Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Health care bills: healthy for whom?

Why should workers have to wait for "Congressman," no less, Kucinich to explain what has been, from the point of view of the working class in struggle against its exploiters, so obvious all along? Why. from our side, have we had, instead of leadership on this issue, so much the kind of bootlicking praise for this boondoggle for insurance billionaires exemplified by Richard Trumka's October 30th statement on the subject when he said, "The bill does not attempt to finance reform on the backs of the working middle class."


Congressman Kucinich addresses vote on H.R. 3962

(November 7, 2009)

Congressman Dennis Kucinich after voting against H.R. 3962 addresses why he voted NO, stating:

"We have been led to believe that we must make our health care choices only within the current structure of a predatory, for-profit insurance system which makes money not providing health care. We cannot fault the insurance companies for being what they are. But we can fault legislation in which the government incentivizes the perpetuation, indeed the strengthening, of the for-profit health insurance industry, the very source of the problem. When health insurance companies deny care or raise premiums, co-pays and deductibles they are simply trying to make a profit. That is our system."

"Clearly, the insurance companies are the problem, not the solution. They are driving up the cost of health care. Because their massive bureaucracy avoids paying bills so effectively, they force hospitals and doctors to hire their own bureaucracy to fight the insurance companies to avoid getting stuck with an unfair share of the bills. The result is that since 1970, the number of physicians has increased by less than 200% while the number of administrators has increased by 3000%. It is no wonder that 31 cents of every health care dollar goes to administrative costs, not toward providing care. Even those with insurance are at risk. The single biggest cause of bankruptcies in the U.S. is health insurance policies that do not cover you when you get sick."

"But instead of working toward the elimination of for-profit insurance, H.R. 3962 would put the government in the role of accelerating the privatization of health care. In H.R. 3962, the government is requiring at least 21 million Americans to buy private health insurance from the very industry that causes costs to be so high, which will result in at least $70 billion in new annual revenue, much of which is coming from taxpayers. This inevitably will lead to even more costs, more subsidies, and higher profits for insurance companies - a bailout under a blue cross."

"By incurring only a new requirement to cover pre-existing conditions, a weakened public option, and a few other important but limited concessions, the health insurance companies are getting quite a deal. The Center for American Progress' blog, Think Progress, states, 'since the President signaled that he is backing away from the public option, health insurance stocks have been on the rise.' Similarly, healthcare stocks rallied when Senator Max Baucus introduced a bill without a public option. Bloomberg reports that Curtis Lane, a prominent health industry investor, predicted a few weeks ago that 'money will start flowing in again' to health insurance stocks after passage of the legislation. Investors.com last month reported that pharmacy benefit managers share prices are hitting all-time highs, with the only industry worry that the Administration would reverse its decision not to negotiate Medicare Part D drug prices, leaving in place a Bush Administration policy."

"During the debate, when the interests of insurance companies would have been effectively challenged, that challenge was turned back. The 'robust public option' which would have offered a modicum of competition to a monopolistic industry was whittled down from an initial potential enrollment of 129 million Americans to 6 million. An amendment which would have protected the rights of states to pursue single-payer health care was stripped from the bill at the request of the Administration. Looking ahead, we cringe at the prospect of even greater favors for insurance companies."

"Recent rises in unemployment indicate a widening separation between the finance economy and the real economy. The finance economy considers the health of Wall Street, rising corporate profits, and banks' hoarding of cash, much of it from taxpayers, as sign of an economic recovery. However in the real economy - in which most Americans live - the recession is not over. Rising unemployment, business failures, bankruptcies and foreclosures are still hammering Main Street."

"This health care bill continues the redistribution of wealth to Wall Street at the expense of America's manufacturing and service economies which suffer from costs other countries do not have to bear, especially the cost of health care. America continues to stand out among all industrialized nations for its privatized health care system. As a result, we are less competitive in steel, automotive, aerospace and shipping while other countries subsidize their exports in these areas through socializing the cost of health care."

"Notwithstanding the fate of H.R. 3962, America will someday come to recognize the broad social and economic benefits of a not-for-profit, single-payer health care system, which is good for the American people and good for America's businesses, with of course the notable exceptions being insurance and pharmaceuticals.

___________________________

U.S. bills on ‘health care’ boon for big business
BY RÓGER CALERO
August 24, 2009

The U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate failed to bring bills for “health-care reform” to their full chambers before their August recess but moved closer to reaching a deal that favors the insurance and hospital industries and major drug companies, and includes further cuts in Medicare and Medicaid.

The “reform” proposals would be a profit boon for the owners of the health-care industry by making it mandatory for people to buy insurance, either from private companies or from a government-sponsored plan. A limited government subsidy in the form of tax credits would be available to eligible low-income individuals to purchase insurance.

Some of the original proposals hailed by the Barack Obama administration to increase access to health coverage are being thrown by the wayside as the legislation evolves.


Legislators have said, for example, that there will very likely be no provision for a government-run insurance option, which insurance companies and some medical associations opposed. Instead legislators are proposing a “non-profit” cooperative to sell insurance “to compete” with private industry.


The Senate Finance Committee tightened eligibility for subsidies to help pay insurance premiums and reduced assistance for people who qualify.


All the House and Senate bills on health-care reform require individuals to purchase insurance or face a fine. According to one proposal in the Senate a person could avoid the fine if the cost of the cheapest available health plan was more than 15 percent of the person’s income. “If a family making $70,000 has to pay 15 percent of its income for insurance [$10,500], that could be a real hardship,” said Judith Solomon with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.


Along with negotiations between Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress, the Obama administration has also been making behind-the-scene deals with health-care industry lobbyists to win support for the plan. On August 7, White House officials backed away from what a drug industry representative had said earlier that week was a “rock-solid deal” to protect drug companies from covering further costs of the health-care plan.


Representatives of the drug industry announced that they had reached an agreement with the White House in June to contribute a maximum of $80 billion over 10 years toward the $1 trillion the plan is estimated to cost. In return the White House would block any clauses in the bills that would allow the government to negotiate lower drug prices or require additional price rebates.


The White House denied the existence of such a deal and pharmaceutical companies were alarmed to see that a House version of the bill still included the clauses.

After threatening to reverse their support to the plan, drug industry representatives were backing it once again after the White House removed the price rebates in the House bill, reported the New York Times.

Much of the cost of implementing a “health reform” package will be covered by squeezing hundreds of billions of dollars out of Medicare. Obama said that the plan is “not going to reduce Medicare benefits. What it’s going to do is to change how those benefits are delivered so that they’re more efficient.”


In fact, many are finding out that an increasing number of physicians refuse to accept new patients covered by Medicare because they claim Medicare payments are too low.


A proposed 20 percent cut by Medicare in payments for radiation therapy is before Congress. An American Society for Radiation Oncology survey said it would result in many cancer centers, especially in rural areas, closing or consolidating operations.

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