Dennis Kucinich comments on the impact of the Massachusetts election, the economy and Health Care for all.
We can still have health care reform in America. We need to take a short-term and a longer-term view. On the short-term: We need to take away the antitrust exemption that insurance companies have. We need to make sure, on the short-term, that we can see everyone with a pre-existing condition have access to insurance. There are things that we can do with single-initiatives to help regain the momentum on health care.
And for the longer-term: The answer is “Medicare for All.” The answer was never to continue to give the insurance companies one out of every three dollars in our health care system. We’ll talk more about that later. But what we need to do is regain the initiative in our nation to create millions of jobs putting America back to work rebuilding our roads, our bridges, our water systems, our sewer systems – millions of jobs with an initiative called the Works Green Administration that will help with the design, engineering, manufacture, installation and maintenance of tens of millions in wind and solar micro technologies. We have so many different ways that we can get our economy moving again.
And here’s his whole message:
As is my wont, I am adding Bernie’s weekly video to this site.
What happens when North Dakota Democrats support Single-Payer Health… or at least a Public Option… and let their Senator on the Finance Committee know?
Senator Conrad could end up in big trouble at home… and it is not that big a state in population terms. I wonder when he’s due for reelection?
“Obama keeps turning around and looking for the millions behind him, supporting him, and there’s nobody even standing there, because he chose to take a half measure instead of the full measure that needed to happen. Had he taken the full measure–true single-payer, universal healthcare–I think he’d have millions out there backing him up.”
– Michael Moore interviewed by Naomi Kline in The Nation.
Found this David Lindorff piece on BuzzFlash:
In an article in Sunday’s The New York Times, headlined “Medicare for All? ‘Crazy,’ ‘Socialized’ and Unlikely,” reporter Katherine Q. Seelye did her best to damn the idea of government insurance for all with faint praise.
To begin her article, Seelye quoted from a 2005 episode of the NBC drama “West Wing,” in which two presidential candidates, a Democrat played by Jimmy Smits and a Republican played by the always loveable Alan Alda, are discussing health care reform. The Smits character says his “ideal plan” would be Medicare for all. “That’s crazy,” counters the Alda Republican. Then Seelye segued to an opinion piece recently penned by real-life one-time Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern (a noble figure who nonetheless has long since been typecast as an out-of-touch extreme liberal loser), who favors expansion of Medicare into a national single-payer system.
Turning to the real world, Seelye then trotted out several economists, ostensibly to give a broad spectrum of arguments about the idea of single-payer, but in fact carefully avoiding including anyone who actually supports the idea of expanding Medicare.
As her representative liberal, she quoted Brandeis economist Stuart Altman, an Obama adviser during the presidential campaign, who said that while he is not “ideologically uncomfortable” with expanding Medicare, such a move would be “disruptive.” Going then to what she described as “the other end of the political spectrum,” Seeley quoted Robert E. Moffit of the right-wing Heritage Foundation, who claimed Medicare would mean too much government power over health care.” Finally, seeking what she could call middle ground, Seelye turned to Dartmouth economist Jonathan Skinner, who claimed that expanding Medicare would be good because it would cover everyone, but bad because it would mean tripling the Medicare tax, currently 2.9% of paychecks. If we were looking at a political yardstick here, Seelye started at the 16″ mark (Altman), then went to the 36″ mark (Moffit), and finally went to the 24″ mark (Skinner).
But where was an economist from the real left end of the political spectrum, over in the single digits of that yardstick? Altaman, representing the private insurance-based Obama approach, was hardly it!
Seelye might have gone to her colleague, columnist Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at Princeton, who has on a number of occasions written and stated that a single-payer system such as Medicare for all would be “far cheaper” than any private insurance-based system. Krugman, at least, would be over by the 10″ or 12″ line on a political yardstick.
