Tag Archives: Insurance

Hey Barack, what if you DON’T LIKE THE HEALTH INSURANCE YOU HAVE?

Barack Obama has often said, as a means to quiet the doubters of his health reform plan, that “if you have insurance and you like it you can keep it.”

We wonder in what way he plans on helping those who have extremely expensive health insurance that they don’t like.

Several people we know have received letters from their health insurance companies informing them of increases on their premiums.  A family member received a 16% rate increase on an already gougalicious insurance plan through Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield. She is a few years away from Single-Payer Medicare but has too many assets to qualify for Medicaid. She is in that precarious place in the middle which the health reform bill does not even address.

As far as we can tell, the health reform plan will help cover up to 50 million more people, which will end up covering around 94% of the population. But it won’t help reverse the high cost of insurance. As far as we can tell it doesn’t even try to.

We wonder what the hell the Democrats are thinking. It’s wonderful to cover everybody in the U.S, and this reform plan will basically do this. But how will this plan help in any way if it does not create a government run Public Option to really compete with private insurance companies? Or absent that, put a limit on insurance company profits or limit the percentage that insurance companies can spend on administrative costs.

These seem like obvious questions to us. We would like some answers.

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Just in time for the holidays: Aetna raises rates in order to drop 600,000 customer’s health insurance

Anti-trust laws exist to protect consumers from this very industry practice because Price-fixing is often a result of industry collusion. Both Coca Cola and Pepsi, for example, cannot get together and decide to raise their prices at exactly the same time.If the heads of Pepsi and coke got together and decided that they would jack-up their prices by $1 at the same time, then consumers would have no recourse other than to stop buying soft-drinks all together. Either that or consumers would have to pay exorbitant prices for soft-drinks. But the soft-drinks are very important to us, and so we have Anti-trust laws in this countrty which makes this practice–which can be described as collusion-illegal.

If coke were to raise its price by $1 and Pepsi stayed the same price, many people would leave Coke and buy Pepsi instead. And so Coke and Pepsi are both inexpensive.

In the United States, logically, the insurance industry is exempt from antitrust laws under the McCarran-Furgeson Act, and so your health insurance company may collude with other insurance companies and discuss raising prices at the same time. This appears to be what they did. Only it seems that Aetna was more candid about the effect of these rate hikes on the customers.

Aetna’s president explains:

“The pricing we put in place for 2009 turned out to not really be what we needed to achieve the results and margins that we had historically been delivering,” said chairman and CEO Ron Williams. “We view 2010 as a repositioning year, a year that does not fully reflect the earnings potential of our business. Our pricing actions should have a noticeable effect beginning in the first quarter of 2010, with additional financial impact realized during the remaining three quarters of the year.

Aetna estimates that their New Years rate hikes will effect “between 300,000 and 350,000 members next year from its national account as well as another 300,000 from smaller group accounts.” Merry Christman.

This is just one more reason to support health reform that has a strong Public Option, especially if you are one of those Aetna customers who must forgo health insurance because of the companies obligation to it’s shareholders and the bottom line. If health reform does not have a Public Option than these rate hikes will still happen, but you will be MANDATED TO STILL HAVE EXPENSIVE INSURANCE.

Lest you think that there is little recourse right now, especially if you are sick and can’t get new insurance because you have a preexisting condition, take some comfort: You can always go and fucking DIE.

It’s Simple: Medicare for All

We just started a new piece on the simple idea of extending Medicare coverage to all U.S Citizens and Permanent Residents, but in researching for the article we ran into an opinion piece by George McGovern in the WaPo  that makes our point more elegantly than we could do ourselves. Enjoy:

 

It’s Simple: Medicare for All

By George S. McGovern
Sunday, September 13, 2009

 

For many years, a handful of American political leaders — including the late senator Ted Kennedy and now President Obama — have been trying to gain passage of comprehensive health care for all Americans. As far back as President Harry S. Truman, they have urged Congress to act on this national need. In a presentation before a joint session of Congress last week, Obamaoffered his view of the best way forward.

But what seems missing in the current battle is a single proposal that everyone can understand and that does not lend itself to demagoguery. If we want comprehensive health care for all our citizens, we can achieve it with a single sentence: Congress hereby extends Medicare to all Americans.

Those of us over 65 have been enjoying this program for years. I go to the doctor or hospital of my choice, and my taxes pay all the bills. It’s wonderful. But I would have appreciated it even more if my wife and children and I had had such health-care coverage when we were younger. I want every American, from birth to death, to get the kind of health care I now receive. Removing the payments now going to the insurance corporations would considerably offset the tax increase necessary to cover all Americans.

