Archive for National Health Care

Public Option – Red Hering

By Michael Haughey, October 26, 2009

Beware the Public Option – it is a Red Hering.  The purpose is to convince us that we are getting meaningful reform.  It is a Red Hering that will distract us from real reform.  Remember – Insurance is the problem, therefore a “Public Option” for insurance leaves unresolved the primary problem.  It won’t seriously reduce cost or provide health care for all.  In short, it will give us a program that will disappoint anyone with expectations of “change we can believe in”.  The insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies will then proclaim – with their million-dollar-a-day advertising campaigns – that the “public option” is a failure and convince the weak-kneed politicians to go back to the old system – obscene profit for all insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

 

In a single-payer system there is still the option to buy additional non-profit health insurance.  That is the case in all countries with a single payer or universal health care system.  If you are uncomfortable with the single-payer system, you can thus add some insurance coverage. 

 

In order to significantly reduce costs (by 30% and more) and provide significant improvement in health care delivery, two things are paramount.  First, the cost of insurance bureaucracy and excessive profits must be eliminated from basic health care.  That is the cost part.  Second, health care decisions must be taken out of the hands of bureaucrats and accountants and over-paid executives and put back into the hands of health care professionals.  The public options do neither.  They promise cost reduction by “healthy competition”, while requiring everyone to buy health insurance – thus handing over 40 million new customers to the health insurance industry.  That is a Red Hering – surely written by the health insurance lobbyists.  They promise no “prior condition exclusions”, yet do nothing to limit how much insurance companies can charge in premiums for persons with “prior conditions”.  Again – a Red Hering surely written by the health insurance lobbyists.

 

The biggest Red Hering is the fake debate over cost containment – the claim that they need to meet the President’s maximum cost of $900 billion.  They prey on the public fear of taxes by focusing on avoiding tax increases to “pay” for the “public option”.  They thereby avoid the discussion of the real solution – a single payer system that eliminates insurance payments and replaces them with taxpayer funded payments that leave all the insurance bureaucracy and excessive executive payments eliminated – for a likely savings of over 30%.  Anyone who passed high school math should be able to figure out that if you subtract your and your employers health insurance payments and then add in taxes that are 30% less – the result is a 30% savings.  How stupid do they think we are?

 

Finally – don’t believe the lies about single-payer not being politically realistic.  That is politician-speak for what they really fear – they are afraid of losing their substantial health industry lobbyist campaign donations.  The more they say it is “politically unrealistic”, the more we know they are afraid because it really is possible.

 

What to do?  A few things come to mind, and others have many more ideas.  First – insist on a public debate in Congress of Single Payer.  Make them discuss it in full view of the American public.  Then make them vote and go on record for or against Single Payer.  Any who vote against it – vote them out next election.  Similarly, lets force a debate on finally getting money out of politics and don’t let up until it happens.  The government belongs to the people, and the people should pay for it – not the lobbyists.  All funding of government, especially elections, by we the people.  All of it – and all of it completely transparent (in the open).  How to get there?  One way to start is to vote for candidates not yet bought out by the lobbyists.  Right now they are mostly in 3rd parties.  You know – the ones you’ve never heard of because they have no money.  But there are a few in the major political parties who have kept their ethics at a high level and worked for their true constituents (instead of the lobbyists interests).  Dennis Kucinich and Bernie sanders come to mind, and I’m sure there are a few others.

 

Again – beware of Red Herrings and gimmicks.  Term limits are interestingly most supported by the party not in the majority, and then lengthening (extension) of term limits supported by the same folks when they do have a majority.  If it sounds too easy – too good to be true – it probably is.  There are no simple solutions like term limits.  We must learn about our candidates – do the hard work, make them answer questions and call them on it when they weasel. 

 

Finally, make our voices heard.  Phone calls to congress-persons, letters, e-mails, letters to the editor, start your own web site (like this one), demonstrations – do all you can in your own way.

 

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Copyright 2009 Silvertip Musings

Blue Cross Democrats Ignore the People

By Michael Haughey, Updated:  August 1, 2009

I attended one of the many Democratic health care caucuses this week. I expected (silly me) an open discussion of health care options. Instead, there was a tight agenda of presentations with very little time for the attendees to voice their opinion. So we voiced our opinion in the guise of questions for the presenters.

The main presentation was well done, as far as it went. However there was absolutely no mention of single-payer. The audience had to bring that up in the Q & A.  Then there was to be a straw poll between the House and Senate approaches to health care reform (for what purpose it is hard to tell). Once again, the audience insisted that if there was to be a “poll”, single payer must be a choice.. But no – single payer was only allowed to be a separate question that IF it were an option, how many would prefer it. The count for that was announced as 95% for single-payer.

It does make one wonder how far is the reach of the lobbying from the health insurance, pharmaceutical, and related industries for the one option that can work to be so fiercely resisted even by our supposed representatives who were elected on the very platform of achieving single-payer.

