The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Posts Tagged ‘government health care

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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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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Sen. Grassley: “Bipartisan” means “no public option”

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WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 03:  Sen. Chuck Grassley ...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Aw, c’mon, Senator.

72% of Americans want health care reform to include a “public option.” Nearly three-fourths of the nation.  Including more than half of all Republicans.

Sen. Grassley, however, insists that the  “public option” must be killed if there is to be a “bipartisan” bill.

But wait.  Isn’t America already bipartisan on this?  Even Iowans, Mr. Grassley’s constituents, support a public option 56% to 37%.

Mr. Grassley wants the Senate to ignore what a bipartisan majority of American people want in order to get what a minority of U.S. Senators want.

Ah.  Then, he’d maintain, we’d have something bipartisan. In Washington. Hooray for that.

clipped from thinkprogress.org

Grassley: In Order For Health Care To Be ‘Bipartisan, ‘We Need To Make Sure There Is No Public Option’

On MSNBC this morning, Norah O’Donnell asked Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, “what needs to be in” a health care reform bill “for it to be bipartisan.” After saying it needs to be paid for, Grassley declared, “We need to make sure that there’s no public option.” When O’Donnell double-checked that Grassley was saying that a public option was a dealbreaker for Republicans, he replied, “Absolutely.” Watch it:

By claiming that a public option would destroy bipartisanship, Grassley is ignoring the preferences of a strong majority of Americans. Earlier this week, a New York Times/CBS News poll found that a public health insurance option (which would lower costs and improve quality) is supported by 72 percent of Americans, including 50 percent of Republicans.
56 percent of Iowans support creation of a public plan, 37 percent oppose
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By the way,  Senator Grassley is the 6th-largest recipient of health care industry money in the U.S. Senate.

Looks like the industry’s getting what it wants from Mr. Grassley.

Looks like Americans—and Iowans—aren’t.

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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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