Some Choice Comments on the Health Insurance Legislation

Some outstanding and brief comments from around town on the recent passage of that health insurance legislation.

From Kaiser Health News,

Most health industry sectors are winners – some bigger than others -- under sweeping health care legislation that will expand coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans over the next decade, analysts say.

Hospitals, doctors, drug makers and most health insurers will pick up armies of new paying customers. Nursing homes and Medicare's private health plans will face steep government payment cuts, however.

From professor of economics at Middlebury College, Robert E. Prasch, from the New Economic Perspectives site at the Univ. of Missouri,

As a resident of Massachusetts, where the backlash is already well underway, I thought I should add a comment. Let's begin by considering the origins of "Obamacare". It comes from Massachusetts. It was passed early in Gov. Patrick's reign because during the campaign it was already in debate as it was Gov. Mitt Romney's proposal. Now, one might wonder where the conservative, free market, head of Bain Consulting governor might go finding a healthcare plan? Well, he got it from the Heritage Foundation. And why did they have such a plan? Well, they developed its broad outlines during the 1993-4 years as the Republican ANSWER to Hillary's effort. So, that is our new federal plan -- it is a warmed over version of the Heritage Plan. This, I submit, might explain a few things. (1) It was Obama's idea all along to "triangulate" the Republicans on this issue, and (2) why many of them are really very bummed out that their leadership did not take up the chance to show "bi-partisanship" on this issue (see David Frum on this).

Now, I tend to be skeptical of Heritage Foundation health-care plans. For several reasons:

(1) By design, costs are not contained, neither is health care reformed. This means that "affordability" does not come from controlling costs, but by shifting them. Shift to whom? A hallmark of the Heritage/Romney plan is that no change of the distribution of income is to occur with the financing of this plan. NONE. Rather, funding is to be from three sources --- those with supposedly "Cadillac" plans, those who have "opted out' because of the laughably high cost of coverage relative to their own risks, and to the state general fund.

(2), In light of state budget shortfalls, it is no surprise that the latter source is declining quickly, and tens of thousands of Mass residents have ALREADY lost their subsidies (this trend will certainly occur on Capitol Hill over the next several years as 'deficit mania" kicks in). So, get this, as your income declines and your house is repossessed, the cost of your health care rises with higher premiums AND lower subsidies. But, make no mistake, even as the subsidies decline, the mandate will stay -- why should the big companies give up this huge windfall of unchecked access to the wages of the low paid?

(3) I also wish to warn against the 'NPR version' of the story that this bill "gives" health care for those without. Nothing is given, it is a MANDATE. Now, while the original 'vision' of the bill had subsidies, these are fading rapidly. So, now we have a dramatically underfunded mandate. Solving the lack of insurance by mandating the poor to buy it is, to be blunt, Dickensian. Obama himself stated it very well during the campaign "It is like solving homelessness with a mandate that those living on the streets buy a house". Those who are poor understand this point, and resent it. True, there are some young people who are in good health and, understanding statistics and rapacious health care insurance firms, "choose" not to get health insurance (as I did for several years in my 20s as the teaching assistantship I got from DU during my years studying for my MA could not cover my living expenses AND health insurance), yet the bulk of non-buyers are people who have found that with little in the way of family funds, other priorities (rent, car repairs, food, school fees, etc.) are a greater priority.

And from Glenn Greenwald's article at salon.com,

"One indication that the insurance industry is likely to do fine under the bill: Insurers' shares have soared by an average of 71% in the past year, as measured by the Standard & Poor's 500 Managed Care Index." That's hardly surprising: a former Wellpoint executive was the principal author of the original Senate bill from which the final bill was derived.

Personally, as a long-time supporter of single payer, and an ardent anti-predatory capitalist, this sure appears to me to be a most subtle form of privatizing taxation.

After all, if citizens who are legally mandated to purchase this private insurance fail to, it is the IRS who collects fines against them.

Sure sounds like a health tax to me, and it sure sounds like the privatization of taxation.

Synopsis (added 03/27/2010)

After a comment below from LillithMc, I felt the need to expand upon this theatre of the absurd we have (and still are) witnessing, which confuses and bewilders many.

Please reflect on the following: those on the far right, and various Republican types, are thoroughly against this health insurance legislation, which originated within the bowels of the Heritage Foundation and Enron (those exchanges), while those on the supposed left, or the faux crats (not true dems) support this health insurance legislation, minus the promised public option.

So, one group (the right) is against something out of the Heritage Foundation (for those unfamiliar with them, they are the farthest right of the rightwing foundations), while the "liberals" support that which came from the Heritage Foundation?

Something peculiar going on here? But then again, it appears to be the same strategy we've witnessed again and again and again over the years.

And it appears to be working, as usual......

Update (added 03/29/2010)

Today, Senator Max Baucus (stooge-Montana), on the floor of the US Senate, thanked Liz Fowler, VP at Wellpoint, for writing the "health care" legislation (actually, health insurance legislation).

