Newspaper logo  
 
 
Local Stories, Events

Ref. : Civic Events

Ref. : Arts & Education Events

Ref. : Public Service Notices

Books, Films, Arts & Education

09.12 Why Is College in America So Expensive?

Letters

Ref. : Letters to the editor

Health Care & Environment

09.18 'I was horrified that children are breathing air this dirty inside the school' [if your government isn't working, change it!]

09.16 Universal healthcare was unthinkable in America, but not any more

09.16 Air pollution particles found in mothers' placentas

09.16 Portugal’s radical drugs policy is working. Why hasn’t the world copied it?

09.13 The Guardian view on electric cars: stopped by industry inaction [Vroom Vroom is Dumb Dumb]

09.13 Electric future? Global push to move away from gas-powered cars

09.12 The Secret Drug Pricing System Middlemen Use to Rake in Millions

09.12 Jerry Brown: Trump's 'gross ignorance' main obstacle in climate change fight

09.12 Medicare for All and the Myth of the 40% Physician Pay Cut

09.11 Global hunger levels rising due to extreme weather, UN warns

09.11 Fossil fuel dependence poses 'direct existential threat', warns UN chief

09.11 Air pollution is 'biggest environmental health risk' in Europe [Switch to 100% renewables and stop all mining, pumping, refining and burning of fossil fuels!!!]

News Media Matters

09.14 Bob Woodward: 'Too many people are emotionally unhinged about Trump'

Daily: FAIR Blog
The Daily Howler

US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'

09.18 Voters Are Ready for a Green New Deal. Are Democrats?

09.18 'This Election Is Last Chance to Stop Them': Kudlow Confirms Trump and GOP Ready to Gut Safety Net After Midterms [Yes, there are far too many sociopaths]

09.18 You'll miss Trump one day

09.17 California plans to show the world how to meet the Paris climate target

09.17 For Whom the Climate Bell Tolls

09.16 2020 Dems: Rebels v. restorationists

09.16 Trump's Insults Against His 'Hillbilly' Base Are Making Them Turn on Him: NYT Column

09.15 Nazis May Be Bad, But Tax Cuts Are Awesome!

Justice Matters
High Crimes?

09.16 Merchants of Death Profit from the Bombing of Children as a US-Backed War Goes Largely Ignored

Economics, Crony Capitalism

09.16 If Jeff Bezos wants to help low-income people why not just pay them better?

09.16 Central Banks Have Gone Rogue, Putting Us All at Risk

International & Futurism

09.18 'Unconscionable' and 'Appalling': In Affront to Those Fleeing US-Backed Wars and Persecution, Trump Slams Door on Refugees

09.17 How to Humanely Solve Europe's Migration Crisis

09.15 A Warning From Europe: The Worst Is Yet to Come [SCARY]

09.15 Crossing Germany's divide — encounters with far-right protesters

09.14 A new authoritarian axis demands an international progressive front

We are a non-profit Internet-only newspaper publication founded in 1973. Your donation is essential to our survival.

You can also mail a check to:
Baltimore News Network, Inc.
P.O. Box 42581
Baltimore, MD 21284-2581
Google
This site Web
  House Prepares to Vote on Health Care Reform
Newspaper logo

CONTINUING TO SPEND DOUBLE PER CAPITA (COMPARED TO INDUSTRIALIZED NATIONS) IS NOT OKAY...

House Prepares to Vote on Health Care Reform

by James Ridgeway
First published in his blog Unsilent Generation earlier today, 7 November 2009

"In sum, this $1.055 trillion plan over ten years will not fix the major problems of cost and affordable access to health care in our deteriorating system, will add new layers of bureaucracy and complexity to the present system, is not fiscally responsible, and is not sustainable."

Following are excerpts from an analysis by Dr. John Geyman, professor emeritus of family medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle and a past president of Physicians for a National Health Program on the House bill up for a vote this weekend:

  • Although supporters of the new House bill claim that it would expand coverage for as many as 30 million uninsured, we are actually likely to see an increase in the number of uninsured in coming years for these kinds of reasons—as costs keep going up, many Americans will be forced to drop their present coverage because of inability to afford rapidly rising costs of premiums, deductibles and co-payments; there is no guarantee that the uninsured will be able to afford new private coverage (even with subsidies, which won’t kick in for another four years); and expansion of Medicaid will not take place until 2013 (many states are already pushing back with concerns that the their recession-strained budgets will not allow them to pay their share in adding to their Medicaid programs, potentially leaving millions of the poorest Americans uninsured.
  • There are no effective cost containment mechanisms built into the bill, either for the costs of health insurance or for health care itself. As it whines about weakening of the individual mandate that will likely limit some of its big increase in the insurance market, the health insurance industry is already warning that sharp premium increases will result. The most the bill will do is to require disclosure and review of premium increases, without any regulatory teeth. Although the bill would set up a Health Benefits Advisory Committee to recommend a minimal essential benefits package (with four tiers), insurance industry lobbyists will argue for the most minimal levels of coverage, and we can anticipate an exponential growth in underinsurance. Moreover, there are no price controls to be applied anywhere in the system, except perhaps in authorizing the government to negotiate drug prices with manufacturers. But that provision will almost certainly not clear the Senate, where we can expect even less concern for affordability and prices.
  • Although the public option has been the target of intense controversy, it will play a negligible role in health care reform. The CBO has concluded that it would cover no more than 6 million Americans, just two percent of the population, in 2013, and will cost more than private programs, mostly due to adverse selection in attracting sicker individuals and its inability to set reimbursement rates for physicians and hospitals as is done by Medicare. Moreover, middle-income families may be required to spend 15 to 18 percent of their income on insurance premiums and co-payments.
  • HR 3962 will not result in making health care more affordable, despite allocating some $605 billion over ten years for subsidies to low- and middle-income Americans to buy insurance on Exchanges. We can count on continued increases in the cost of health insurance as far as the eye can see, together with less actuarial value of coverage.
  • Buried in the fine print of this monster bill are many provisions that will benefit corporate stakeholders in the medical industrial complex on the backs of patients and their families. These examples make the point:
    • Although medical loss ratios (MLR) (the proportion of premium revenue actually spent on medical care) are specified at a minimum of 85 percent, this loophole has been added–”while making sure that such a change doesn’t further destabilize the current individual health insurance market.” By way of comparison, the Senate Commerce Committee has found that the average MLR for the largest insurers in the individual market is only 74 percent, with 26 percent of premium revenue going to marketing, administrative overhead and profits.
    • Although the bill would create a much-needed Center for Comparative Effectiveness Research, it would have no say over reimbursement and coverage policies. As the bill says, it “contains protections to ensure that research findings are not construed to mandate coverage, reimbursement or other policies to any public or private payer.”

In sum, this $1.055 trillion plan over ten years will not fix the major problems of cost and affordable access to health care in our deteriorating system, will add new layers of bureaucracy and complexity to the present system, is not fiscally responsible, and is not sustainable.

What to do now? Rather than accept an unworkable bill that is politically expedient, we would be better off to make a major course change. That vote could take place as early as tomorrow.

If that fails, shelving this bill would be the best option. Until a few days ago, I would have added that lawmakers should be pressed to retain the amendment proposed by Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) to allow states to experiment with single-payer plans, as a number of states would like to do (e.g. California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, New Mexico, New York and Pennsylvania) . Although that amendment had already been passed by a rare bipartisan vote of 27-19 in the House Education and Labor Committee, it has been stripped from the bill.

The best first option would be to call for a floor vote, as originally promised by the House Speaker Pelosi, for the amendment proposed by Anthony Weiner (D-NY) to substitute HR 676, a single-payer proposal, for HR 3962. If that fails, shelving this bill would be the best option, but if that is not possible, lawmakers should be pressed to retain the amendment proposed by Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) to allow states to experiment with single-payer plans, as a number of states would like to do (eg. California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, New Mexico, New York and Pennsylvania) .

That amendment has already been passed by a rare bipartisan vote of 27-19 in the House Education and Labor Committee. Whether a health care bill survives the end game in both chambers of Congress in this session is still up in the air. If a bill is finally enacted into law, however, it will be ineffective in remedying the big problems of cost and access to health care. We should be gearing up for an intense effort in 2010 to push for real health care reform–Medicare for All.


Born in 1936, James Ridgeway has been reporting on politics for more than 45 years. He is currently Senior Washington Correspondent for Mother Jones, and recently wrote a blog on the 2008 presidential election for the Guardian online. He previously served as Washington Correspondent for the Village Voice; wrote for Ramparts and The New Republic; and founded and edited two independent newsletters, Hard Times and The Elements.

Ridgeway is the author of 16 books, including The Five Unanswered Questions About 9/11, It’s All for Sale: The Control of Global Resources, and Blood in the Face: The Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, Nazi Skinheads, and the Rise of a New White Culture. He co-directed a companion film to Blood in the Face and a second documentary film, Feed, and has co-produced web videos for GuardianFilms.

Additional information and samples of James Ridgeway’s work can be found on his web site, http://jamesridgeway.net.

This article is republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.



Copyright © 2009 The Baltimore News Network. All rights reserved.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

Baltimore News Network, Inc., sponsor of this web site, is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed in stories posted on this web site are the authors' own.

This story was published on November 7, 2009.
 



Public Service Ads:
Verifiable Voting in Maryland