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Liberal Opinion Blog. Boston, Massachusetts. Political Democrat, Independent. Debunk Republican Lies, Misinformation

Why No Single Payer…?

The argument goes like this:

(a) President Obama and his supporters did not want to put forward a Single Payer system because it would not be a wise political move. So they came up with the “Public Option” as a kind of middle ground. They hoped people who really want a Single Payer Plan would support the Public Option.

If the Public Option worked out, it could evolve into a Single Payer plan down the road. But if the Public Option fails, then we’ll end up with a better private system because the competition would have made insurance companies perform better.

Everybody wins, right? Except that with such half-baked, appease everybody schemes…nothing ever works out as planned.

It’s like a guy who’s seeing two women, both will get upset and leave (well, maybe).

(b) Moneyed interests like the insurance companies and drug manufacturers.

For instance, there’s an ad that’s been attacking the Health Care Bill (HR 3200) and calling for real reform that puts patients first. According to PBS show – Bill Moyers Journal (May 22, 2009) the group behind the ad calls itself: Conservatives for Patients’ Rights.

Moyers says the group has spent more than a million dollars on ads in the month of May alone. They’ve hired a conservative public relations firm called CRC – the same people behind the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the gang who savaged John Kerry’s service record in Vietnam.

The guy in the ads is Richard L. Scott.

According to Moyers, Scott is an entrepreneur who took over two hospitals in Texas and built the largest health care chain in the world, Columbia/HCA.

In 1997, Scott was fired by the board of directors after the company was caught ripping off the feds and state governments for hundreds of millions of dollars in bogus Medicare and Medicaid payments – the largest such fraud in history.

The company had to cough up nearly 2-billion dollars to get out of the mess. Scott got off (as Moyers put it “scot-free”) and apparently walked away with a 10-million-dollar severance deal and 300-million worth of stock.

Now that’s the kind of real reform that puts patients first!

Insurance companies are businesses and they, like every other business, want to maximize revenue and minimize costs. To do that, don’t expect them to insure every sick person who comes along.

It’s like asking a person whose house was flooded to apply for flood insurance to get money to pay for clean-up! Won’t happen!

Private insurers employ armies of people who come to work just to figure out ways to refuse to pay for sick people…like you and me…when our day comes!

But when the powerful Senate Finance Committee, chaired by democrat Max Baucus (Montana’s senior U.S. Senator) was holding its round table discussions on Health Care Reform, these business interests got to testify.

Groups like The Business Roundtable, The U.S. Chamber Of Commerce and representatives of the insurance industry, including Blue Cross/Blue Shield… They love their huge profits and bonuses. What are they going to say that we don’t already know?

Two guests on the Bill Moyers Journal: Dr. Sidney Wolfe, the acting president of the non-partisan group Public Citizen, teaches internal medicine at Case Western Reserve. Wolfe is also a senior associate in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Johns Hopkins University.

And Dr. David Himmelstein who’s on the faculty at Harvard Medical School. He serves as head of the Division of Social and Community Medicine at Cambridge Hospital, where he practices as an internist.

Dr Wolfe thinks Insurance companies are getting away with the status quo, keeping things as they are, because their power is frightening.

According to Dr. Himmelstein, people are satisfied with their doctor and the hospitals they go to. And most Americans aren’t sick and don’t actually have experience of their health insurance.

But when people get sick, and actually have to use their insurance, that’s when people find out the dark side of the policies they have…huge co-payments, huge deductibles…

He says half of the bankruptcies in the U.S. are medical bankruptcies. And of those medical bankruptcies, three quarters of those people had insurance, at least when they first got sick. But people have insurance that goes away after they actually need it.

Dr. Himmelstein
: Single Payer is what we used to call national health insurance. Government collects the money for health care from taxes, you don’t pay premiums, instead you pay taxes, and government pays all the bills.

Hospitals remain privately owned and operated. Doctors remain mostly in private practice. But their bills go to the government insurance program, just as they do today with Medicare, but we’d be able to streamline the payment system if we had only one payer instead of Medicare being one among many.

So a hospital would get one check a month that pays for the entire operation. And that means you can eliminate the huge billing apparatus of the hospitals and the doctors’ offices where we’re employing many people to do our billing. And fighting with insurance companies…saving billions a year.

DR. Sidney Wolfe: Over the last 30 plus years there have been maybe two and a half, three times more doctors and nurses. Pretty much in proportion with the growth in population. There are 30 times more health administrators.

These people are not doctors. They’re not nurses. They’re not pharmacists. They’re not providing care. Many of them are being paid to deny care. So, they are fighting with the doctors, with the hospitals to see how few bills can be paid.

That’s how the insurance industry thrives by denying care, paying as little out as it can, getting the healthiest patients, and yet getting reimbursed as though these patients were sicker than they really are.

So, it’s a system that is guaranteed to waste a lot of money. And what we’ve said is that the amount of money that’s just being wasted in one year is enough to pay for more than enough of the premiums for those that are uninsured and the people that are underinsured.

According to Moyers, progressive groups like: Labor union SEIU and Families USA (it supports President Obama’s goal of a public health insurance plan to compete with the private sector) also testified before the Senate Finance Committee.

But groups like the California Nurses Association…whose 85 thousand members nationwide were early champions of a single-payer program…were not invited and staged a protest.

So what does Senator Baucus think about Single Payer, even though the plan has significant support, yet remains the one thing that was not on the table at the moment (May)…or now?

BAUCUS: Well, just to be honest, it’s not on the table – the only thing that’s not – because it cannot pass. It just cannot pass. We can’t squander this opportunity. We can’t spend – we can’t waste capital on something that’s just impossible.

Baucus is the third highest recipient of donations from the health insurance and health care industry in general. He’s the highest Democratic recipient. (According to Donna Smith, the top two are republicans).

Smith, a community organizer and legislative advocate for the California Nurses Association, also appeared on the Bill Moyers Journal. She thinks Baucus should have to disclose about those contributions every time he chairs a hearing on Health Care Reform.

PBS/Bill Moyers Journal: (http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/index-flash.html or just pbs.org).

Senator Baucus, I’m NOT anti you. There are MANY congressmen on all sides who are beholden to insurance companies and oil companies and drug companies and aircraft companies and steel companies and Wall Street and auto companies…etc, etc.

Nor am I advocating Single Payer. I’m just wondering WHY it’s getting the silent treatment!

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