It gets worse, of course. The versions of health care reform that are coming out of the congressional committees are clearly being written by the health insurance and pharmaceutical lobbies. How do we know this? Look at the REQUIREMENT for everyone to buy health insurance or face a fine. That is blatant marketing by the government for the insurance companies, with the added penalties if you don’t comply. Government run by corporations. Isn’t that fascism? They claim to have subsidies and exceptions for “poor” people, but look closely at that. The current versions of the plans seem to set that level using low income levels set by the Federal government (Federal Poverty Level). We were told the Federal Poverty Level is $10,400. So lets get this straight – if you are just above that level, you are required to buy insurance, as at last check, that insurance will cost nearly as much or even more than that total income of $10,400 (per person). Is that per person? Or per family? The numbers are absurd. There was also a claim that if the insurance costs more than 10% of your income (and I think that more than 100% does qualify as more than 10%), there might be some subsidies. The subsidies were not explained, however it probably means that the money comes out of our taxes for the subsidies. So our taxes essentially go straight to the insurance companies. But they claim they are not raising taxes, so that means something else important will be cut, and no doubt privatized.

All these plans seem designed to fail so that the insurance companies can say “see”, we told you that a public option won’t work. Hopefully the public is smart enough to see through that and demand single-payer.

The bottom line is that single payer (more specifically Universal Public-Funded Single-Payer User-Selected Provider Basic Health Care with no insurance company involvement in basic care) is the only plan that will work for “we the people”. So lets make it clear to our elected “representatives” that we will accept no less and it must be done now. Further, lets be adults about it and pay for it with tax increases knowing full well that those taxes will be 30% to 50% less than what we are now paying the insurance companies.

 

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Paying For Single Payer

By Michael Haughey, July 11, 2009

There has been a lot of discussion on Capitol Hill this week about how to pay for the “Public Option”. First of all, we want Single Payer, not a “Public Option” run by insurance companies. Second, the question is absurd. But before we get right to the explanation, I must request that politicians do something so that they may hear and understand. I will now speak directly to the politicians (most of them). There is a hand in your pocket. It belongs to a lobbyist for the insurance industry. I want to reach down, grab that hand, and yank it out of your pocket. You see, after that hand deposits money in your “pocket”, or really, makes threats about removing support from your next campaign, it grabs onto your “little brain” and squeezes. The result is a loss of blood to your “little brain”, you know, the one you think with most of the time. Don’t act dumb (no act required, I know), your actions belie the fact that you are in fact thinking with your “little brain”. Now – get away from the hand and let the blood return. Give it an hour.

Ready? Here it is. We pay insurance companies for “health Insurance” now. That’s right – we, the common people, actually pay for our health insurance, that is if we can afford it at all. For this example, lets say that I am paying $600 per month. To the insurance company. Now lets put in place Universal Public-Funded Single-Payer User-Selected Provider Basic Health Care with absolutely no insurance industry involvement whatsoever in basic care. Then I would pay less than $420 after eliminating the 30% plus that insurance companies and the paperwork cost us. I would pay the $420 as taxes to the government, who would be the “single payer”. Now I know math isn’t as important to politicians as it was when I went to school, but try to follow this. $600 minus $420 equals $180, which is how much my cost has been reduced. That’s right – I would be paying less. The Single Payer program would be paid for by $420 of the $600 that I used to pay to the insurance company. Most of us don’t care if we pay that $420 to the government if we are no longer paying $600 to the insurance company. So a full switch to Single Payer means that everyone who can chips in through a raise in taxes that is LESS that what we now pay fore insurance. See how that works? I know some of you think taxes are a foreign religion that you must never give in to. Give it a rest. Taxes are a necessary cost for doing collectively that which we cannot do as individuals, rich people excepted. Wasn’t that easy? Now if you still don’t understand, I suggest you go back through K-12 public school and pay attention this time.

What did you say, “you don’t want government running health care”? Have you listened at all? Single payer means government, really “we the people”, pays for health care. Health care would be provided by doctors, nurses, hospitals, university research programs, and so on. How is it run now? By doctors, nurses, hospitals, university research programs, and so on UNDER the direction of insurance companies who decide what care will be paid for. How do insurance companies decide what to pay for? By doing whatever maximizes profit for their investors and executives. That is, after all, their legal fiduciary responsibility. How do those decisions get made under Single Payer? By the doctors, nurses, hospitals, university research programs, and so on. See the difference? Some countries don’t even have billing departments. They just provide health care, further lowering costs since the billing and collections departments don’t even exist.

Simple. Effective.

Now stay away from that hand and do what must be done. Show that you have some, shall we say, “courage”.

 

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Health Care: Insurance vs. The People

By Michael Haughey,  June 12, 2009

We are in the middle of an epic struggle in the U.S. between The People and Corporate Insurance. The People, or We The People as used in the U.S. Constitution, is basically comprised of the humans who inhabit the United States of America. Depending upon how the issue is ultimately decided, the group may or may not include visitors and/or residents who are not citizens. Corporate Insurance is an odd one. It doesn’t really have as constituents any real people. The U.S. Supreme Court has said that corporations have the rights of people including the right to say just about anything they want even if it is not true, and that the use of money is essentially the equivalent to the use of a voice. The health insurance system as evolved in the U.S. has become primarily a health care denial system.

