Saturday, January 29, 2011

Medicare for All - Race to the One

Article Link
The column below is well worth repeating. Makes me think of the possibilities of a contest between MN and WI for a Race to the One -- a one payer system providing universal access to medical care.

Insurance company profits vs. care for all

Cap Times editorial | Posted: Wednesday, January 26, 2011 7:00 am
Americans are divided over the question of how best to reform a dysfunctional health care system.
But the new Republican majority in the House entertains no doubt about what must be done: The for-profit insurance industry must be restored to its “proper” place as the decider of who gets care -- and how much they will have to pay.
In the first major vote of the new Congress, the House voted 245-189 in favor of repealing the modest health care reforms approved last year.
A total of 242 Republicans -- including Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan, James Sensenbrenner, Tom Petri, Sean Duffy and Reid Ribble -- voted for repeal. So too did three conservative Democrats.
A total of 189 “no” votes were cast by Democrats -- including Wisconsinites Tammy Baldwin, Ron Kind and Gwen Moore.
House Speaker John Boehner claimed that the vote represented the will of the American people.
But did it?
Survey research suggests that, while Americans overwhelmingly support health care reform, they are not sure the reform cobbled together by President Obama and the last Congress is the proper fix. According to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll, the country is split three ways: 33 percent for complete repeal of the measure adopted last year, 35 percent for partial repeal, and 30 percent for no repeal.
Those numbers don’t tell the whole story, however.
What about the tens of millions of Americans who are dissatisfied with the current law but who recognize that the whole debate about repealing it is a political show primarily designed to satisfy talk-radio hosts while exciting insurance industry campaign donors?
The Americans who oppose repeal but refuse to buy into the fantasy that the health care system has been sufficiently reformed are right. And there are a lot of them. According to the Associated Press poll, 43 percent of Americans want the government to do more to re-engineer the existing health care system.
That’s millions more than favor the repeal proposed by Republican leaders.
That level of support for more radical reform is the great untold story of the current debate.
The American people are not fools.
Substantial numbers of them understand that what is called “Obamacare” by Republicans is a compromise proposal that, at most, addresses the worst abuses of the nation’s for-profit insurers and health providers while outlining a framework for genuine reform.
Unfortunately, Congress did not take the next and necessary step toward a system that provides all Americans with high-quality health care while holding down costs, which now eat up 17 percent of GDP.
Rather, House Republicans used their new majority to push for a return to the bad old days when insurance executives were deemed to have an absolute right to their multimillion-dollar bonuses but children and others with pre-existing conditions were deemed to have a right only to beg for charity.
If the House debate on repeal of health care served a purpose, it was to illustrate the deep divide between those who believe the highest priority is to preserve insurance industry profits and those who worry about sick kids.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, summed up the whole charade with her usual precision when she invited House Republicans to consider their responsibility to represent not just corporations but the common good. “So I would argue that my good friends -- some of them are new and I appreciate their newness -- I appreciate their desire to keep a commitment to constituents -- but when you come to the Congress, you have to govern, you have to look at the whole of America,” she declared during the debate on repeal. “And therefore, looking at the whole of America, you need to look at the crux; the crux is saving lives.”
The congresswoman bluntly rejected the notion that repeal is the economic necessity Republicans suggest. Instead, she proposed, preserving reforms that protect the most vulnerable is a life-and-death necessity. “Frankly, I would just say to you, this is about saving lives. Jobs are very important; we created jobs,” explained Jackson Lee. “But even the title of their legislation, H.R. 2, ‘job-killing’ -- this is killing Americans if we take this away, if we repeal this bill.”
That’s a credible argument, to be sure.
But what of real reform? What about the changes that might get to the heart of the matter of ending the profiteering that makes health care so expensive and inaccessible?
Congressman Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, brought the right perspective to the debate when he reminded the House that “everyone knows that health insurance companies make money by not providing health care. After all, they are in the insurance business. They are not charities. With as many as 129 million Americans suffering from pre-existing conditions, insurance companies want Congress to repeal health care reform. The provisions which require covering people with pre-existing conditions would eventually cut into insurance company profits.”
Kucinich warned: “Repeal means Americans will continue to pay more for insurance but get less -- that is, if they can afford health care insurance in the first place.”
But the co-author (along with Wisconsinites Baldwin and Moore) of legislation that would extend the Medicare system to all Americans, regardless of age, did not stop there.
“The very idea of health care reform solely within the context of a for-profit system has been more than problematic. Today, 50 million Americans have no health insurance. What are we going to do for them?” asked Kucinich. “Rather than waste time on debating how much reform insurance companies will permit -- if any -- it is time to change the debate. It is time to end the for-profit health care model. It is time for not-for-profit health care — single-payer, universal, Medicare for all — with an emphasis on wellness and personal responsibility.”
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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Minnesota health CEOs taking a whack at Medicaid |

