The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Posts Tagged ‘health insurance premiums

“Someone’s premiums” bought my lunch on gold-rimmed china

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Wendell Potter, former CIGNA exec, tells of the change of heart that caused him to leave the industry. While visiting family members in Tennessee, he drops in on a medical expedition, staffed by volunteers, at a Virginia fairgrounds, in a county where people have little health care access …
clipped from www.democracynow.org
I had no idea what to expect, but when I walked through the fairground gates, it was just absolutely overwhelming … [P]eople … were lined up in the rain by the hundreds … and they were being treated in animal stalls … They also had set up tents. It looked like a MASH unit. It looked like this could have been something that was happening in a war-torn country, and war refugees were there to get their care [...]
It was just unbelievable, and it just drove it home to me, maybe for the first time, that we were talking about real human beings and not just numbers [...]
[T]wo or three weeks later, I was [flying to a meeting] on one of the corporate jets … I was served my lunch on a gold-rimmed plate, was given gold-plated flatware [...]
it just dawned on me, for the first time, that someone’s premiums … were paying for my lunch on gold-trimmed china [...]
I thought about those men and women that I had seen in Wise County … not having any idea that this is the way that insurance executives lived and how premium dollars were being spent … I had to leave [...]
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One dollar of every three we send to our health insurance companies goes to something other than healthcare. Those who struggle to pay high premiums to protect themselves and their children buy corporate jets, skyscraper penthouses, and fine china for insurance executives. Those who won’t, or can’t, often die prematurely.

Should we really have choose between paying for corporate luxury or risking an early death?

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Former insurance exec tells how industry threatens elected officials

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Last Friday night, Wendell Potter, former head of Corporate Communications at CIGNA, told Bill Moyers of insurance companies’ tactics, and their fear of reduced profits should a Medicare-type system be enacted by Congress.
clipped from thinkprogress.org
BILL MOYERS:  [...] “Position Sicko as a threat to Democrats’ larger agenda.” What does that mean?
WENDELL POTTER: That means that part of the effort to discredit this film was to use lobbyists and their own staff to go onto Capitol Hill and say, “Look, you don’t want to believe this movie. You don’t want to talk about it. You don’t want to endorse it. And if you do, we can make things tough for you.”

BILL MOYERS: How?

WENDELL POTTER: By running ads, commercials in your home district when you’re running for reelection, not contributing to your campaigns again, or contributing to your competitor.

[Saying he thought Moore's movie "hit the nail on the head," Potter describes it:]

[H]is movie advocated that the government-run systems of other western democracies produce better health care outcomes [...]

Potter said he was driven to speak out when “it became really clear to me that the industry is resorting to the same tactics they’ve used over the years [...]
The companies “biggest concern” is … “a broader program like our Medicare program” which “could potentially reduce the profits of these big companies.”
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See part 1 of the interview here.

Indeed.  And we’ll see if our Congressmen and women will use government to further increase corporate profits or to begin to decrease the cost of healthcare to ordinary people. The industry’s spending a million dollars a day. Our only hope is in letters and letters and letters.

There’s link in the right sidebar.

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18,000 dead: The moral issues of health care

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It’s not just politics.

Jim Wallis at Sojourners describes three moral issues that live at the center of the health care debate.  Here’s an excerpt.  Read the entire article by clicking here:

The Truth

For decades now, the physical health and well-being of our country has been a proxy battle for partisan politics.

President Truman with

When Truman tried to pass a national health insurance plan, the American Medical Association spent $200 million (in today’s dollars) and was accused of violating ethics rules by having doctors lobby their patients to oppose the legislation. In the 1970′s when Nixon tried to pass a national health insurance plan, strikingly similar to what many democrats are proposing today, the plan was defeated by liberal democrats and unions who thought that they would be able to pass something themselves after the mid-term elections and claim political credit for the plan. In the 1990′s the “Harry and Louise” ads misrepresented the Clinton health care plan but was successful enough PR to shut down that movement for reform. [...]

What we need is an honest and fair debate with good information, not sabotage of reform with half-truths and misinformation.* [...]

Full Access

About 46 million people in our country today are uninsured and many more find themselves without adequate coverage …  Many of them are working families who live in fear of getting sick or injured. …  An estimated 18,000 people a year die unnecessarily, many from low-income families, because they lack basic health insurance. … Seeing your child sick is a horrible feeling; seeing your child sick and not having the resources to do something about it is a societal sin.

Cost

… An estimated 60 percent of bankruptcies this year will be due to medical bills. Seventy-five percent of those declaring bankruptcy as a result of medical bills have health insurance. … In the end, some are paying too much for care and others are making too much from these present arrangements. [...]

… special interests groups … will be promoting their own self-interests during this process. The faith community has the opportunity to step in and speak for the interests of the common good and those who would not otherwise have a voice. I am sure that every one of the 18,000 preventable deaths that will happen this year from a lack of basic health insurance breaks the heart of God. And, it should break ours too [...]

Amen to that.  People in this country are dying on our watch.   The life preservers have been kept under lock and key by special interests for a hundred years.  Profits are saved; human beings are sacrificed.

That’s a moral issue.


*As a resource for congregations, small groups, and individuals, Sojourners has worked with its partners to publish a health care tool kit [click here to download] to help frame and guide this necessary debate. This guide gives an overview of the biblical foundations of this issue and frequently asked questions about it.

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Health insurers near monopoly control of most markets

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Private insurance makes a lot of cents for the...
Image by Steve Rhodes via Flickr

I thought I understood why insurance companies were the main threats to a “public option.” It’s easy.  Their overhead—exec salaries, advertising, political lobbying, etc.—averages 31%.  Medicare’s overhead is 1%.  No duh they don’t want to compete.

Today, I found out there’s another reason:  they mostly don’t even compete against each other. Consumers in 94% of America’s insurance markets buy their health insurance from near-monopolies that dominate their region.  The Bigs don’t want to avoid public competition, they want to avoid any competition.

And what happens when profit-makers don’t have to compete? You know what.

Premiums have risen 87% over the last six years, while profits at the ten Bigs rose 428%.  Wait a minute: If your insurer’s profit is up 400%, why are your premiums rising so fast?

So, on with the debate:  Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), speaking on Fox News, defended the insurance company position, saying a public option would “destroy the marketplace for health care.”

But TPM today covered a report by Health Care for America Now, saying:

clipped from tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com
[T]he notion that most American consumers enjoy anything like a competitive marketplace for health care is flatly false. [...]
The report … uses data compiled by the American Medical Association to show that 94 percent of the country’s insurance markets are defined as “highly concentrated,” according to Justice Department guidelines. Predictably, that’s led to skyrocketing costs for patients, and monster profits for the big health insurers. Premiums have gone up over the past six years by more than 87 percent, on average, while profits at ten of the largest publicly traded health insurance companies rose 428 percent from 2000 to 2007.
HCAN describes the situation as “a market failure where a small number of large companies use their concentrated power to control premium levels, benefit packages, and provider payments…”
[O]ne former top Federal Trade Commission official … has sent a letter to the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, asking for an investigation into the health insurance marketplace.
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And maybe that’s why millions of your excess insurance premium dollars are being spent on defeating a public option, rather than on reducing your premium.

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