I don’t feel as though the government is meddling in my life when it pays my doctor and hospital fees. There are some things the government does that I don’t like — most notably getting us into needless wars that cost many times what health care for all Americans would cost. Investing in the health of our citizens will enhance the well-being and security of the nation.

We know that Medicare has worked well for half a century for those of us over 65. Why does it become “socialized medicine” when we extend it to younger Americans?

Taking such a shortsighted view would leave nearly 50 million Americans without health insurance and without the means to buy it. It would leave other Americans struggling to pay the rising cost of insurance premiums. These private insurance plans are frequently terminated if the holder contracts a serious long-term ailment. And some people lose their insurance if they lose their jobs or if the plant where they work moves to another location — perhaps overseas.

We recently bailed out the finance houses and banks to the tune of $700 billion. A country that can afford such an outlay while paying for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan can afford to do what every other advanced democracy has done: underwrite quality health care for all its citizens.

If Medicare needs a few modifications in order to serve all Americans, we can make such adjustments now or later. But let’s make sure Congress has an up or down vote on Medicare for all before it adjourns this year. Let’s not waste time trying to reinvent the wheel. We all know what Medicare is. Do we want health care for all, or only for those over 65?

If the roll is called and it goes against those of us who favor national health care, so be it. If it is approved, the entire nation can applaud.

Many people familiar with politics in America will tell you that this idea can’t pass Congress, in part because the insurance lobby is too powerful for lawmakers to resist.

As matters now stand, the insurance companies claim $450 billion a year of our health-care dollars. They will fight hard to hold on to this bonanza. This is a major reason Americans pay morefor health care per capita than any other people in the world. The insurance executives didn’t cry “socialism” when their buddies in banking and finance were bailed out. But to them it is socialism if the government underwrites the cost of health care.

Consider the campaign funds given to the chairman and ranking minority member of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over health-care legislation. Chairman Max Baucus of Montana, a Democrat, and his political action committee have received nearly $4 million from the health-care lobby since 2003. The ranking Republican, Charles Grassley of Iowa, has received more than $2 million. It’s a mistake for one politician to judge the personal motives of another. But Sens. Baucus and Grassley are firm opponents of the single-payer system, as are other highly placed members of Congress who have been generously rewarded by the insurance lobby.

In the past, doctors and their national association opposed Medicare and efforts to extend such benefits. But in recent years, many doctors have changed their views.

In December 2007, the 124,000-member American College of Physicians endorsed for the first time a single-payer national health insurance program. And a March 2008 study by Indiana University — the largest survey ever of doctors’ opinions on financing health-care reform — concluded that 59 percent of doctors support national health insurance.

To have the doctors with us favoring government health insurance is good news. As Obama said: “We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it.”

George S. McGovern, a former senator from South Dakota, was the Democratic nominee for president in 1972

 

Big Insurance: “We’re in favor of reforming our own practices…when reform laws pass.

BCBS's website banner: "Multi-ethnic Family in Field of Flowers." Dad lost his job and lost his insurance, so daughter's chemotherapy got cut off and the family went bankrupt.

BCBS's website banner: "Multi-ethnic Family in Field of Flowers." Dad lost his job and so the family lost their insurance. Daughter's chemotherapy got cut off.

In an exercise in cynicism and machoism, the Nabobs visited the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Website. WARNING!!! What is seen after clicking this link can never be unseen.

We are 100% in favor of Universal Health Care for all American citizens and permanent residents–nothing else will do. But so long as we are living in the U.S (which won’t be much longer, with any luck) we are captive to health insurance providers like everyone else is (except for those over 65 years of age, current military and veterans, the very poor, Native Americans and federal workers including elected officials). When we had to get health insurance after losing coverage from our prior insurer (in no other industry would consumers be punished for being a long-term customer ) we were denied coverage by BCBS and some others insurers for having a ‘preexisting condition,’ though by most measures we are physically healthy. Mentally, however…

Of course we are very cynical, and so not much surprises us. But even OUR faith in humanity was challenged when we visited BCBS’s website. To see the Blue Cross/Blue Shield website, one would think that they were visiting the website of a pro-insurance reform group.

