Ensure that coverage is available to all who need access.

We all agree that whatever the plan is, it should lower costs.

*  *  *  *  *

So let’s examine what we have:

Cover 100 percent of Americans.  Can we all agree that if we’re reforming healthcare ALL Americans should have affordable access to coverage?

According to the Baucus bill, 94 percent of Americans will be covered by this plan.  So 6 percent of Americans will not.  That is despicable and completely unacceptable.  Every single article printed discussing this bill should address this horrendous oversight.

Employer mandates:  Believe it or not, the Senate is considering doing away with employer mandates so your employer can let you fend for yourself when it comes to getting healthcare coverage.

Pre-existing conditions:  Last I read, there was a stipulation that pre-existing conditions would be limited to 6 months.  So if you have a heart attack in October and your insurance carrier drops you at the end of the year – you can sign on with another company that will not cover you for any heart ailment for 6 months – so no heart attacks until July.

Employee opt-out:  This one is personal for me.  I have a lousy healthcare plan and it is not cheap.  My premiums and initial annual out of pocket costs are quite high.  And my insurance company can deny treatment that I have had for years because for them there is a cheaper option – without taking into regard that the treatment I am currently on works – without side effects – without any adverse reactions with my other medications. 

So, if I had a cost effective option I can say that I’d be gone.

Today, I read that there will be an opt out plan for the public option – so I got very excited.  That was until I realized that the opt out was for states who didn’t want to participate in the public option.  So in Florida where Republicans outnumber Democrats in the Florida House and Senate by 2 to 1, you can pretty much rest assured that the public option will be shot down here.

By the way – ever wonder why Florida Republicans hold 67% of the seats in Congress in a state where registered Democrats comfortably outnumber Republicans?   Can you say gerrymandering?

Lower costs:  The Finance Committee has thrown around numbers in the $800 billion range over 10 years.  That’s  ‘B’ for billion.  How does a plan that is as close to keeping the status quo as possible actually increasing the costs to the neighborhood of one trillion dollars?

Obviously, there are a large number of issues I didn’t address in this post – just some key ones.

Let me also say that I have 2 healthcare plan ideas that will cover 100 percent of all Americans and lower costs.  One is my take on the single-payer option and the other is a public option type plan that involves the insurance companies and keeps Washington small.  One plan is liberal the other is conservative. 

Both options can be designed to cover all Americans and lower costs but they both start to fail when you throw in compromises. 

To get real reform, Congress should meet with financial experts to review the requirements, options and costs and determine which one will be most cost effective, easiest to implement and maintain and provides the best coverage for Americans.  

All I know is this Finance Committee Bill that we’re seeing now isn’t it and each day it only gets worse.

 hcr3

hcr1

hcr2

Greed gone wild – Insurance companies go after the Baucus Healthcare ‘Lack of’ Reform Bill

There is something definitely wrong with the Democrats.  They have a huge majority in the House and Senate AND the White House.  Poll after poll show that the people support a public option.

So this headline from the AP should have been baffling.  “Dems scramble after warning from health insurers.

I’ll tell you, it got me to open this article.

WASHINGTON – Insurance companies aren’t playing nice any more. Their dire message that health care legislation will drive up premiums for people who already have coverage comes as a warning shot at a crucial point in the debate, and threatens President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority.

When did the insurance companies ever play nice?  They do have their facts straight however.  This bill presented by the Senate Finance Committee and Max Baucus will drive up premiums.  This bill was written FOR the insurance companies.  Now they’re pulling this crap?!?

The insurance companies served up a nice slow pitch and this is how the White House, AARP and Max Baucus responded!

“This is a distorted and flawed report from the insurance industry and cannot be taken seriously. This so-called analysis appears on the eve of a vote that may eat into the insurance industry’s profits. It conveniently ignores policies that will lower costs for those who have insurance, expand coverage and provide affordable insurance options to millions of Americans.” – Reid H. Cherlin, a White House spokesman.

“Distorted and flawed.” – White House spokeswoman Linda Douglass.

“Fundamentally dishonest.” – AARP’s senior policy strategist, John Rother.

“A hatchet job.” – A spokesman for Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus, D-Montana.

The Democrats criticized the report.  They need to go after the insurance companies.

I so wish the Democrats had some stones.  They should have said ‘yes – this legislation will drive up the costs – because we are catering to the insurance companies.  Want to keep the price down – kick them out of the mix.”

