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Obamacare: Attacks and a Bright Future

April 15th, 2012 · 1 Comment · Health Care, Politics, Populism

There is no dearth of those on the media horizon ready to attack the Affordable Care Act. It all stems from one thing…the desire of the health insurance companies and all the related services who have been raping American families for decades to continue their luxurious lifestyles.

You can throw about 90% of everything you hear on television about Obamacare right out the window. Here are the simple facts. You will soon, if it is not repealed by a Republican Supreme Court (and then you should be very afraid…having nothing to do with health care but with your personal freedom as an American) it will provide less expensive, high quality, universal health care for everyone. For many Americans, almost nothing will change, except that they may opt in to one of the plans that offer what they now get–but for less money.

Remember this. Nothing will change for the worse…only for the better. That was the idea we tried in Clinton’s era but failed. The problem has continued and become much worse…with increases in premiums of over 100% from 2001 to 2008…huge annual increases. The people were raped by the health insurance industry and there was nothing they could do about it.

Costs were too high. People who paid premiums were being denied service. And still, 49 million Americans, almost one-third of the workers in this country, had no health insurance. Obama attacked the problem head on. And now those days are gone. Despite the Republicans and their bosses in the health insurance industry, health care reform is law.

Why is it being challenged in court? Because the Republicans have been paid by the health insurance industry to stop it. And they know that President Obama is likely to be re-elected and the Senate will probably be re-elected and that the House of Representatives, does not have the votes to overturn a veto. So the only option for repeal…which is what the health insurance companies need or they will lose huge, huge profits is to win in the in the Supreme Court. But this time, the issue is very clear.

The point on which the law is to be determined valid or unconstitutional is whether the Federal government can make an individual citizen do something. In this case, the attorneys simply say that while the government can make you pay taxes and register for selective service, they cannot make you buy a specific product from a private company….the so-called individual mandate.

The answer in legal terms is, yes, the government can make you do something, if it is for the common good. In the case of selective service, it was to build up the needed number of men–500,000 of them who went to their deaths in WWII–to fight the Nazis and the Japanese. Many other mandates have been issued… for the good of the majority This request—people can pay a penalty and not get insurance, which basically is the amount of money necessary for the rest of us to cover their expenses if they don’t choose to buy insurance—is necessary for the rest of the citizenry to be able to get affordable health insurance. So who is filing this lawsuit and why?

Well, let’s make it clear, once and for all…the opposition to affordable health care for all Americans is coming from the health insurance and the other health-related businesses now making a fortune on the American people. They spent over $400 million in 2009 alone trying to buy members of Congress and they bought a lot of them, but not enough. They lost. Democats, who held the House and the Senate and the Presidency, thank God, won by a paper thin margin.

The Republicans have long been in the pocket of the health care industry. For example, the head of the the House of Representatives committee on Energy and Commerce overseas the drug industry in 2003 was Bill Tauzin of Louisiana. Tauzin, a Republican, headed that committee and rammed through the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill. At the time, 2003, and since, prescription drug prices had risen and have risen to a point in the United States (though less elsewhere in the world) that seniors could not afford the drugs their doctors often prescribed to keep them alive.

The logical thing would have been to force U.S. drug manufacturers to charge Americans prices similar to those that foreign countries were paying. This was anywhere from half to as little as ten percent of what Americans paid for the exact same drug. But Tauzin and the pharmaceutical industry had a different idea. Keep the price of drugs high and simply have the government collectively, rather than individual citizens, pay the tab.

And pay we did. In a bill that was passed by holding a vote open for two hours beyond the House deadline, the cost would eventually be more than $550 billion. So, whatever small breaks…and they were small…the public got, we paid for them many times over.

Tauzin did well. He soon left the Congress and joined the pharmaceutical manufacturers as their lobbyist. Was it worth it to sell out the American People, the elderly and the poor? Absolutely. In 2010 alone his compensation from the pharmaceutical manufacturers was over $11 million dollars. One year’s compensation.

So there is big money in health care. For example, the average income of the other head lobbyists for health care is about a million bucks. Karen Ignagni, the blonde who represents America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) makes about two million a year. But Tauzin’s publicly stated income was always around $2 million, so you can see that these people get multiple other payments, bonuses, etc. apparently.

But the people who are really raking in the sheaves are the CEOs of the health insurance companies themselves. Here are some representative health insurance CEOs with their annual salaries for that year.

