The health care reform process is getting extremely ugly.
insurers get upper hand
Obama’s overhaul fight is being won by the industry, experts say. The
end result may be a financial ‘bonanza.’
By Tom Hamburger and Kim Geiger
August 24, 2009
Isn’t Reform, It’s Robbery
By Chris Hedges
Aug 23, 2009
Small world. Truthdig was started by, among others, Robert
Scheer. Robert Scheer used to work for the LA Times. He alleges
that he was fired for writing about controversial topics (criticizing
President Bush). So he went off and started his own gig.
Then he publishes a controversial story, one day before the LA
Times publishes a similar story on the same topic. Still trying
to figure this out. Maybe it is OK for the liberal media to be
critical of a Democratic president, but not a Republican one.
From the LA Times:
Reporting from Washington – Lashed by liberals and
threatened with more government regulation, the insurance industry
nevertheless rallied its lobbying and grass-roots resources so
successfully in the early stages of the healthcare overhaul
deliberations that it is poised to reap a financial windfall.
The half-dozen leading overhaul proposals circulating in Congress would
require all citizens to have health insurance, which would guarantee
insurers tens of millions of new customers — many of whom would get
government subsidies to help pay the companies’ premiums.
“It’s a bonanza,” said Robert Laszewski, a health insurance
executive for 20 years who now tracks reform legislation as president
of the consulting firm Health Policy and Strategy Associates Inc.
The current health care debate in Congress has nothing to
do with death panels or public options or socialized medicine. The real
debate, the only one that counts, is how much money our blood-sucking
insurance, pharmaceutical and for-profit health services are going to
be able to siphon off from new health care legislation.
By the way, Hedges cites, via Harper’s Index, the statistic: Chances
that an American bankrupted by medical bills has health insurance: 7 in
10. This may have come from the recent article in The American
Journal of Medicine: Medical
Bankruptcy in the United States, 2007: Results of a National Study.
The original article is behind a pay wall, but again, Google (or Yahoo)
the title, and you find that a full copy has been posted somewhere.
Using a conservative definition, 62.1% of all bankruptcies
in 2007 were medical; 92% of these medical debtors had medical debts
over $5000, or 10% of pretax family income. The rest met criteria for
medical bankruptcy because they had lost significant income due to
illness or mortgaged a home to pay medical bills. Most medical
debtors were well educated, owned homes, and had middle-class
occupations. Three quarters had health insurance. Using identical
definitions in 2001 and 2007, the share of bankruptcies attributable to
medical problems rose by 49.6%. In logistic regression analysis
controlling for demographic factors, the odds that a bankruptcy had a
medical cause was 2.38-fold higher in 2007 than in 2001. [emphasis
One of the ugly things about the debate over health care finance
Fallacy of Health Care Reform as Economic Stimulus. This
dreck highly questionable article, posted on the
Heritage Foundation site, alleges that health care
reform won’t be a boost to the economy. The ugly part of it is
that they may be correct. Not because reform could not boost the
economy, but because none of the proposals under serious consideration
could do so. Instead, they’d act as an additional drain on the
economy. As currently proposed, the changes (I’ll stop calling
this a reform) would extract money from the pockets of poor and
middle-class persons, and put it in the coffers of the
super-rich. And from there, it would be invested in paper.
This would be very bad.
It does not have to be that way. Don’t screw around with a bill
that runs thousands of pages. Write a one-page bill that gives
everyone Medicare, and be done with it. Anything else, and you
end up with a camel sausage designed by a committee.
Still trying to understand this. Obama could do better, I
think. But to understand, read this,
on Democracy Now!
It looked like it was business as usual for President
Barack Obama on the first day of his Martha’s Vineyard vacation, as he
spent five hours golfing with Robert Wolf, president of UBS Investment
Bank and chairman and CEO of UBS Group Americas. Wolf, an early
financial backer of Obama’s presidential campaign, raised $250,000 for
him back in 2006, and in February was appointed by the president to the
White House’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Economic recovery for
At first glance, it seems completely unrelated. Obama playing
golf with a high-stakes banker…what does this have to do with health
The relevance comes from what it tells us about Obama’s
psychology. This is speculative, so take it that way. Obama
is like Isaac Asimov. Asimov was a science fiction writer, who
famously was characterized as being able to write faster than most
people can read. He also was criticized for being unable to
portray a character that truly was evil. The thought was, that he
was such a gentle intellectual, that he simply could not even conceive
of an evil person, much less portray one.
Perhaps Obama is the same way. Despite all his experience, he
simply cannot understand that some people are just plain evil, or just
plain greedy. He seems to think that if you are nice enough to
everyone, they eventually will do the right thing.
Playing gold with a powerful banker, he may think, is fine.
Perhaps some of Obama’s good qualities will be imparted to the
banker. He seems to not realize how hazardous it is to be around
these people. Likewise, he does not realize how thoroughly
corrupt some industries have become.
The articles I cited early in this post, seem to indicate that the
insurance companies are not serious about reform. They look at
the changes in the system as an opportunity to increase their
profits. This, obviously, makes the health care delivery system
less efficient. It cannot be a good thing.
We in the USA were shocked in 2008, when schools collapsed in China,
during an earthquake. Other buildings, near the schools, did not
collapse. It was alleged that shoddy construction was the
cause. Activists who tried to investigate were arrested and put
on trial for subversion. We may never know the truth.
What this illustrates, and the way it relates to the health care
situation, is this: The construction companies allegedly used
“These buildings just weren’t made for that powerful of a
quake. Some don’t even meet the basic specifications,” said Dai Jun, a
structural engineer and concrete specialist in Chengdu who was
surveying damage in the area.
That increased their profits. Now, I have nothing against profits
in general. But when lives are lost, and profits are excessive,
there is something wrong with the system.
pointed out, corruption can kill people.
I realize that there is a gray area here. It is easy to call someone
else’s profit excessive. But when a top executive is making $100,000
per hour, using insurance premiums that people paid with the
expectation that a fair portion would go toward their medical expenses,
that is excessive. The Truthdig and LA Times
articles indicate that the situation may get worse, not better.
That is why I can’t honestly call the proposed changes reforms.
From the Truthdig article:
The Democrats are collaborating with lobbyists for the
insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry and for-profit health
care providers to craft the current health care reform legislation.
“Corporate and industry players are inside the tent this time,” says
David Merritt, project director at Newt Gingrich’s Center for Health
Transformation, “so there is a vacuum on the outside.” And these
lobbyists have already killed a viable public option and made sure
nothing in the bills will impede their growing profits and capacity for
“It will basically be a government law that says you have to buy their
defective product,” says Dr.
David Himmelstein, a professor at Harvard Medical School and a
founder of Physicians for a National Health Plan. [link added]
Is it odd that someone from Newt Gingrich’s Center for Health
Transformation would be opposed to the same thing that Dennis
Kucinich opposes? Not really. Gingrich’s group is all
about free market solutions. The current proposals have nothing
to do with free market principles, rhetoric notwithstanding.
Government protection of private profits is something that neither the
free-market types, nor the progressive types, can abide.