Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Quid Pro Quo: Business As Usual

So far, no one associated with the health care industry (including the insurance companies) has revived Harry and Louise for another round of commercials. That's probably because health insurers, PHARMA, and hospital and doctor associations have been busy in negotiations with Sen. Max Baucus and the White House to identify and implement cost cutting in health care. That's a good thing, right?

Perhaps, but as this this NY Times article points out, the dramatic announcements of the past few weeks don't exactly give the complete answer as to why these profit driven sectors have suddenly found religion when it comes health care accessibility.

First, it was a broad consortium of health industry groups — doctors, hospitals, drug makers and insurers, all promising to slow the growth of medical spending by 1.5 percent. Then, it was the big drug makers, promising savings of $80 billion over 10 years, by lowering the cost of medicine for the elderly.

On Wednesday, it will be major hospital associations, pledging to save more than $150 billion over a decade. And a deal with doctors is said to be on tap next.

In each case, the Obama administration hailed the agreements as historic. But what has been little discussed is what the industry groups will be getting in return for their cooperation, whether or not the promised savings ever materialize.
[Emphasis added]

Apparently, these various groups are willing to get on board for the White House only if the end result doesn't affect their bottom lines.

As part of their deal with the White House, pharmaceutical companies say they won an agreement from Mr. Baucus to oppose efforts by House Democrats to sharply reduce what the government pays for drugs for some Medicare recipients previously covered by Medicaid.

The deal with doctors could come at a steep price: a $250 billion fix to a 12-year-old provision in federal law intended to limit the growth of Medicare reimbursements. The American Medical Association and other doctors’ groups have sought to change or repeal the provision, and they are likely to try to extract that as their price for boarding the Obama train, people tracking the negotiations said.

Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private-sector employer, agreed recently to support requiring all big companies to insure their workers. In exchange, Wal-Mart said it wanted a guarantee that the bill would not “create barriers to hiring entry-level employees” — in effect, code words to insist that lawmakers abandon the idea of requiring employers to pay part of the cost for workers covered by Medicaid, the government insurance plan for the poor.

In other words, business as usual.

And that's why Max Baucus is still trying to keep a viable public option for health care coverage off the table.

And that's why we are probably going to get a new and improved health care system which will leave most of us even worse off.

Not much change here, at least the kind we were promised.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home