Tuesday, May 12, 2009

No More Place To Hide?

The sudden decision by healthcare industry members that they can begin to take smaller bites out of suffering U.S. citizens has a poetic quality. The reckless profit taking of the industry has resulted in growing numbers of bankruptcies. That figure of half of all bankruptcies resulting from health problems no longer even needs to have a link attached, it's common knowledge.

The continuing robbery of consumers is suddenly unacceptable even to the industry, in view of the collapse of our entire economic system. Dan Froomkin collected several points of view on the new tack health industry representatives are taking.

When you're trying to crunch the numbers for America's future, the prospect of ever-skyrocketing health care costs makes everything look really grim.

And that's why the White House's announcement today -- that a broad coalition of health-industry groups is vowing to rein in the growth in health care costs, after years of uncontrolled increases -- is such a big deal. Simply trimming the annual health care spending growth rate by 1.5 percent would be enough to save the nation $2 trillion over 10 years. It would also dramatically slow the increasing cost of Medicare, and would make President Obama's hopes for universal health coverage considerably more affordable.

"This is a historic day, a watershed event in the long and elusive quest for health care reform," Obama said today.

Indeed, in an answer to those of us who weren't too impressed with the $17 billion in possible savings trumpeted by the White House last week, now we're talking real money.

There's more we need to know before getting too excited, however. One is where these "savings" will really come from -- and that we won't know for a while. But the other is what exactly united this extraordinary range of normally competing groups, some of them highly averse to government intrusion. That we should know more quickly.

Were they brought together by altruism? OK, stop laughing. No, the question of course is: What's in it for them? Did they decide that getting on Obama's train was better than being thrown under it? That certainly seems to be a part of it. But these guys are pretty clever. What do they think they're getting in return for one potentially empty promise?
Ezra Klein blogs for the American Prospect: "The politics of this should surely cheer supporters of reform. In essence, this is the entire medical industry stepping forward and declaring themselves partners in Obama's effort.

The consumer has been decapitated and the economy is in the ditch, because of lack of restraints, and/or of regulation. Now it's becoming increasingly obvious that health costs climbing overboard into unsustainable territory won't be continued. The attempt to keep from regulations bringing them in control has struck fear in the hearts of the mogul horde.

Regulating costs may be hard, as is moving to a health-oriented industry from a profit-driven one. It may take a few years to effect, but there are no excuses for letting the industry write its own rules. The years of doing that have brought us to the bad place the country is in.

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Anonymous PeasantParty said...

WOW! You put it all out there. No need to ask the question of what they will get out of it. We already know. They are playing nice so they won't get thrown under the bus.

It's all a theater to them. As soon as the threat of single payer goes away they will continue to raise prices and cut coverage. In any case, you have written an excellent article.

9:41 AM  
Blogger Ruth said...

Thanks, PeasantP, I have no illusions about why the health industry wants to put regulations off the table. We saw the banksters do it, and look where that got us.

9:46 AM  
Blogger shrimplate said...

Someday the people who write our miserable healthcare policies will need a nurse. And I, or someone a lot like myself, will be there.

Just as a sort of reminder.

The word-verification code is "pieta."

11:10 AM  
Blogger Ruth said...

hopefully, you can be forgiving, shrimplate - and I can't totally resist the urge to say, or very effective. but I don't really mean it.

4:00 AM  
Blogger Litzz11@yahoo.com said...

I, like, you, refuse to CLAP LOUDER at the healthcare industry's sudden realization that it is in their own best interest to at least pretend to play along.

Note that they have not committed to even a tiny decrease in their already obscene revenues. What they have agreed to do is a cursory overview of their current practices, agree to a modicum of efficiency. While city and state budgets are scraped to the bone and wingnuts screetch GUMMINT WASTE ZOMG!!!11!!1! at every opportunity, the corporate sector is allowed to rob us all blind and I don't see that stopping.

4:06 AM  
Blogger hipparchia said...

may take a few years to effect?

might take a few years to fully implement [under hr 676, conversion of all for-profit hospitals to nonprofit would take 15 years], but the original medicare took 9 months to implement, and that included actual inspection of every hospital to make sure they were complying with the civil rights act.

8:49 PM  

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