“No more CEO salaries.  No more senior management salaries.  No more corporate profits.  No more lobbyists.  No more Congressional fundraisers.”

How many insurance companies are there?  You do the math.  Millions and millions saved annually.

Our premiums remain about the same and EVERYONE gets coverage.  We could pay for the uninsured and all of our co-pays with the millions saved in salaries, profits, lobbyists, advertising, and so on.

In addition to the insurance companies, we have the pharmaceutical companies who charge Americans more for our medication than they do the rest of the world.  Figure out how much money Big Pharma spends annually on advertising alone – those 30 second spots where we have to hear the list of potential side effects.  That after they tell us that if you cough you may have some horrendous thing that could kill you so you need to take their medication.

People actually have to take other medication to deal with the side effects from other medication.  This is lunacy.

Bring in Medicare for all – dump the insurance companies and tell Big Pharma that we’re no longer going to pay their insane rates for medication.  Period.

The Lobbyist firm, America’s Health Insurance Plans says on their website “Supporting Bipartisan Reforms.”  As long as it doesn’t interfere with the corporate profits.

AHIP’s President and CEO is Karen Ignagni.  She seems to have the most power in this healthcare reform debate.  As the top lobbyist for the insurance companies, she definitely doesn’t have the best interests of Americans at heart.

Karen Ignagni

Karen Ignagni

According to Money, Ignagni made (I purposely didn’t say earned) $1,236,432 in 2006.  Numbers in 2008 vary but including salary, bonus and deferred compensation she easily surpassed $1 million.   It does look like she earns the money the insurance companies pay her and her company.

Do we really want people like Ignagni fighting the battles against us?  We need to kick the lobbyists out of Washington and the first step is to set up Medicare for All, take healthcare away from the insurance companies and lobbyists and turn it over to Americans and their doctors.  It IS as simple as that.

The greed from the insurance companies is amazing.  They could have easily banded together to propose a fair and competitive process where each company submits their plan choices and all Americans can review each option, selecting the plan best suited for them and their family.

When we talk cost, how much money do we already have deducted from our paychecks to cover the insurance premiums?  All that remains is covering the uninsured.  I doubt that would cost $800 billion.

But the insurance companies have pissed me off so I no longer want an option that keeps them around.  I want a Medicare for All plan.  Before the Bush Administration privatized part of Medicare, older Americans had a great thing going AND it was run by the government.  Wow socialized medicine.

And the VA is socialized medicine too and Bill Kristol said on The Daily Show that US veterans had the best medical coverage in the world.

So enough is enough.  Time to take back our health from the insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

More angering items from the AP story:

“We’ve got ourselves a real health care shooting war now,” said Robert Laszewski, a former health insurance executive turned consultant. “The industry has come to the conclusion that the way things are going in Congress, we’ll have a … formula that will be disastrous for their business, so they can’t stand on the sidelines any longer.”

First of all, the insurance companies haven’t been on the sidelines.  They have been utilizing their lobbyists and had significant influence on the wording of the Baucus bill.  Second, they want the status quo and are totally unwilling to give up anything in this compromise.  Americans are already being asked to give up quality and cost effective healthcare so these greedy companies can continue to rake in the profits.

“The misleading and harmful claims made by the profit-driven insurance companies are politicking for corporate gain at its worst,” said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

You think?

The politicians in favor of the single-payer (Medicare for All) system need to band together and get the word out.  They need to organize their constituents to come out and fight for what is right for all Americans.  We know the media is behind the insurance and pharmaceutical companies as they would like to keep their advertising revenue.

Another huge issue I have is that this bill won’t be fully in effect until 2013!   Notice that it’s set to go AFTER the next presidential election.  Can we really wait another 4 years for this garbage plan that solidifies the insurance company’s stranglehold on American’s health?

Worse still, this bill will only cover 94 percent of eligible Americans up from 83 percent today.  Can the 6 percent really afford not to have healthcare coverage?

How is this healthcare reform?  As I’ve said before – this bill is healthcare reform without the reform.

We need a bill that will cover 100 percent of Americans.  Anything short of that is pure failure.  Anything that permits companies to deny coverage and stand between Americans and their doctors is unacceptable.

I’m sick and tired of Americans having to fight their insurance companies in order to get coverage for life saving medical treatment.

This has got to stop.  Americans need to fight back.  If our elected representatives will not take up the fight for us in Washington, we need to throw them all out.

In Greed We Trust

Max Baucus’s Healthcare Reform Bill – Is it better than nothing?

