Thursday, May 28, 2009

It's Still All About The Insurance Companies

Sen. Ted Kennedy, one of the last of the unabashed liberals in the US Senate, has an op-ed piece in today's Boston Globe on the health care proposal before Congress. As chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, his voice is a powerful one, so his summary of the five-part program currently in play gives us a realistic summary of what we can expect.

I am disappointed, both in him and the health care bill. It's clear that Congress and the president still don't get it. Worse, it's clear that they don't want to get it, that they are perfectly happy with a system that will continue to generate huge profits for private insurance companies and for-profit health care delivery systems, and that they expect citizens to pay for those systems. Here's Sen. Kennedy's summary for just the first part of the plan:

First, we will give Americans better choices for health insurance. ...

Our proposal establishes new gateways to better health across America. You can contact the gateways online, by phone, or in person to figure out what policy works for you. Through the gateway, we will facilitate choice by allowing consumers to compare the costs and benefits of different health insurance policies. We'll negotiate with insurance companies to keep premiums and copays low and help you with your premiums if you can't afford them. We'll make it illegal for insurers to deny coverage because of a preexisting condition or to impose other restrictions that keep you from getting the care you need. We're also hearing that some Americans want the choice of enrolling in a health insurance program backed by the government for the public good, not private profit - so that option will be available too.

If we succeed in providing good health insurance options and make them affordable to all Americans regardless of income, then people should have a responsibility to buy it for their families. That way insurance companies and hospitals will no longer have to tack the cost of uncompensated care to the uninsured onto the medical bills and premiums of those with insurance.

While I have to admit that I'm a little surprised that Congress is finally hearing that "some Americans" want a government-sponsored plan, I'm disappointed that such an option is tacked on almost as an after-thought with no explanation and no real support. The placement of the plan in the last sentence of the paragraph is telling: the option is a mere crumb for those of us who believe the government should be more about "public good" than about "private profit." Insurance companies will still be running the show, and that's apparently just fine with even Sen. Kennedy.

And the second paragraph is why the insurance companies are still at the table: we're going to continue to pay for coverage, only now it will be mandatory. The justification given for such a requirement is nonsense. Insurance companies aren't paying any more for procedures done in a hospital. What the insurance will pay is set by contract or by industry-wide standards ("Official Fee Schedules"). Because of that, the premiums paid by those who have insurance should never have been affected by the costs run up by the uninsured, which is not to say that insurance companies haven't been using this dodge for a long time.

No, the proposal described by Sen. Kennedy as "fixing what is broken" isn't health care reform, not really. It's all about the insurance companies and for-profit providers and their bottom lines, and you and I are about to be more directly responsible for those bottom lines.

We've been had.


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Blogger Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

Diane, I see you are disappointed with this.

I am disappointed, both in him and the health care bill. It's clear that Congress and the president still don't get it. Worse, it's clear that they don't want to get it, that they are perfectly happy with a system that will continue to generate huge profits for private insurance companies and for-profit health care delivery systems, and that they expect citizens to pay for those systems.See there. You are disappointed. But that is only because you do not reap the benefits of the huge profits, but correctly infer that you are important ONLY because you contribute more and more of your disposable income to those benefits.

You're wrong that they don't get it.

They get it: they get millions and millions and millions of dollars. Recalling Upton Sinclair's injunction nearly a century ago: "It is difficult for a man to "get" what his prosperity and continued employment depend on his NOT "getting."

I mean, what, really, did you expect?

There are no "liberals." None. There are only corporatists of greater or less seniority.

The fix is is, and no kind of protest from mere 'profit generators' which would reduce those profits is gonna be acceptable to the folks who actually RUN things, the 'owners.'

Nagahapun...Not in our lifetimes, dear...(Luckily, we don't have that much longer to go...)

6:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I agree that this is not a surprise, and much as I expected, my problem is that them mandating I pay money I don't have isn't going to work, exactly. Unless there is free health care in debtors' prison.

7:07 AM  
Blogger the bewilderness said...

What happens to people who do not buy health insurance for their families? Arrest? Prosecution? Garnishment of wages? Or are they just turned away from the ER and left to die on the street.
Have they really thought this through, I wonder?

9:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't know why anyone is surprised by this. Anyone who's followed Kennedy's career and isn't wearing rose-colored glasses knows how devoted he is to protecting and promoting corporate interests. It isn't very difficult to detect. Just look at the financial records. He's taken more money from the health insurance companies than any individual in Congress. A lot of the insurance companies are headquartered in Boston, the source of his power, and they've been very tight with the Kennedys for decades. Same with his brothers, of course. Most corrupt family in the country.

3:46 PM  
Blogger Nancy Willing said...

I am going to an event in Wilmington Del. tomorrow to hear Howard Dean talk about Health care. We are supposed to bring a question for the Q&A and this blog post has given me mine.

WTF can we do about this white-wash pile of elephant dung?...well, I might clean it up a bit when I ask it.

7:04 PM  
Blogger Cosa Nostradamus said...

This just illustrates the difference between "liberals" and mixed-market democratic socialists, and proves that liberals are no leftists.

Liberals accept the idea that the "free market" must always prevail, and that the government's only role is to enrich the marketeers and pick up the refuse they leave behind, including the human beings they refuse to serve, if there is any tax money left over.

It is impossible for a liberal or a conservative to conceive of any potential market being covered mainly much less exclusively by the people themselves here in America, using their own government as a sort of co-op for pooling resources and providing services that the free market never has and never will provide affordably to everyone.

Why, that would be SOCIALISM!!! As if that were a bad thing to its' beneficiaries around the world. (Not to be confused with communism, which is just Fascism in reverse.)Neither liberals nor conservatives actually believe in democracy or economic justice, government of the people, by the people and for the people. All that is dangerous hard-left socialist talk to politicians and bureaucrats who've spent their lives bending our government to the will of the rich and the corporations they hide behind, ie, their campaign contributors and free-lunch lobbyists.

In the Lib/Con's true philosophy of government, it is the people who have a limited role in the government and in the economy. We are cows to be milked, sheep to be shorn, geese to take golden eggs from, not human beings like our corporate masters, whose wealth and invulnerability are the first priorities of government.

They're really leaving us no choice but mixed-market democratic socialism. Otherwise, we'll never get anything for our blood, sweat and tears, not to mention our votes and our taxes.

I realize that Teddy doesn't want to get shot like his brothers. But he has to realize that those who had them killed are never going to compromise with the progressive majority in any meaningful way. It's us or them, period.

10:58 PM  
Anonymous larry, dfh said...

Dick Durbin said it all on Moyers a couple of weeks ago: they have the more articulate argument. $$=articulation. As Woody has said before, until corporations or denied the rights of humans, and elections are paid for entirely by government, free speech will be continue to mean bribery, and those least able to present bribes will be those most ignored.

10:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We don't need insurance. We need health care. Insurance is about who pays.

Let's use tax dollars and cut the parasitic insurance industry OUT OF IT.

10:31 AM  
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