STOCK REFORMS

We’ve learned how to differentiate a real activist group from a corporate sponsored ‘astroweed’ group like “Citizens United” and “gethealthreformright.org.” is a group that is linked–literally–with Blue Cross/Blue Shield. If the organization uses archival (stock) photography for it’s website’s images, than it is most likely not a grassroots organization. These images can be bought online:

Getty Images website:

Multiethnic doctors> Multi-Ethnic Group > Healthcare And Medicine > Doctor > Looking At Camera > Happiness:

sb10069454b-001 sb10063567v-001 Getty Images 4

BE PART OF THE SOLUTION. SUPPORT HEALTH REFORM.”

Clicking on BCBS’s stock photo banner (“multi-ethnic Family in Field of Flowers”) takes you to this website where BCBS helpfully explain:

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association strongly believes it’s critical that we enact comprehensive healthcare reform legislation this year. Healthcare costs are squeezing American families and businesses, and costing billions of dollars in government spending. Nearly 47 million Americans do not have insurance coverage. Too many people are not filling prescriptions or going to the doctor because they can’t afford it.

We believe we can’t afford not to fix our healthcare system.

You read that correctly; one of the largest insurers in the country claims that, “it’s critical that we enact comprehensive healthcare reform legislation this year.”

They continue: “We believe everyone in America should have health insurance and access to quality care.”

On what planet do these people live on?

Reform is necessary and nearly 50 million people are uninsured, American families and businesses are getting squeezed, and 18,000 people die every year (that goes unmentioned on the BCBS website) because of BCBS’s OWN PRACTICES. BCBS is rubbing this fact in the reader’s face while it cynically asks it’s customers to support insurance reform.

In the ugly background, however, insurance companies like BCBS, Cigna and United Health are funding the ugly anti-reform efforts that counter pro-reformers with arguments like, “WHAT ARE YOU A [COMMUNIST?!?!, SOCIALIST!?!?. FASCIST?!?!?], HEALTH CARE IS FOR NAZIS!!! and I INSURANCE COMPANIES!!!.

Whatever helps them and their employees sleep at night…

RIDICULOUS

Insurers like BCBS could change their practices TOMORROW and help alleviate some of the problems they highlight in their website–which they began and have exacerbated–that they mention on their own website. BCBS could drop the practice of denying coverage for ‘preexisting conditions’ (denying coverage to applicants because of a prior condition) and recessions (that is, taking away customer’s health care coverage WHEN they need it). Also, they could help curb the cost of insurance by LOWERING PRICES.

We must conclude that BCBS (and other large health insurance companies) do not support health insurance reform once bit. A nice mom and pop corporation like Blue Cross/Blue Shield does not want to be seen down in the mud with the reform opponents who tote placards showing President Obama as an African Medicine Man , compare him to Hitler and the Nazis or paint him in white face to look like Ledger’s The Joker with the words “Socialist” underneath. Instead they give large donations to conservative ‘astroweed’ groups like the ‘Swift Boat’ founder David Bossie’s Citizens United, and Dick Army’s Freedom Works; groups which organize those charming Tea Party marches on Washington.

But lest you still believe that BCBS actually supports Barack Obama’s milquetoast health insurance plan, continue reading BCBS’s ‘reform’ page. Towards the bottom BSBC provides readers with a link which says: “Tell Congress to get Health reform Right.” By clicking this link, we were taken to this website: http://www.gethealthreformright.org/. Reading this website puts BCBS’s position in a little more perspective:

We all agree more must be done to help those without coverage and to keep costs down for everybody. Instead of trying to change the healthcare system that works today, let’s build on it to ensure coverage for the uninsured. Creating a new government-run health plan is unnecessary to expand coverage to the uninsured and will cause many people to lose the current employer coverage they like today.

Since, unfortunately, nobody is proposing “creating a new government-run health plan,” we must conclude that this is the same type of scare tactic used by the ‘Right Wing Noise Machine.’ The only difference is that BCBS’s website has a nice stock photo: “Three Multi-Racial Doctors Smiling in Background with Smiling Asian Doctor in Foreground.”

IT’S NOT PRICE FIXING IF IT MEANS YOUR HEALTH

The Nabobs were wondering why competition between the few insurers that there are doesn’t lower insurance costs. One would think that skyrocketing prices + competition would be the obvious sign of Price Fixing: the maintaining of prices at a certain level by agreement between competing sellers.

The Nabobs looked into this and discovered that in fact the health insurance companies ARE, in essence, a Price Fixing Cartel. But the health insurance industry in fact ONE OF TWO INDUSTRIES IN THE U.S.A THAT ALLOWS PRICE FIXING. The other industry is baseball. Health care and baseball are exempt from price fixing regulation. But the MSM doesn’t seem want to mention that.