Minnesota health CEOs taking a whack at Medicaid | "- Sent using Google Toolbar"
HMOs and hospitals (many of whom are owned by HMOs) recommending cuts to care and cuts to non-hospital providers does not look good. The HMOs actually need to be taken out of the system in order to save money. No record has ever been made of whether or not it is cheaper for the tax payer to use the HMOs or not. That would usually mean it is not cheaper and the HMOs are using their millions of campaign contributions and lobbying money to keep from being held accountable. Red tape wastes time and money. I can tell you that when a vendor needs to deal with five plus HMOs to process bills for poor people it is much more expensive than dealing with one pay source. They all have different paperwork, processes, what and how the cover care and different auditing methods. It all drives up the cost and takes money from actual medical care. Funneling tax money to 7 and 9 figure incomes of HMO CEOs is not my idea of good government policy. I guess it is good for the campaign coffers of our elected reps. I just wish they remembered who they were elected to represent.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Vital Signs: Wendell Potter tells of health insurance industry’s dark side

Vital Signs: Wendell Potter tells of health insurance industry’s dark side: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"
I think it is important that we learn from Potter and use his story. The full article is in the link and this is an excerpt:
"This week’s vote to repeal the law in the Republican-controlled House is a “smoke screen” to mask a more sinister threat, he says: that critics will peel away the best parts of the bill rather than kill it outright.

They’ll go after the clause that allows parents to cover their children until they are 26, he warned the crowd. They’ll try to pump up the share of premiums for-profit companies can put into overhead instead of patient care. They’ll try to discriminate against the elderly. They’ll push for exemptions and waivers. And they’ll blast reform as a “one-size-fits-all” failure while demanding “greater flexibility to meet the needs of Americans” because this is the kind of simplistic jargon politicians fall for. “It may not surprise you that many lawmakers are not very smart,” Potter says, getting a laugh."

Friday, January 21, 2011

Push for Safety Oversight of Electronic Medical Records Is Moving at a Crawl

Push for Safety Oversight of Electronic Medical Records Is Moving at a Crawl:
This link is an interesting article I found that references the issues and research on electronic medical records. A piece not referenced that I wonder about is how the profit motive drives data systems. I have found that discussions about new and improved electronic data systems for health care providers seem to always start and end with how they help enhance revenue. I understand that - given our current system. What I don't understand is not mentioning that purpose in reviews of what is going on and whether or not the systems are doing what is intended. The big insurance companies and big medical vendors don't like to share much. I have been in meetings with some and the issue of protecting corporate secrets that could affect competitive advantage keeps any real communication and sharing at arm's length. Given the affect the financial bottom line has on decisions regarding electronic data systems and sharing of information, how can this whole electronic records push ever accomplish all the pie in the sky promises? No matter how great the outcome might eventually be we can't afford to do this right anyway. Seems like an expensive smoke and mirrors gimmick to distract us from the real issues.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Paul Krugman: It’s not harmony we seek; it’s an understanding of boundaries. |

Paul Krugman: It’s not harmony we seek; it’s an understanding of boundaries. | "- Sent using Google Toolbar"
I believe that what Krugman says is at the heart of the health care debate. An excerpt from his column:

What are the differences?

"One side of American politics considers the modern welfare state -- a private-enterprise economy, but one in which society's winners are taxed to pay for a social safety net -- morally superior to the capitalism red in tooth and claw we had before the New Deal.

It's only right, this side believes, for the affluent to help the less fortunate.

The other side believes that people have a right to keep what they earn, and that taxing them to support others, no matter how needy, amounts to theft.

That's what lies behind the modern right's fondness for violent rhetoric: Many activists on the right really do see taxes and regulation as tyrannical impositions on their liberty.

There's no middle ground between these views. This deep divide in American political morality -- for that's what it amounts to -- is a relatively recent development."

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Editorial: Health repeal antics are a waste of time |

Editorial: Health repeal antics are a waste of time
A comment on this editorial:
Sad - Politics as usual.  All the hype about 'government takeover', 'death panels', etc. are and were very well planned out gimmicks created by the insurance company lobby.  Just as they successfully did regarding Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage Plans they created (bought) an insurance company bailout law.  If we don't stop having a system that links my ability to get health care to the job I have and if we don't remove the middle man insurance moguls from how health care is paid for, we will never be able to afford this and it will fail.  The insurance multi-millionaire execs are salivating at all the money they will make off of us tax payers with the investment they made in buying politicians.  Sad!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Wendell Potter: The Health Care Spin Continues

Wendell Potter: The Health Care Spin Continues: I encourage you to read this by following the link. Here's an excerpt:
"In his new book, Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care And Deceiving Americans, he writes, “If you are among those who believe that the U.S. has the best healthcare system in the world--despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary-- it’s because my fellow spinmeisters and I succeeded brilliantly at what we were paid very well to do with your premium dollars.”

“And if you were persuaded that the health care bill President Barack Obama signed into law in March 2010 was a ‘government takeover of the health care system,’ my former colleagues and I earned every penny of our handsome salaries.”

The talking points are designed to be simple, catchy, and memorable. Think government takeover of healthcare, death panels, and socialism.

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“And you have to say them over and over and over again. And if you hear them often enough, you think it’s true,” says Potter. “That’s why people, even today, think that the legislation created death panels. Obviously it never had anything approaching that kind of provision. People think this legislation is a government takeover of the healthcare system. In reality, it props up our private healthcare system. It guarantees that these private insurance companies are going to be profitable for years and years to come. It will require us to buy their products and it doesn’t include a public option, which we needed to have.”

- Sent using Google Toolbar"