It’s nearly unanimous.  The Healthcare Reform Bill presented by Max Baucus and the Senate Finance Committee is not a good bill. 

No matter what the bill said, you knew the Republicans would rally against it.  That is what obstructionists do.  Republicans don’t even pretend to be bi-partisan.  This bill is fantastic for the insurance companies which, doesn’t fully eliminate pre-existing conditions and even introduces co-operatives.  All Republican backed these ideas though they are still coming out against it because just the mere fact that a bill passes into law with the words ‘Healthcare Reform” attached to it and it will be perceived as a Democratic Party victory.  Forget that this bill would be a victory for their corporate love interests.

Meanwhile, liberals and most progressives like the idea of a single-payer Medicare for All plan.  Anything short of that is failure.  They will bash whatever plan is out there (as I did with Baucus’s plan).  Their argument is that the Democrats control Congress and the White House so let’s just come up with the real liberal bill.

Blue Dog Democrats (or as I like to call them Moderate Republican) are in favor of many of the items in the Baucus bill.  That said, I still haven’t read one story of someone coming out in favor of the bill other than Max Baucus.

What surprises me is that Olympia Snowe (R-ME) is against this bill.  I figured that since it had co-opts in there, she would have approved.  Looks like she too is putting party before country. 

Don’t get me wrong.  Baucus’s bill doesn’t put country first.  It puts corporate interests first which is just as bad. 

Paul Krugman published an op-ed Thursday that further analyzed the reaction of this bill. 

“You see, it has been clear for months that whatever health-care bill finally emerges will fall far short of reformers’ hopes. Yet even a bad bill could be much better than nothing. The question is where to draw the line. How bad does a bill have to be to make it too bad to vote for?”

I disagree that a ‘bad bill’ is better than nothing.  This bill is good for the insurance industry and really doesn’t help people.  It doesn’t lower cost as it actually will cost more and it doesn’t offer better access.  It penalizes those who do not purchase coverage.  If pre-existing conditions are permitted for even one day, Americans would still suffer the risk of financial ruin.  Besides, who determines what exactly is a pre-existing condition?

“Now, the moment of truth isn’t here quite yet: There’s enough wrong with the Baucus proposal as it stands to make it unworkable and unacceptable. But that said, Senator Baucus’s mark is better than many of us expected. If it serves as a basis for negotiation, and the result of those negotiations is a plan that’s stronger, not weaker, reformers are going to have to make some hard choices about the degree of disappointment they’re willing to live with.”

Mr. Krugman said that this bill was better than he expected.  What kind of garbage was he expecting?  J

Krugman’s op-ed also provided examples of countries with universal coverage that utilize the private insurance system to achieve their goal.  He also cited the Massachusetts health reform that – though flawed – is far better than what currently exists in the U.S.

Krugman outlines the 3 major areas of inadequacy of the Baucus bill:

“First, it bungles the so-called “employer mandate.” Most reform plans include a provision requiring that large employers either provide their workers with health coverage or pay into a fund that would help workers who don’t get insurance through their job buy coverage on their own. Mr. Baucus, however, gets too clever, trying to tie each employer’s fees to the subsidies its own employees end up getting.”

“That’s a terrible idea. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, it would make companies reluctant to hire workers from lower-income families — and it would also create a bureaucratic nightmare. This provision has to go and be replaced with a simple pay-or-play rule.”

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, if my company offers me a less than adequate plan, I should be able to opt into the public option.  Without it, there is no incentive for my company to offer me any quality coverage. 

Additionally, if I were to opt out into the so called public option, I would expect my company to have to supply my employer contribution into the plan.  If they are permitted to keep the money, it would mean huge savings for my company. 

In my case, my employer contributes roughly $7,000 for my health coverage.  If they are not required to contribute it to the public option, they will save $7,000.  I work at a large corporation with more than 10,000 employees.  Let’s say 10,000 employees opt out, my company will save approximately $7,000 for ten thousand employees.  You do the math.

“Second, the plan is too stingy when it comes to financial aid. Lower-middle-class families, in particular, would end up paying much more in premiums than they do under the Massachusetts plan, suggesting that for many people insurance would not, in fact, be affordable. Fixing this means spending more than Mr. Baucus proposes.”

This plan is stingy when it comes to assisting the Americans who need it the most yet it calls for $349 billion in cash raised through taxes and fees. 