Never has the Times really analyzed the true costs and benefits of the plan espoused in a bill, HR 676, authored by House Judiciary Chair John Conyers (D-MI), which would expand Medicare to cover every American. Seelye mentions Rep. Conyers’ bill, but says innocently that it is “going nowhere” in the House. In fact, his bill, despite having been co-sponsored by 86 members of the House, has been blocked from getting a public hearing in committee by Nancy Pelosi and the House leadership, at the behest of the Obama White House, which is dead-set against a single-payer reform of health care.
The reason the Times and the insurance industry-besotted White House and Congressional leadership don’t want that analysis is that it would show clearly that a single-payer system would mean vast savings for all Americans.
Seelye quotes economist Skinner as claiming that Medicare expansion to cover every American would mean a tripling of the Medicare payroll tax — currently set at 2.9% of wages. But even if we accepted Skinner’s math, it is meaningless without looking at the savings side.
Sure expanding Medicare would mean higher Medicare taxes, but what about the following:
Medicaid, the program that pays for medical care for the poor, and is funded by federal and state taxes, would be eliminated, saving $400 billion a year.
Veterans’ care, currently running at $100 billion a year, would be eliminated.
Perhaps two-thirds of the $300 billion a year spent by federal, state, and local governments to reimburse hospitals for so-called “charity care” for treatment of people who have no insurance but don’t qualify for Medicaid, would be eliminated.
Individuals and employers would no longer have to pay for private insurance.
Several hundred billion dollars currently spent on paperwork by private insurers would be eliminated.
Car insurance would be cheaper as there would no longer have to be coverage for medical bills.
Federal, state, and local governments would no longer have to pay to insure public employees.
In short, if every person were on Medicare, the overall savings would overwhelm the small increase in the Medicare payroll tax of 5.8%.
The bottom line is that Canadians, who have Medicare for all, devote 10% of GDP to health care. Americans, who have private-insurance-based health care except for the elderly, devote 17% of GDP to health care.
Seelye and the Times have never mentioned any of this. Neither does President Obama or the Democratic Congress.
DAVE LINDORFF is a journalist and sometime carpenter living outside Philadelphia. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006). His work can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net.
I am reprinting this update that Lisa Casey, whose blog All Hat, No Cattle has been on my Blogroll for years, on her Cancer treatment which she has been receiving in Costa Rica rather than at her home in Alabsamas. It is a marvelous summation of the main problem in this country… and why a single payer system for this country would put us in league with the whole rest of the Civilized World.
I reprint it in full:
I saw my oncologist and he says I have Hodgkin’s lymphatic cancer. Stage 2. Chemo/Radiation needed for 6-8 months. Cost $25-30 thousand USD.
I have relisted my home in Alabama. I hope it sells this time. It truly is a matter of life and death, I’m sad to say.
I feel I am getting excellent health care in Costa Rica and at a fraction of the cost. 2 out of 3 of my docs are U of Miami grads, all spoke impeccable English and all spent a great deal of time questioning and examining me.
When my Costa Rican friends heard the cost of my cancer treatment they were shocked and cannot understand why America doesn’t provide free or even affordable public health care. I am so ashamed of my country. I really get pissed listening to this so called health care debate from down here in Costa. I had to leave my country to find an affordable diagnosis and treatment for my sickness. That’s just wrong. I often wonder about other Americans in my same situation.
Pollo, who has been like a son to me, is trying to get me into Costa Rica’s social services network. His uncle works in the records dept there. This service provides low cost everything thru their public hospitals but it’s hard to get in the system (bureaucracy, paperwork is rampant here) Hopefully I can qualify and get even cheaper health care.
In the past six weeks I have traveled to San Jose ( a four hr bus ride thru the mountains on a two lane hwy) four times..that is my only drawback is living so far away. This last time I went alone and it all went quite smoothly. My friends aka the staff at the hotel I stay were waiting for my arrival. My taxi driver, Raul, has been thru this with me from the start and he told me yesterday, “Lisa, I love you and Peggy so much and you should never worry because Costa Rica will take care of you.” And Costa Rica has. Boy, has it ever. Unlike my own country.
So even with the bad news there is so much more good news. High curable rate has a lovely ring to it, don’t you think?