Ronald A. Williams – Aetna – $23,000,000
Edward Hanaway – Cigna – $25,000,000
Stephen Hemsley – United Health – $13,000,000
Dale Wolf – Coventry – $9,000,000
Angela Braley – Wellpoint – $13,000.000
Michael McCallister – Humana – $6,000,000

Not bad, eh? Of course it’s not bad. When you have a business where you have more customers than you will accept and can charge prices at will and deny claims at will…what’s not to like? That’s the system from which we are trying to rid ourselves. And we can. And we must.

Almost 50 million Americans now have no health insurance. From 49 million in 2009, it went up to 49.9 million in 2010 and in 2011, even with the initial improvements from Obamacare, it will continue in very large numbers like these until 2013 when the first of the big changes kick in.

The idea of starting in 2013 was that the insurance industry would have time to adjust. The problem may be…and this could actually be good for Americans in the long run…the insurance industry has spent most of its time trying to repeal Obamacare. If it is unprepared in 2013, when people can begin to see the enormous benefits that they will receive, it may turn out that we will have the “public option” after all. That would drop prices through the floor and lead to much more compassionate and people-centered non-profit and local government health care solutions.

Instead of funneling 30% of our payments to health insurance companies, and instead of insurance companies simply passing on extremely high bills to the consumer and leaving the consumer to pay health insurance bills of $14,000 to $15,000 per year, the cost curve would begin to bend down almost immediately.

About 150 million workers and their families are covered by employer’s health care programs. In those cases, the average family pays about $4,700 per year for health coverage, meaning that the employer picks up about $10,000. In some large corporations, the health insurance is done by the company itself, but still, overall, about 28% of costs are picked up by the employee.

So, if an employee loses his or her job, and that employee has some medical condition, current law, COBRA, says that the health insurance company must continue that person on their existing insurance for 18 months but the former employee must then pay the entire amount, which means that the cost would go from something like $400 per month to $1250 per month. This is a substantial increase for the average worker who is now unemployed.

So this isn’t a good system. First, with employer based insurance, we only pay a share of $15,000, but it is still $15,000 that someone has to pay eventually. Of course, if a person does not have insurance or insurance from a job, he or she normally a.) can’t afford it, and b.) isn’t eligible anyway because of a “pre-existing” condition.

This was, and is, a major problem that had to be addressed. The Republicans not only ignored it, but, as we have seen with the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill (also referred to as Medicare part D) they made things worse.

Now, the same Republicans who caused all our fiscal and health care problems in the first place say that Obamacare will be too expensive. That is exactly the opposite of the truth. The CBO says that it will save the country something like a trillion dollars over ten years. But that is not the important thing. The main thing is that competition will drive prices down. In addition, many states are talking about adding a local public option.

Here’s how it will work. A multi-state group will offer health insurance, with certain minimum features in it, so that it works, to those who do not have health insurance through their companies. This is what is being done in Massachusetts right now and the favorability factor among those who are in the public (through private insurers) system is well over two-thirds and in some cases eighty percent.

But here is what is important. In Massachusetts, which already had a high percentage of people insured, over 85%, the insured rate is now 98.2%. For children the number is 99.8% who have health insurance. Compare this to the national average of under 85%, Costs for the average citizen have come down and costs for employer based health insurance are less. And that is just one state. When three, four or five states are together in pooling patients for insurance bids across state lines, the costs will come down dramatically.

We now spend about 18% of GDP on health insurance. Europe spends 6%. We should be able to get our costs down to at least 10% of GDP over a few years. This would save individuals and the government…are you ready, about $1.2 trillion a year in health care costs. The government’s portion of that is about one-third (Medicare, Medicaid…elderly and poor…heavy users of the system) or $900 billion. The government alone will save about $400 billion a year.

Now…why don’t we hear those numbers? First, because the health insurance industry does not want you to hear them. And second, because they can’t be proved. If you want your house painted and all you care about is price, you will find that there are many people who will come and bid on your house and soon one will come and say to you…how much can you pay…and your house painting prices will go through the floor. This is what is going to happen with health care.

But you can’t say exactly how much you will save. So, in the highly structured world of the Congressional Budget Office, you cannot make that assumption. Even though you can tell from current prices and profits and current situations that can be compared elsewhere in the world. But that is what will happen.

And there is something else. The government will set targets for health care prices. If they do not go down as they should, the government will step in and act as an insurer and the prices will be below those of the private companies by a huge margin. That is the so-called “public option.” The government will say that they have a figure that the health insurance plans should hit, and the government will offer its plan at that number.

So, if your costs go down commensurately, in several years you will be paying about $8,000 per year, plus adjustments for inflation, rather than $15,000. So will Medicare; so will Medicaid; so will private health insurers, if there are still any around.