Look at Krugman’s last line in this paragraph – ‘fixing this means spending more than Mr. Baucus proposes.’  In my post from September 16th, I pointed out that this estimate is inaccurate predicting an estimate closer to $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion.  If Mr. Krugman is correct in his thoughts, the concern I have is that the final number may push past the $1.5 trillion mark. 

Third, the plan doesn’t create real competition in the insurance market. The right way to create competition is to offer a public option, a government-run insurance plan individuals can buy into as an alternative to private insurance. The Baucus plan instead proposes a fake alternative, nonprofit insurance cooperatives — and it places so many restrictions on these cooperatives that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, they “seem unlikely to establish a significant market presence in many areas of the country.”

Mr. Krugman is correct here.  From 1986-1991 I worked for the federal government.  Each year, for open enrollment, I entered the cafeteria to a plethora of insurance companies each seeking my business.  I spoke to representatives of the companies and brought home documentation to read describing each plan.  I selected the plan that best suited my needs at the time – a single man in my mid-20’s with no children.  I rarely needed the plan, just as I expected but when I did, it performed exactly as I needed it to. 

That is what we need.  If we cannot run with full Medicare for all, then the only other alternative is the Public Option for all.   Plans offered by insurance companies but managed and regulated by the government.  Insurance companies will still make nice profits, all Americans will receive coverage, all Americans will have choice through competition thus driving down price. 

“The insurance industry, of course, loves the Baucus plan. Need we say more?”

Of course they do.  The industry loves it – Republicans are afraid to support it – liberal Democrats hate it. 

Where Mr. Krugman thinks this should be a starting point, I believe we should start by shredding all 1000+ pages.

“It would be disastrous if health care goes the way of the economic stimulus plan, earlier this year. As you may recall, that plan — which was clearly too weak even as originally proposed — was made even weaker to win the support of three Republican senators. If the same thing happens to health reform, progressives should and will walk away.”

Mr. Krugman is spot on here.  Democrats are working very hard to appease Blue Dog Republicans Democrats and win over the love of Olympia Snowe.    That is a bad idea and I agree – progressives need to run away.

“But maybe things will go the other way, and Mr. Baucus (and the White House) will, for once, actually listen to progressive concerns, making the bill stronger.”

“Even if the Baucus plan gets better, rather than worse, what emerges won’t be legislation reformers can love. Will it nonetheless be legislation that passes the threshold of acceptability, legislation they can vote for? We’ll see.”

Read:  Baucus and the Threshold

Here is the Baucus Bill – Healthcare Reform Minus the Reform

Senator Max Baucus and the Finance Committee finally released their version of the healthcare reform bill.  Here are a number of sticking points I see right off the bat.

This will cost $856 billion over 10 years.  I have learned to essentially double estimates especially when the political process is involved.  This clearly will end up costing over 1 trillion dollars and in my opinion would wind up close to 1.5 trillion.

There is a requirement in the bill that everyone MUST purchase healthcare coverage or be subjected to a fine.  I have an issue with forced fines in this case especially since finances are tough.  What does one do – purchase healthcare coverage or pay the rent?  And levying a fine against someone who can’t afford to pay for healthcare coverage is also nuts.

The bill does stipulate that those unable to afford healthcare coverage would be excused from the fines.  Now how is ones ability to pay determined?  I suspect that someone will audit the income and expenses and reach a judgment.  How will they determine what is a legitimate expense?  Is the new flat-screen television a priority over healthcare for the family?  How about leasing a Lexus when a Toyota will do?

There is no Republican backing.  This is not critical for getting it passed through the House or Senate but as with every single bill that will be presented, it will generate fodder from the Grand Obstructionist Party’s Right wing noise machine.  This bill doesn’t offer the single-payer or the type of public option that will pacify the liberal end of the Democratic Party.

There must be quality options since the single-payer option is not a possibility thanks to the corporate  / corporate lobbyist stronghold on the industry.  It is critical that everyone have a choice to either stay with the carrier offered by their employers or to join a national exchange.

Apparently this is in the Baucus plan.  My question is – which is still unanswered –will my employer-based contribution carry over to the insurance carrier I select from the exchange?

If not then there are 2 serious issues.