My attitude has been surprising good and continues to be. My doctors say attitude is half the battle. And with friends as yourself I am in a win win situation.
I picked this up reading Preserve Protect and Defend, the blog run by Two Crows.
From Michael Moore’s SICKO: the interview with Anthony “Tony” Neil Wedgwood Benn
“Keeping people hopeless and pessimistic – see I think there are two ways in which people are controlled – first of all frighten people and secondly demoralize them.”
… but I think it is our most important National Problem.
So take a look at this article on the advantage worldwide of Single Payer systems, then ask yourself why we don’t have one. This was from the Washington Post:
5 Myths About Health Care Around the World
By T.R. Reid
Sunday, August 23, 2009
As Americans search for the cure to what ails our health-care system, we’ve overlooked an invaluable source of ideas and solutions: the rest of the world. All the other industrialized democracies have faced problems like ours, yet they’ve found ways to cover everybody — and still spend far less than we do.
I’ve traveled the world from Oslo to Osaka to see how other developed democracies provide health care. Instead of dismissing these models as “socialist,” we could adapt their solutions to fix our problems. To do that, we first have to dispel a few myths about health care abroad:
1. It’s all socialized medicine out there.
Not so. Some countries, such as Britain, New Zealand and Cuba, do provide health care in government hospitals, with the government paying the bills. Others — for instance, Canada and Taiwan — rely on private-sector providers, paid for by government-run insurance. But many wealthy countries — including Germany, the Netherlands, Japan and Switzerland — provide universal coverage using private doctors, private hospitals and private insurance plans.
In some ways, health care is less “socialized” overseas than in the United States. Almost all Americans sign up for government insurance (Medicare) at age 65. In Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, seniors stick with private insurance plans for life. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is one of the planet’s purest examples of government-run health care.
2. Overseas, care is rationed through limited choices or long lines.
Generally, no. Germans can sign up for any of the nation’s 200 private health insurance plans — a broader choice than any American has. If a German doesn’t like her insurance company, she can switch to another, with no increase in premium. The Swiss, too, can choose any insurance plan in the country.
In France and Japan, you don’t get a choice of insurance provider; you have to use the one designated for your company or your industry. But patients can go to any doctor, any hospital, any traditional healer. There are no U.S.-style limits such as “in-network” lists of doctors or “pre-authorization” for surgery. You pick any doctor, you get treatment — and insurance has to pay.
Canadians have their choice of providers. In Austria and Germany, if a doctor diagnoses a person as “stressed,” medical insurance pays for weekends at a health spa.
As for those notorious waiting lists, some countries are indeed plagued by them. Canada makes patients wait weeks or months for nonemergency care, as a way to keep costs down. But studies by the Commonwealth Fund and others report that many nations — Germany, Britain, Austria — outperform the United States on measures such as waiting times for appointments and for elective surgeries.
In Japan, waiting times are so short that most patients don’t bother to make an appointment. One Thursday morning in Tokyo, I called the prestigious orthopedic clinic at Keio University Hospital to schedule a consultation about my aching shoulder. “Why don’t you just drop by?” the receptionist said. That same afternoon, I was in the surgeon’s office. Dr. Nakamichi recommended an operation. “When could we do it?” I asked. The doctor checked his computer and said, “Tomorrow would be pretty difficult. Perhaps some day next week?”
3. Foreign health-care systems are inefficient, bloated bureaucracies.
Much less so than here. It may seem to Americans that U.S.-style free enterprise — private-sector, for-profit health insurance — is naturally the most cost-effective way to pay for health care. But in fact, all the other payment systems are more efficient than ours.
U.S. health insurance companies have the highest administrative costs in the world; they spend roughly 20 cents of every dollar for nonmedical costs, such as paperwork, reviewing claims and marketing. France’s health insurance industry, in contrast, covers everybody and spends about 4 percent on administration. Canada’s universal insurance system, run by government bureaucrats, spends 6 percent on administration. In Taiwan, a leaner version of the Canadian model has administrative costs of 1.5 percent; one year, this figure ballooned to 2 percent, and the opposition parties savaged the government for wasting money.