To review: conceived, and structurally designed, within the bowels of the Heritage Foundation, including those Enron-derived insurance exchanges (thought up in the '90s), with the actual legislation written by Wellpoint's VP, Liz Fowler.

And what portion of this is liberal, progressive, or pro-people, one wonders?

Signed, sealed and delivered.......

(Special thanks to firedoglake.com for this clip)

Final Update (added 07/15/2010)

As reported by The Billings Gazette:

Liz Fowler, a key staffer for U.S. Sen. Max Baucus who helped draft the federal health reform bill enacted in March, is joining the Obama administration to help implement the new law.
Fowler, chief health counsel for the Senate Finance Committee, which Baucus chairs, will become deputy director of the Office of Consumer Information and Oversight at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Glenn Greenwald, writing from salon.com, adds:

In other words, implementation of the massive healthcare bill just enacted by the Congress will be overseen by a former high-level executive of the nation's largest private health insurer. As Marcy Wheeler writes: "It’s a nice trick: send your VP to write a law mandating that the middle class buy shitty products like yours, then watch that VP move into the executive branch to 'oversee' the implementation of the law." Indeed, Fowler played a crucial role in shaping the healthcare bill to ensure there was no public option and to compel every single American to purchase the products of the private healthcare industry (including those of her former employer). As Politico put it last year: "If you drew an organizational chart of major players in the Senate healthcare negotiations, Fowler would be the chief operating officer." It was Fowler who was literally writing the healthcare bills for Baucus which, at least at the time, progressives found so objectionable.

Fowler is the very embodiment of the sleazy Revolving Door and lobbyist-dominated politics which candidate Barack Obama endlessly vowed to subvert. Remember all this?

No wonder the woman (??) below is yukking it up!

Comments

I wouldn't call it a health tax

simply because the profits are not going to the public coffers. But the fact the IRS is enforcing the profits of for profit businesses, well, that seems suspect.

I'm single payer too and the problem is we have a host of conservatives who don't want anything that is for the public good and makes the entire sector not for profit. Hence, of course the lobbyists won with that kind of false debate going on.

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Still a "health tax"

But that's my entire point: the profits aren't going to the public coffers; hence, the privatization of taxation, with the public institution, the US Department of the Treasury's IRS acting upon any "stiffing" of those private insurance companies by the mandated purchase of their product.

And if you happen to read various politicians' (the dems, that is) defense of the mandate, they will almost uniformly liken it to another tax, such as Social Security.

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The choice

The left was quick to pick up on the conflict between the mandate and the elimination of the public option which was originally going to be like medicare. I think Obama went for what he thought he could get. Look at the violence following the vote and think of the south during civil rights. The GOP is aligned with the south and has not curbed their encouragement of the Tea Party tactics. As Wendell Potter, ex-CFO of Aetna, says; the system will fail with or without Obamacare. Obamacare is the more kind failure. There is more work to do.

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Must disagree with "The choice"

I must respectfully disagree with you. I wouldn't classify the public option similar to medicare as, firstly, it was never really articulated clearly. At most it was a pale comparison of it.

Next, in an earlier article by Glenn Greenwald, he finally comes around to my way of thinking and explains how the fix was in from the beginning, with President Obama meeting with the hospital association long before he met with the reps of Pharma. There was never any real interest on his part for the public option to begin with.

The violence followng the vote, from all those idiots who can't even do simple arithmetic and don't even rate as illiterates (their falling for the obvious kabuki theater ploy for that so-called "government takeover of healthcare" when in reality it is simply the extension of the privatization of health insurance and health care) is just the complete orchestration of events to obscure the facts.

Whether one listens to Fox, NPR or Air America (shows formerly w/AA, and I don't normally listen to any American propaganda media), the same "whip the mob into a frenzy" permeates: the teabaggers promoting violence, then the response to those moronic teabaggers.

Again, obscuring the facts. And the Tea Party isn't particular to the South, one finds them sprinkled throughout America, the usual distribution of lowbrow, lazy brained idiots who can never be bothered to take their citizenship duties seriously.

Obama simply did Wall Street's bidding -- he received their money as a senator, then delivered as the prez. Samo...samo.

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Medicare for All bill

Alan Grayson introduced a "Medicare for all" bill, where if one wants to get on Medicare, they would adjust a premium for age and then one can simply buy it.

I think that's worth a look because we already have socialized medicine (of course the for profits suck on it bone dry) in Medicare, Medicaid, the VA. It's a place to build upon.

Didn't Romneycare, which is what they passed, already be proved to be ridiculously expensive and is kind of a failure in Mass?

As far as all of the political unrest goes, here we go, people cannot use their brains, get off of whatever rallying cry, hence policies in the national interest get divided by which corporate agenda one wants to scream and yell about.

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