  1. The costs by opting into the exchange will invariably be higher since I will have to foot the portion of the bill my employer would have paid had I remained with my employer’s carrier which for me amounts to about $7,000.
  2. If employers realize that they can save money by letting their employees opt into the national exchange, they will have no incentive to offer quality options to their employees.  My company contributes about 75% of my plan costs or about $7,000 for the plan I specifically have.  Imagine how much my employer could save if 10,000 employees opt out.  ($70,000,000 per year)

If the majority of people remain with their employer offered carrier, you will only see people who are unemployed, self-employed, employed by small businesses or those who really detest their employer option.  Since the volume of people would be relatively small, the cost of the options will be higher than if all Americans were to join.  Worse, the pool will be smaller therefore Americans (through taxes) will have to help fund this public option.

If all Americans went into the public option and larger employers contributed to this public option the competition for all Americans would be great enough to offer lower costs.  The pool will also be sufficient enough to better spread the cost of those who need assistance which will also significantly reduce the amount coming directly from taxpayers.

President Obama did say that he would veto any bill that raised taxes.  According to the bill $507 billion will be paid for though cuts to government health programs.   That leaves $349 billion which, according to the bill, would be paid through new taxes and fees, ‘including a tax on high-end insurance plans and fees on insurance companies and medical device manufacturers.’

It also looks like we’re going to be forced into this co-opt option as the Baucus plan proposes a system of nonprofit member owned cooperatives rather than the Obama preferred government-run insurance plan.  This is a concession in order to win over Republicans.  Of course, this bill will get ZERO Republican support regardless – so why don’t they submit a bill that does the right thing and screw the Congressional Republicans.  They demand concessions – get them – and still vote against the bills.

healthcare reform 2

The bill includes a provision to prevent illegal immigrants from obtaining coverage through these co-opts but their U.S. born children would be eligible for coverage.

This bill includes the requirement of a verification system that will cross reference Social Security data with Homeland Security files in order to determine citizenship status.  The bill imposes penalties for fraud and identity theft which is interesting.  One would think that fines involving fraud and identity theft already exists.

Another provision will prevent federal funds to be used to pay for abortions – EXCEPT in cases of rape, incest or endangerment of the life of the mother.  Though the exchange plans may offer unrestricted coverage for abortions so long as no funds are provided by federal funds or government subsidies.

Of course, Republicans will rally saying that it will cover illegal aliens and abortion.

Are there any provisions preventing federal funds for paying for elective surgery such as tummy tucks, nose jobs, any type of enlargement or reduction, birth control, in-vitro, Viagra, or tattoo removal?  Will there be any provisions to prevent ‘the gays’ from having coverage?

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was quick to weigh in:

“This partisan proposal cuts Medicare by nearly a half-trillion dollars, and puts massive new tax burdens on families and small businesses, to create yet another thousand-page, trillion-dollar government program.  Only in Washington would anyone think that makes sense, especially in this economy.”

This bill protects the insurance companies, does not adequately offer a way to drive down the price of healthcare, does not guarantee that Americans will have quality coverage or offer real reform to provide quality healthcare coverage at an affordable price.

Congress needs to grow a pair and do what’s right for Americans.  All other industrialized countries have accomplished this, why can’t we?

Oh yeah.  Corporations won’t let it happen.

healthcare reform 1

Senator Sanders on Healthcare Reform

With President Obama addressing Congress tonight to discuss health care reform, I felt it was a great time to bring attention to a column Senator Bernie Sanders posted on Huffington Post from August 21, 2009.

We’ve heard such generic terms as single-payer, public option, death panel, socialized medicine and Obamacare.  It’s clear that most Americans are clueless with regards to this topic.  (myself included).

Bernie SandersBy now, we’ve all heard the infamous quote from a town hall – I want government to keep their hands off of Medicare. 

We are bombarded with buzzwords and misinformation, it’s no wonder we’re all lost.  This is an intentional game plan presented by the groups that want healthcare reform to fail – Republicans, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Insurance companies.

Senator Sanders’s post Healthcare Reform 101 best provides a great overview.

“In Vermont, there are many others like me who think the best way to solve the health care crisis (and save $400 billion a year in the process) would be to replace private insurance companies with a single-payer Medicare-for-all system. Unfortunately, there are not many in the United States Senate who agree.”

Single payer is the only way I can see that will significantly reduce the cost – eliminates millions paid to the insurance company’s CEO’s and senior leadership team, millions paid to their corporate lobbyists, millions paid to Congressional coffers and millions paid to pass along misinformation to the public.

“Given that political reality, I am a strong advocate for what is called a ‘public option’ that gives consumers a choice. Those who like their private insurance companies could keep them. Those who prefer a public insurance plan like Medicare could choose that option.”