The world champion at controlling medical costs is Japan, even though its aging population is a profligate consumer of medical care. On average, the Japanese go to the doctor 15 times a year, three times the U.S. rate. They have twice as many MRI scans and X-rays. Quality is high; life expectancy and recovery rates for major diseases are better than in the United States. And yet Japan spends about $3,400 per person annually on health care; the United States spends more than $7,000.
4. Cost controls stifle innovation.
False. The United States is home to groundbreaking medical research, but so are other countries with much lower cost structures. Any American who’s had a hip or knee replacement is standing on French innovation. Deep-brain stimulation to treat depression is a Canadian breakthrough. Many of the wonder drugs promoted endlessly on American television, including Viagra, come from British, Swiss or Japanese labs.
Overseas, strict cost controls actually drive innovation. In the United States, an MRI scan of the neck region costs about $1,500. In Japan, the identical scan costs $98. Under the pressure of cost controls, Japanese researchers found ways to perform the same diagnostic technique for one-fifteenth the American price. (And Japanese labs still make a profit.)
5. Health insurance has to be cruel.
Not really. American health insurance companies routinely reject applicants with a “preexisting condition” — precisely the people most likely to need the insurers’ service. They employ armies of adjusters to deny claims. If a customer is hit by a truck and faces big medical bills, the insurer’s “rescission department” digs through the records looking for grounds to cancel the policy, often while the victim is still in the hospital. The companies say they have to do this stuff to survive in a tough business.
Foreign health insurance companies, in contrast, must accept all applicants, and they can’t cancel as long as you pay your premiums. The plans are required to pay any claim submitted by a doctor or hospital (or health spa), usually within tight time limits. The big Swiss insurer Groupe Mutuel promises to pay all claims within five days. “Our customers love it,” the group’s chief executive told me. The corollary is that everyone is mandated to buy insurance, to give the plans an adequate pool of rate-payers.
The key difference is that foreign health insurance plans exist only to pay people’s medical bills, not to make a profit. The United States is the only developed country that lets insurance companies profit from basic health coverage.
In many ways, foreign health-care models are not really “foreign” to America, because our crazy-quilt health-care system uses elements of all of them. For Native Americans or veterans, we’re Britain: The government provides health care, funding it through general taxes, and patients get no bills. For people who get insurance through their jobs, we’re Germany: Premiums are split between workers and employers, and private insurance plans pay private doctors and hospitals. For people over 65, we’re Canada: Everyone pays premiums for an insurance plan run by the government, and the public plan pays private doctors and hospitals according to a set fee schedule. And for the tens of millions without insurance coverage, we’re Burundi or Burma: In the world’s poor nations, sick people pay out of pocket for medical care; those who can’t pay stay sick or die.
This fragmentation is another reason that we spend more than anybody else and still leave millions without coverage. All the other developed countries have settled on one model for health-care delivery and finance; we’ve blended them all into a costly, confusing bureaucratic mess.
Which, in turn, punctures the most persistent myth of all: that America has “the finest health care” in the world. We don’t. In terms of results, almost all advanced countries have better national health statistics than the United States does. In terms of finance, we force 700,000 Americans into bankruptcy each year because of medical bills. In France, the number of medical bankruptcies is zero. Britain: zero. Japan: zero. Germany: zero.
Given our remarkable medical assets — the best-educated doctors and nurses, the most advanced hospitals, world-class research — the United States could be, and should be, the best in the world. To get there, though, we have to be willing to learn some lessons about health-care administration from the other industrialized democracies.
T.R. Reid, a former Washington Post reporter, is the author of “The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care,” to be published Monday.
I was watching Dr. Robert Ouellet, the President of the Canadian Medical Association, on C-Span’s Morning Edition as he took calls and questions on Canada’s single-payer system. The most important thing he did was blow holes in the myths which are being actively promoted by the Right-wing health opponents. I wish everyone could be watching or listening to this and, if as is the case on Sundays, C-Span reruns this morning’s program on C-Span 3 in the afternoon, then it would be worth catching it and listening.