Recent rate increases coupled with higher “out-of-pocket” annual maximums, coupled also with lower percentages paid by insurance, and further coupled with fewer and fewer categories and specifics of care that are actually covered, have resulted in a system that fewer and fewer people can actually afford to use even if they DO have the insurance. Pay for preventive care? Forget it. So who, really, are the constituents? Would that include the upper level managers and executives? Perhaps some can afford their part of the health care costs when something serious happens, but they’ll find they are paying through the nose for something they thought the insurance company would cover. Those at the top? They probably can afford to pay for their health care even without the insurance. So neither of these groups are really constituents. What about employees of insurance companies? Do they get a good health care plan, like the one the U.S. Congress gets? So who are the constituents? How about the uber-wealthy owners of and investors in the insurance corporations? Wealthy owners do stand to make profits from denial care. Investors, such as 401k and retirement account customers are also potential recipients of the health care denial system. So while one hand giveth the other taketh away. Thus a few uber-wealthy and the non-human person of the corporation are the only identifiable true constituents. Yet to watch Congress you would think that ALL of their constituents are screaming that they must not consider the one system that would actually be good for We The People.

Could it be that political donations and financial threats are the real constituents? That tells us one thing.  Our voices in demanding Universal Public-Funded Single-Payer User-Selected Provider Basic Health Care must be so loud and so insistent that members of congress can’t even hear the money talking above the din.

What about a Public Insurance Option? I listened (briefly due to my schedule) to Thom Hartmann and Bernie Sanders discussing the issue on the radio (Thom Hartmann & Bernie Sanders on Single-Payer: http://www.thomhartmann.com/2009/06/08/june-12th-2009-friday/ ). And let me say for the record that I am eternally grateful for the knowledge and insight and courage of both individuals. One idea they seemed to support (and I’m paraphrasing) is that a Public Insurance Option now would lead to the obvious result that single-payer would come to be better understood and seen as very favorable to the out-competed insurance options. My expectation is this: the forces of corporate Insurance, with their Supreme Court-given “right” to speak with money and to speak less than the truth, and with their substantial financial resources, will do what is necessary to “win”.  The humans they hire are very bright and will be formidable adversaries in this struggle. Further, they will find a way to skim the better-off individuals from the public option, thus making the public option appear to be less effective.

Now is the time, perhaps the only time in the life of the members of We The People living today, to finally enact a health care system worthy of a developed country, just as all other developed countries have done. Lose this opportunity now and we lose the opportunity for generations of Americans to have reasonable health care. Remember that the corporate media will be of little help, even though most of their employees, just like the insurance company employees, are also at the mercy of the health denial system

For a discussion of the Single Payer option as it might be gaining traction in Congress, and others who support it, see the article “The Rise of Single-Payer Health Care”, by David Swanson, truthout: http://www.truthout.org/061209R . As the article explains, it is especially important to apply pressure to the U.S. Senate. Phone calls may be the most effective, but don’t discount standing on street corners. Attend town hall meetings and more. But if you stand on a street corner, make sure a photographer gets video posted on the Internet. Don’t expect any favorable coverage from corporate media. Note to corporate media – please prove me wrong!  Do what is right.

Let me repeat: Our voices in demanding Universal Public-Funded Single-Payer User-Selected Provider Basic Health Care must be so loud and so insistent that members of congress can’t even hear the money talking above the din. We must act now.

 

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Universal Public-Funded Single-Payer User-Selected-Provider Basic Health Care

By Michael Haughey,  May 24, 2009

Pardon the long title. There are so many misconceptions and intentional deceptions about single-payer health care that a detailed title seems necessary. The biggest misconception is that single-payer necessarily means single provider. It doesn’t. It could, but that would not be the best idea. We like choice, and choice provides some incentive for competition on quality.

Notice that Insurance is NOT in this title, but basic health care is. The intent is to reserve insurance for the stuff many of us might be able to agree is extra. That could include single-occupancy hospital beds, or unnecessary cosmetic procedures. Public-funded single-payer means that we the people own and pay for the health care. The added costs for insurance procedures to process claims, deny care, cover risk, and make a profit are removed. That alone probably accounts for 30% of our present costs. We the people will also be protected from rates being raised if we get sick, or actually use the health care. We can collectively save cost by improving preventive care.

Universal Public-Funded Single-Payer User-Selected-Provider Basic Health Care is essential. Trusting the insurance companies to voluntarily “cut” 10% of the costs, as suggested by Obama, would seem most likely to result in services being cut by far more than 10% to achieve the 10% cuts. That is if costs are actually reduced at all. It is voluntary after all. Service is so poor right now, that any cut in service or quality is unacceptable.

A system that allows everyone to buy health insurance is subject to the same abuses as the present system. It still has the potential to break the bank for many of us. It still has insurance company accountants making medical decisions by deciding what they will and will not pay for. We still have an endless battle to get bills covered. It is still unacceptable. This is the one chance to get it right for present generations. If we don’t get it right now, most of us will never see a decent system. Universal Public-Funded Single-Payer User-Selected-Provider Basic Health Care. Accept nothing less.

 

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