“A public option is the one mechanism we have left to keep the private insurance companies honest and provide at least some cost containment. President Obama campaigned for that. Once in office, he reasserted that ‘any plan I sign must include an insurance exchange, including a public option to increase competition and keep insurance companies honest.’”

My fear is that even with the public option, I will be forced to remain with my sub-par health care insurance provided by my employer.  I would feel better if I can depart from my company’s plan and choose from a selection of plans to determine which one best meets my needs and the needs of my family.

A couple of other concerns I have with the public option.

Today, my company contributes to my health plan.  If I opt out of my corporate plan, do I lose my employer’s contribution?  Thus, my costs will significantly increase which will make it unreasonable to depart.

When they say public option, do they mean one plan option – take it or leave it?  The type of coverage a mid-40’s couple with one high school senior and a college age student is very different than a late 20’s single woman would want or a 50 year old single person who is somewhat sickly.

The bill that I have read and seems to be most discussed runs over 1000 pages.  ONE THOUSAND PAGES!  As a former college SGA senator and chairman of the Constitutional Revision Committee, I believe that the simplest bills are usually the best.  When a large bill is presented, I am somewhat skeptical that unnecessary items as well as infamous pork projects will sneak through.

I don’t expect most politicians to actually read the bill.  Only 1 person read the Patriot Act before it came up for a vote.  (Russ Feingold)

I expect the Republicans and the rest of the Obstructionist Party & their cohorts in the media to bad mouth the bill without reading it.  Look at how they reacted to Obama’s speech to students before it was released for public viewing.

“I take the president at his word. I am bothered by statements form some people surrounding him who suggest that we should go forward without that option.”

“From a political perspective, what we need to do is precisely what Obama did during his very brilliant campaign, and that is rally tens of millions of people to stand up and fight for a universal, comprehensive and cost effective health care system. In my view, health care is the civil rights issue of our time. It is not acceptable that the United States remains the only industrialized country that does not provide health care as a right of citizenship, that 18,000 Americans die every single years because they get to the doctor too late, that 46 million have no health insurance and even more an under-insured, and that one million people this year are going to go bankrupt because of medically-related costs. We can do better than that. We must do better than that.”

“The truth of the matter is that the Democrats have not been particularly effective in stating the case as to why we need real health care reform.”

Senator Sanders got to the root of the problem here.

Democrats haven’t stated a strong case on WHY we need health care reform.  Nor have they done a good job branding what they’re trying to sell.

Bill Maher dubbed it:  “Medicare for all.”

Instead we got ‘single payer’ and ‘public option.’ 

The Republicans have always used terrific branding to gain the public support – No Child Left Behind, Patriot Act, War on Terror, Clear Skies Act.

The truth of the matter is that there are virtually no Republicans in the Senate who are serious about health care reform. That’s sad and pathetic, but that is the simple reality. Even worse, Republicans are not only opposing serious health care reform but they are grossly distorting what is in the current bills being considered. They are stalling and stalling and very effectively playing the obstructionist role.

While some members of the Democratic caucus may end up voting against a strong health care reform bill, I would hope and expect that every member of the caucus is prepared to stand united in opposition to Republican obstructionism and never-ending filibusters

Here is my bottom line: The system is disintegrating. We spend almost twice as much on health care as any other country. Our health outcomes are worse. The vast majority of people want a public option – among other reforms.

Now is the time for action!

Read Senator Sanders post over at Huffington Post 

Baucus predicts health care overhaul. Really?

Montana Senator Max Baucus has said that there will be a health care overhaul regardless of whether or not there is bipartisan support.

All well and good, Senator.max baucus

Just one question.

What do you mean by ‘overhaul’?

Overhaul does not mean keeping some semblance of the status quo.  When I’ve overhauled things, I may keep one or two items but the rest go.

Keeping the status quo and changing a couple of items is a ‘tweak’.

We need an overhaul.  We need all uninsured Americans to have access to the same healthcare that the fully covered and the wealthy have access to – without fear of bankruptcy.

We need all Americans with pre-existing conditions or other gaps in their coverage to see those restrictions eliminated.

No one should ever have to worry about financial devastation due to a medical condition.

We must remove the millions of dollars flowing to our elected representatives in order to buy their support.

We must eliminate the financial motive (corporate profit) from determining whether or not any American’s life is worth saving.

Senator Baucus is correct.  We demand an overhaul.

I just don’t believe we’ll see it nor do I believe our Congress truly wants one.