And here’s the real test. The Massachusetts individual health insurance costs have gone down by 40% while the rest of the country’s rates have gone up by 14%. That’s a simple and easy test. Do prices go down in this kind of situation? They do. If we take the national average, that means the Massachusetts health care buyer spends $9,000 per year instead of $15,000 per year. At a certain lower income level, Massachusetts buyers still get health care, and pay for it, but at a much reduced cost.

Charles Blahous of the Mercatus Center, a Right Wing think tank sponsored by the Koch Industries family, says that Obamacare will cost the government over a trillion dollars over the next ten years and add another $350 billion to the budget. You can see from what happened in Massachusetts that this is not true and is not at all likely to happen.

If the costs on individual insurance have dropped by 40%, then that is likely to happen, perhaps in an even more significant way for the rest of the United States. Canada, with a much smaller system than ours, about ten percent of what ours would be, operates on about 12% of GDP. Polls show that they range from very happy to wildly approving of their system. Almost 100% of them rate it better than our system, for all the Neo-Fascists’ commentary on how they hate their Canadian system.

So who are these people attacking Obamacare? Charles Blahous, Ph.D., is a former staffer with the Bush II White House. He is not a politician, nor is he an historian or political scientist. He is in fact, a chemist. And his particular brand of chemistry, it is interesting to note, deals in the computation of chemical effects, without empirical evidence.

In other words, Dr. Blahous’s entire career has been spent not examining what happens after several things come together. And that is why he does not understand (some would say “deliberately”) the potential economic affects that result when every citizen begins to pay less from competitively priced health insurance.

In fact, Dr. Blahous applies none of the benefits from reduced cost and expanded eligibility. He merely adds costs while not subtracting results. That is how he arrives at the number he does. He did the same thing when he was working for George W. Bush in trying to privatize Social Security. Had he been successful, everyone over 65 in the country today would automatically take home 40% less in what would be a private Republican variation of Social Security. We dodged a bullet…actually a cannon shot…by virtue of electing a Democratic House of Representatives in 2006.

The woman writing about Dr. Blahous’s report is much worse than he is. Grace Marie Turner is one of the most despicable people in the health insurance scam industry. Her millions have been earned by pandering to the private health insurance business, doing their bidding and that of the super-rich, like the Koch Family, for a long, long time.

She runs the Galen Institute, named for the ancient healer, who would be scandalized by their use of his name to simply make the health industry richer, year-after-year at the sacrifice of human life. Her stated goal is to put citizens, rather than government in charge of their health care decisions. It is not accidental that her institute was begun immediately after the Clinton health care initiative was being promoted. She attacked the initial reforms. He job for the industry is to attack public health care, because that is the only way that the private firms can lose their public-gouging plans.

Here’s the kind of person Ms. Turner is. She has a site called “Health Reform Hub” and in the middle of the first page, she tells a blatant lie…almost the first thing you see. She says,

“ObamaCare will lead to a dramatic decline in employer-provided health insurance — with as many as 78 million Americans forced to find other sources of coverage.”

That’s not true. That is based on a survey by McKinsey and Company. The Congressional Budget Office, the Urban Institute and the Rand Corporation have all come up with the opposite outcomes in their surveys.

In addition, this scare tactic by Ms. Turner deliberately does not take into consideration the point of the survey. The point is…are we about to change the way health care is delivered? Employers are beginning to see a better and more efficient way forward.

If all citizens can purchase health insurance at reasonable rates from a private firm in an exchange…or through a public option as a default if the rates are artificially held up…then why should employers continue to pay for health care? Just give the money to employees—it might not even need to be the full amount–and let the government negotiate with insurance firms for the best possible health insurance rates.

Employees would then be able to travel throughout the industries in which they work without changing health insurance, losing it or having it cost more. The only losers would not be employers or individual workers.

The losers would be Ms. Turner’s sponsors, the pharmaceutical companies, whom she helped to a $500 billion dollar windfall with the Medicare Prescription Drug Act and the health insurance industry which she helped to postpone health care reform for 14 years while hundreds of thousands of people died as a result.

Should she be put to death, knowing that she influenced the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people? We could not advocate that as citizens. But if we could, as a society, put to death someone legally, merely for causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people by pursuing successful legislation that would cause their deaths, then certainly many of us would strongly advocate that she be put to death, electrocuted or as in the old Greek system that Galen would have known, merely strangle her in a public place. Just as we would do to any dictator or tyrant.

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One Comment so far ↓

  • Proud Populist

    The problem with Obamacare is that it didn’t go far enough. The US should join civilized countries and have universal health care for all.
    Socialized medicine like the weasels in Washington get is better than capitalized greed and large numbers of uninsured.