In connection with this program, I would refer you to a long article I read last night on Truthout, titled “Don’t Get Sick.” by Gail Pellet, a Canadian living in the United States, who makes a detailed defense of Canada’s system and part of the history of how it came about as a result of the work of T. C. (Tommy) Douglas, a Baptist minister turned politician in Saskatchewan (and, interestingly enough, the grandfather of Kiefer Sutherland.)
This from the article:
In 2004, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation conducted a poll to determine whom Canadians thought was the greatest Canadian of all time. It was not Pierre Trudeau, Joni Mitchell, Dan Aykroyd, Leonard Cohen, Margaret Atwood, Lorne Michaels, Oscar Peterson, Peter Jennings, Celine Dion, Neil Young, Keanu Reeves, nor Wayne Gretzky. It wasn’t even Keifer Sutherland or his dad, Donald. No, it was Keifer Sutherland’s grandfather, Tommy Douglas, who is credited with making sure that Canadians would have universal, government-funded health care. When Canadians are periodically polled and asked what they are most proud of, in addition to peacekeeping, it is their national health care system.
The Canadian system is single-payer, however YOU select your doctor (sounds a little like what Obama keeps saying and the Repiglicans keep denying). Ouellet, who is the outgoing President of the CMA, originally spent a great deal of effort to get the Canadian system privatized, until a polling of the country revealed that 85% of the population wanted to improve the public system and had no interest in privatization. He then worked to strengthen the one area that has been called up as weak and that is waiting periods for some procedures in some parts of the country. He points out that these are not that great and in the last couple of years since the 2004 poll have been greatly reduced. It should be noted that NONE of the complaints about waiting periods apply to emergencies or necessary needs of major diseases. As one person on the phone with Ouellet on C-Span said: “If you have cancer, Canada is the best place to be.”
It is problematic that we, as Americans, don’t like to listen to other countries and their successes. We have had the same response to systems in Great Britain and France that we have had to Canada, that is, we are unique, and special, etc.etc. etc…. meanwhile our lives are shorter in length and we are further down on the scale (37th exactly) when compared to the Health Care programs in other countries. This is our peculiar problem, and we suffer for it.
By the way, if you are interested in how Tommy Douglas got Saskatchewan and then the whole country to move toward the program they have now, then you might be interested in a speech he is famous for when he founded the New Democratic Party. It’s called “Mouseland” and this animated video is introduced by Kiefer Sutherland HERE Note… this is not about Health Care, but about political change and, glory be, it applies to us as well.
The original is HERE.
The Weiner Amendment made it through the Waxman committee last night. Pelosi has committed a floor vote on it if it is withdrawn from the Economics and Commerce Committee draft, Now Single-Payer has a guaranteed House vote on the final draft of the bill.
Here’s Waxman to Weiner:
Over 50,000 voter faxes got this to happen. More will have to be done to get the whole House to vote this in. Get on the FAX mailing list HERE.
Top 10 Reasons For Enacting a Single Payer Healthcare System
1. Everybody in, nobody out. Universal means access to healthcare for everyone, period — the desire of 81% of all Californians, as reported in a January, 2007 Field Poll.
2. Portability. Even if you are unemployed, or lose or change your job, your health coverage goes with you.
3. Uniform benefits. No Cadillac plans for the wealthy and Moped plans for everyone else, with high deductibles, limited services, caps on payments for care, and no protection in the event of a catastrophe. One level of comprehensive care no matter what size your wallet.
4. Prevention. By removing financial roadblocks, a single payer system encourages preventive care that lowers an individual’s ultimate cost and pain and suffering when problems are neglected, and societal cost in the over utilization of emergency rooms or the spread of communicable diseases.
5. Choice of physician. Most private plans restrict what doctors, other caregivers, or hospital you can use. Under a single payer system, patients have a choice, and the provider is assured a fair reimbursement.
6. Ending insurance industry interference with care. Caregivers and patients regain the autonomy to make decisions on what’s best for a patient’s health, not what’s dictated by the billing department or the bean counters. No denial of coverage due to pre-existing conditions or cancellation of policies for “unreported” minor health problems.
