Alex Blaze

Industry proposed health care reform isn't a game-changer

Filed By Alex Blaze | May 11, 2009 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: AHIP, Barack Obama, Congress, Ezra Klein, health care reform, paul krugman, public option, single-payer

I'm sifting through various opinions on the industry-proposed plan to reduce health care costs by $2 trillion over the next ten years, but I thought I'd put something on this site. First, here's Obama announcing it (transcript):

Of course he's trying to sell this as a great change; everyone wants to think that something positive is happening. But there are reasons why this is not at all a game-changer:

  • The enforcement mechanism appears to be magic faerie dust the media. So there's little reason for them to follow-through on today's announcement, which was obviously a blitzy PR move meant to show that the insurance industry cares.
  • Cutting costs can be bad. There's no reason to believe that the money will just just come from reduced administration costs, which are out of control. As D-Day points out, the plan calls for "reducing over-use[...] of health care ," which means denying people care.
  • It, obviously, doesn't call for a public option. So they're probably trying to stymie people's need for health care reform by providing a promise of a false solution. In fact, a public option, which Obama's said is still on the table, would make for a great enforcement mechanism....
  • Every nebulous idea they present for cost-containment could already be implemented if the players involved wanted to do them. So one has to wonder why they aren't already being implemented. Ezra Klein goes through some of the cost-containment measures that various medical industries have already opposed as recently as 2009, so I'm not holding my breath here.
What is the industry expecting to do with this photo op? If it's supposed to block any meaningful reform by showing how generous they are and how mean Congress and the White House are for expecting some kind of enforcement mechanism or proposing a public option, then it's a net-loss. I haven't come to expect much from this industry.

Paul Krugman thinks it's a good sign anyway that the health care industry isn't just flat-out opposing any reforms. That's something, but it's an incredibly low standard. Then again, the health care industry has made us come to expect only the worst from it.


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I agree with you 100 percent, Alex. The President's approach -- working with the industry, which will make every effort to protect every last penny of their profits, like the banks and lenders have done -- is very disappointing.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | May 11, 2009 9:59 PM

It's not so much disappointing as its criminal.

Which is why the California Nurses Association / National Nurses Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO has "issued a request to include Roseann Demoro, Executive Director of CNA / NNOC and longtime leader in the single-payer movement... and physicians like Drs. Marcia Angell and Steffie Woolhandler to testify as expert witnesses." These advocates of single-payer/socialized medicine have been excluded from the Democrats health care circus "because they're the front lines of the broken health care system, and they should be the first in line to testify on health reform."

"As you probably heard, at the last Senate Finance Committee hearing, physicians and single-payer advocates stood one-by-one to ask to have a seat at the table. The Senators laughed and had each one arrested. We need to end the exclusion of the only plan that will be truly universal and contain costs. Our health depends on it" says CAN/NNOC.

The same criminality extends to Obama's escalation of the wars in South Asia and his hostility to the LGBT equality program. Likewise what other term but criminal describes his giveaway of trillions to the rich instead of helping the millions unemployed before last August and the nearly 8 million fired since then and the growing number of homeless people in Obamavilles all over the country.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | May 12, 2009 1:41 AM

Remembering the creation of Blue Cross & Blue Shield as the "American" answer to scary scary "socialized" medicine I have to agree that this is a horrible disappointment. It does not auger well for the independence of this administration and congress from the corporate web.

Partly, there must be a reluctance to make sweeping change "because this is the way it has always been done." Of course, "non profit" hospitals have hardly been non profits for some long time. Still, the national health care information base DOES make incredible sense and should be implemented. Americans are themselves partly to blame for this as they have not educated themselves about the problem, but not everyone can be educated, make a living and live a life.

I think the obvious model is already in place and it works excellently in Canada. Some things are far too basic and important to be left to for profit and non profit entities which unnecessarily duplicate one anothers services while permitting so much heartless suffering.

Rick Elliott | May 12, 2009 4:08 AM

Since 1978 I have been entangled with the health care system, particularly the absurdity of managed health care. Managed health care's primary interest is to save money at all costs. People making medical decisions are often nurses and doctors who are unable to sustain a practice or research money.
Out-of-pocket medical--Medicare and a supplement--take 1/3 of the money I get in Social Security disability. We who are the least able are the ones bearing the brunt of the cost.
Drug companies aren't seeking cures, but treatments. Cures put them out of business.
Conspicuosly absent from the discussions Obama touts are disabled folks and the everyday folk, AARP and normal doctors in private practice. The focus seems to be on the drug companies, insurance companies and hospitals. Two of these don't have my health as a primary focus.
Drug companies and prescription plans are in collusion.
I seriously doubt that treating my illnesses and healing me isdsn't the primary concern of those mentioned who're advising Obama.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | May 12, 2009 7:31 AM

Rick, I would amplify that further. I do not believe that hospitals in their current configuration are "healing" institutions. While BC&BS of Illinois held up payment to a Catholic "nonprofit" hospital in Chicago following a stress induced emergency ulcer surgery I had fifteen years ago said hospital had no qualms about suing me in the meantime while I paid to have a lawyer sue BC&BS. (Was that more stress?, I think so.) We prevailed, with damages, because I had the means of suing. Someone without the means of suing for coverage is at their mercy.

If you would want to talk about the divide between having a few dollars to pay for justice, and having none at all, there could not be a greater example of skewed unfairness. There are no advocates for the lower working class folks who are confused by the paperwork and do not know their rights or (most importantly) have the means to back them up.

I wish you good health.

beachcomberT | May 12, 2009 7:06 AM

We've seen this ploy before. When prescription drug coverage was being debated, pharma companies suddenly rolled out token discounts for low-income people. When ACT UP started gaining traction with its demonstrations, BurroughsWelcome slightly lowered the price of AZT. Too bad Obama is wasting his credibility by giving these clowns a photo op. We'll end up with a marginal "down payment" on national health care, and the real thing will be swept under the rug for another 5-10 years.

Marvin Wagner | May 12, 2009 9:22 AM

Big friggin deal! Lowering the sticker price.

Do I think it's the best solution? Hell no.

But is it better than nothing? Hell yes.