Monday, November 09, 2009

That Insurance Bill

I've long maintained that the past nine or ten months have not been about health care access for all of us, but rather about health care insurance. There's a difference, a big one, as the debate on health care reform has made clear. If it were really about access, there wouldn't have been a provision forbidding subsidised coverage for abortions. There also wouldn't have been a provision for limiting damages in medical malpractice cases. No, this "reform" has been all about making sure everyone has to buy health insurance and about the insurance companies' bottom line.

Yes, health care costs have gotten unmanageable, but so have insurance premiums for those lucky enough to qualify. Some of the difficulties for getting insurance have been erased under the proposals (pre-existing conditions have to be covered), but that doesn't mean premiums will not be huge because of the expanded coverage. Doctors, who have insurance problems of their own, are still ordering unnecessary diagnostic tests to cover themselves from any claim of malpractice. Conservatives on both sides of the aisle tout the importance of limiting malpractice damages, and point to California's law on that as a great model. It may be a model, but not for reining in costs. Ask any California doctor how much lower their malpractice insurance premiums are under the new system and most will just laugh.

That's why this L.A. Times editorial is so infuriating. The editorial board implies that a decent health insurance bill isn't all that possible because the Republicans aren't engaging in a meaningful debate. Well, duh. Why should they? They can stop any reform simply by saying "No!", but that might make them look bad, so they've offered thin gruel as an alternative. At least the editorial recognizes that part, but that's about all I can say for it.

...a significant minority on Capitol Hill -- and a sizable portion of the public -- don't see the connection between controlling costs and extending affordable insurance to all Americans.

Nothing illustrates this disconnect better than the House Republicans' proposed substitute for the Democrats' bill. The GOP proposal is devoted mainly to curbing the growth in healthcare spending by reducing state mandates on insurance providers, restricting damages in medical malpractice cases and rewarding states for keeping rates down. It also would reward states if they reduced the number of uninsured residents, but, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the proposal would leave the same percentage of Americans uninsured a decade from now as are uninsured today. ...

We'd all benefit from a vigorous debate between Republicans and Democrats... Unfortunately, the GOP is posturing rather than offering meaningful alternatives.

There are ways to reduce health care costs, but none of them are really addressed by either party. One way, the obvious way, would have been to institute a single payer program such as Canada has. Cutting out the insurance company middle-man (and the profit motive) would have cut out a huge chunk of medical care costs for those fortunate enough to have insurance. That, however, would have angered the deep-pocketed insurance companies and might have dried up a sweet source of campaign contributions for those in Congress, who, by the way, have an even sweeter health care program of their own, free of cost to them.

This isn't just the fault of greedy insurance companies, or greedy health care providers, or even greedy congress critters on both sides of the aisle. Our media has gone out of its way to slant the debate in its coverage. We were reminded time and again of the horror stories (mostly invented by the insurance companies and dutifully reported by "reputable" media outlets) of six month waits for an MRI and 10 month waits for a mastectomy in Canada.

No, we're not getting health care reform, not really. All we are getting is a program by which insurance companies get richer and Americans get sicker and poorer.

A pox on all of their houses.

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Blogger ms fahrenheit said...

[standing ovation]

4:28 AM  
Blogger filkertom said...


4:29 AM  
Blogger The 1000th Man said...

Well Said Diane,
You speak wise words,
I shall read more of your wisdom.
As and when I find it.
I write as a well meaning English Man who like you is no longer afraid to speak his mind.
Let`s touch base from time to time?
It makes it all worth the While.
Oh and I like to put my words to verse with no Ego to boost.
Kind Regards

1:17 AM  

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