7. Reducing administrative waste. One third of every health care dollar in California goes for paperwork, such as denying care, and profits, compared to about 3% under Medicare, a single-payer, universal system.
8. Cost savings. A single payer system would produce the savings needed to cover everyone, largely by using existing resources without the waste. Taiwan, shifting from a U.S. healthcare model, adopted a single-payer system in 1995, boosting health coverage from 57% to 97% with little if any increase in overall healthcare spending.
9. Common sense budgeting. The public system sets fair reimbursements applied equally to all providers while assuring all comprehensive and appropriate health care is delivered, and uses its clout to negotiate volume discounts for prescription drugs and medical equipment.
10. Public oversight. The public sets the policies and administers the system, not high priced CEOs meeting in secret and making decisions based on what inflates their compensation packages or stock wealth or company profits.
Print it out… send it around. Use the reasons when you call your Representative.
You comments are appreciated.
You know, I didn’t read the text of last night’s Obama Press Conference until I got back from the gym this afternoon. When I did, I found another quote which belongs on the QotD list:
“I want to cover everybody. Now, the truth is that, unless you have a single-payer system, in which everybody is automatically covered, then you’re probably not going to reach every single individual.”
– President Barack Obama
So, Obama realizes that without a single-payer system there are going to be 2% or 3% of uncovered Americans. That is NOT everybody.
Former CIGNA executive turned Health Care Reform advocate Wendell Potter as reported by Bill Moyers:
“Just about every time there has been significant legislation before Congress, the industry has been able to kill it. Yeah, the status quo works for them. They don’t like to have any regulation forced on them or laws forced on them. They don’t want to have any competition from the federal government, or any additional regulation from the federal government. They say they will accept it. But the behavior is that they will not.”
Think about it. Think about the Repiglicans who are trying to let the health care industry maintain its control. Think about how much we need the federal government involvement just to protect us from the huge profit-monsters that leave us without the health benefits we need.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world: Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”
– Margaret Meade
This was quoted on the web site of Physicians for a National Health Program which represents the 53% of American physicians who support a single-payer system.
If you are a physician and would like to add your name to their growing list, go to http://www.pnhp.org/single_payer_resources/endorse.php and fill in the endorsement form.
The House Committee on Education and Labor voted 25 to 19 to pass Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s amendment to the health care reform bill. This amendment does not alter the federal legislation except to allow states to create single-payer health care systems if they choose to. Whether this will survive the carpentry that goes into the remaining work in the House and the compromises made with the Senate is Unsure.
Interestingly, about half of the approval votes (13) came from committee Republicans, so this WAS a bipartisan amendment.
The unfortunate thing is that this is really the only single-payer initiative that has gone this far… and it is still being fought by the Health Insurance companies and their lobbyists who have a huge financial investment in knocking it out of consideration.
While not making it a Federal requirement, the state proposal gets a foot in the door which could be expanded into later.
I am so thankful for Dr. Howard Dean’s site, Stand With Dr. Dean, because he is doing more than most of our seated politicians to drive the public’s desires right through Congress’ front window!
And if you want to write, call, fax, or e-mail your Representative or Senators he gives you all the information right HERE
391194 of us have signed Dr. Dean’s Universal Healthcare petition… you should,too. Remember: “Any legislation without the choice of a public option is only insurance reform and not the healthcare reform America needs.”
…and why it is NOT Socialism or any other ism that a Repuglican will try to scare you into believing…
Go HERE and get the big picture.
Then call your Representative and Senators and tell them you demand a Single Payer System.
“The success of healthcare reform legislation rises and falls on whether the American public is allowed to opt into a universally available public healthcare program, like Medicare, or not. If Congress issues a bill that gives Americans a public option, then there will be real healthcare reform. If not, we could be back fighting about it for another 20 years before anybody tries again.”
It starts at 1:00 PM.
To get the details, go HERE.
Sponsorship on the House bill (HR 676) is now up to 83. It can be better!
