The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Posts Tagged ‘Business

Americans of a Lesser God?

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Burlington
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I came across this honest piece at the excellent Blog for Iowa.  Sounds like it was originally published in my home-town newspaper, The Burlington Hawk-Eye.  [That’s beautiful Burlington,  left, at the top.]

I had the following published in the Burlington newspaper last Saturday. I offer it here for people to use, distribute further, etc. My essay is a little long and rambling, but I have been silent too long. And we dare not lose this fight.

David Ure
Burlington, Iowa

~To what lesser God do those people who have no health care insurance belong? What sin did they commit? I have no doubt some of them have made mistakes, made bad choices, engaged in illegal or immoral activities in some instances, didn’t get themselves elected to the state house or Congress; but not all 47 million plus.

The time has come, if we are to continue to call ourselves a nation of God and faith and fairness, for every American to have health insurance. My preference is to plop everyone into Medicare whose operational costs are half to 2/3 lower than the private sector, and allow the insurance companies the opportunity to sell all of us supplemental policies as my elderly, now long-gone, relatives purchased for years.

But I won’t say it has to be this way or nothing. More than anything else, I want to see coverage in place for everyone, and for it to be there in as direct and obvious a manner as can be cobbled together. Read the rest of this entry »

GOP Rep despairs over public option savings

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Will the GOP and conservadems protect rich health insurance companies from competition?  Or consumers from high prices?
clipped from www.huffingtonpost.com

{{w|John Kline}}, member of the United States ...

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Minnesota Representative John Kline recently went on Minnesota Public Radio to despair over the way the public option would save his constituents money:

“There are some things in this legislation that I find particularly troublesome,” … “[O]ur fear is that if you actually get in there looking at the legislation that it’s set up in a way that employers would increasingly opt to letting their employees move over to the… public option. And because it is cheaper, it’s designed to save money, which the government-run program has some very clear advantages. […]

Brian Beutler at TPM adds:

I assume that public opinion polling must show overwhelmingly that Americans want to pay more for health care so that insurance companies don’t have to contend with a superior, cheaper competitor. Otherwise it’s hard to understand Kline’s statements anything other than a call to subsidize insurance companies […]

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Feds offer lower payments on some existing student loans

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Today’s New York Times includes a story detailing a new payment plan available to people with lower incomes who are paying off student loans.

Perhaps it would be a help to you, or to someone you know.  Here are a few excerpts and links:

clipped from www.nytimes.com

New Plan Ties Reduced College Loan Payments to Income

For the first time in years, there is good news for college students who borrow to pay for their education.
Starting Wednesday, the federal Education Department will begin offering a repayment plan that lets graduates reduce their loan payments, based on their income.
While the interest rate cut applies to new loans, the new repayment option is available to borrowers who took out federal loans or who used a federal consolidation loan to combine their higher-education debts.
The extended payment program, called “income-based repayment,” limits what borrowers have to pay to 15 percent of the difference between their gross income and 150 percent of federal poverty guidelines. After borrowers make payments on loans for 25 years, the balance is forgiven. (The Education Department already offered an “income-contingent” repayment plan, which was similar, but less generous.)
the Education Department has set up a Web site with a calculator
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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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Senator Grassley, give us a choice

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Here’s the ad that Health Care for America has begun running across the nation. This is the Iowa version.

Multiple polls from news organizations and even anti-reform groups unanimously agree that nearly three of every four Americans want a public option to compete with insurance companies.  Even among Republicans, 50% favor it.

Our own Sen. Grassley, unfortunately, may be the most influential opponent of the public option in the Senate.  Insurance companies stand to make billions off the Grassley approach.

But ordinary Iowans want a choice.  Care to write Sen. Grassley (or another Senator or Representative) a note?  Click in the contact box in the right sidebar.

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NYTimes Poll: 72% of Americans favor Public Option in healthcare

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Americans overwhelmingly want a government-administered insurance plan that would compete with private insurers.

Will Congress deliver?  Or will it cave to Big Insurance and pro-industry lawmakers?

clipped from www.nytimes.com
Americans overwhelmingly support substantial changes to the health care system and are strongly behind one of the most contentious proposals Congress is considering, a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
The poll found that most Americans would be willing to pay higher taxes so everyone could have health insurance and that they said the government could do a better job of holding down health-care costs than the private sector.
72 percent of those questioned supported a government-administered insurance plan
that would compete for customers with private insurers
But in the poll, the proposal received broad bipartisan backing, with half of those who call themselves Republicans saying they would support a public plan, along with nearly three-fourths of independents and almost nine in 10 Democrats.

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“I denied a man an operation, and caused his death”

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Former Humana and Blue Cross/Blue Shield cost-cutter Dr. Linda Peeno confesses “I know how managed care kills and maims patients,” and how her salary skyrocketed when she began cutting care that patients needed.

Think this is an exception? That this isn’t how the system was meant to be? You may be surprised when the video cuts to a tape-recording from a historic White House.

clipped from www.youtube.com

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Here’s a written record of what she said in that hearing on May 30, 1996:

I wish to begin by making a public confession: In the spring of 1987, as a physician, I caused the death of a man.

Although this was known to many people, I have not been taken before any court of law or called to account for this in any professional or public forum. In fact, just the opposite occurred: I was “rewarded” for this. It bought me an improved reputation in my job, and contributed to my advancement afterwards. Not only did I demonstrate I could indeed do what was expected of me, I exemplified the “good” company doctor: I saved a half million dollars.

I contend that “managed care,” as we currently know it, is inherently unethical in its organization and operation. Furthermore, I maintain that we have an industry which can exist only through flagrant ethical violations against individuals and the public.

Some insist that health care funding is best left in the hands of private industry. I say the for-profit insurance industry is—by definition—committed to its own wealth, not to America’s health.

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