Reprinted from HuffPo:
We Must Stop the Rampant Fraud in the Health Care Industry
As a member of the Senate health committee, one of two Senate panels dealing with health care reform, it has become apparent to me that real health care reform must address the billions of dollars in fraud and abuse that comes from the major corporations in the health care industry.
What we have seen over the last several decades is the systemic fraud perpetrated by private insurance companies, private drug companies, and private for-profit hospitals ripping off the American people and the taxpayers of this country to the tune of many billions of dollars.
The rampant fraud is another reason why our current health care system, dominated by private insurance companies, is the most costly, wasteful, complicated and bureaucratic in the world. Its function is not to provide quality health care, but to make huge profits for those who own the companies. With 1,300 private insurance companies and thousands of different health benefit programs designed to maximize profits, our country spends an incredible 30 percent of each health care dollar on administration and billing, exorbitant CEO compensation packages, advertising, lobbying and campaign contributions. Public programs like Medicare, Medicaid and the VA are administered for much less.
In recent years, not only have we seen massive fraud by the health care industry, but we also have been paying for a huge increase in health care bureaucrats and bill collectors. Over the last three decades, the number of administrative personnel has grown by 25 times the number of physicians. Doctors and nurses in Vermont have described to me in painful detail the amount of time and money they are forced to waste negotiating with insurance companies about how they can treat their patients.
Not surprisingly, while health care costs are soaring, so are the profits of private health insurance companies. From 2003 to 2007, the combined profits of the nation’s major health insurance companies increased by 170 percent. And the top executives in the industry are receiving lavish compensation packages — averaging $14.2 million for the top seven companies.
On top of all of this, a review of court records and other public documents shows that billions more dollars are being lost to fraud and outright corruption. Importantly, this is not the case of “one bad player” acting illegally. This is a situation where fraud appears to me part of the normal business model. It is the rule and not the exception.
There is example after example indicating that virtually all of the major pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies and private hospital chains have been involved in massive health care fraud over the past decade.
Health and Human Services Department investigators earlier this year found that 80 percent of insurance companies participating in the Medicare prescription drug benefit overcharged subscribers and taxpayers by an estimated $4.4 billion.
There also have been major criminal and civil cases against many of the leading corporate health care providers in the country, including:
In 2004, Warner-Lambert, a division of Pfizer Inc., pled guilty to two felonies and agreed to pay $430 million for fraudulently promoting the drug Neurontin.
In 2003, GlaxoSmithKline paid $88 million in civil fines for overcharging Medicaid for its anti-depressant Paxil.
In 1999, Hoffmann-LaRoche paid a $500 million criminal fine for leading a worldwide conspiracy to fix prices for certain vitamins.
In 2009, UnitedHealth, a leading insurance company, paid $350 million to settle lawsuits brought by the American Medical Association and other physician groups for shortchanging consumers and physicians for medical services outside its preferred network.
In 2009, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services barred WellPoint, a major insurance company, from participating in Medicare Part D because WellPoint has “demonstrated a longstanding and persistent failure to comply with CMS’s requirements for proper administration…”
In 2000, the Hospital Corporation of America agreed to pay $745 million to settle civil charges that it systematically defrauded Medicare, Medicaid and other federally-funded health programs.
It is absolutely imperative that real health care reform prevent major insurance companies, drug companies and hospital chains from perpetrating fraud and abuse on government health care programs and individuals, which are driving up health care costs in this country by billions of dollars every single year.
To me, the evidence is overwhelming that we must end the for-profit private insurance company domination of health care in our country and move toward a publicly-funded, single-payer Medicare for All system.
Sen. Bernie Sanders is a member of the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee. You can contact Sen. Sanders by going here.
Please go to http://cotocrew.wordpress.com and read the article by Caitlin McNulty of VenezuelanAnalysis.com.
The more articles I read like this, the more I realize how advanced countries are with single-payer systems and how the AMA and the Insurance Companies and the Pharmaceuticals Companies have been able to use MONEY to keep us pinned against the wall.
Make sure to pass this article on.