Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Saturday, December 19, 2009

No Stone Left Unturned

No Stone Left Unturned
One of the biggest indicators of how much we need health care reform is the extent and costs of the battle that the special interests of the medical-pharmaceutical-industrial complex are waging to kill it.
Theirs’ is a well financed, coordinated, no-holds-barred war, leaving no stone un-turned in their efforts to influence the minds, opinions and votes of politicians and the public.
The extent to which they will go, and the strategies which they employ, know no bounds and exceed the imagination of a trusting, misinformed and distracted public.
Case in point:

Health Insurers Caught Paying Facebook Gamers Virtual Currency To Oppose Reform Bill

(click the above link and then their link to gethealthreformright.org)

As the article says: in a process called ‘astro-turfing,’ or in this instance more appropriately called ‘virtual astro-turfing’, corporations like the insurance industry, or organizations like ‘think-tanks,’ etc., create FAKE (virtual) grassroots movements by paying people to act like political supporters. In this case, it isn’t even real money. It is ‘virtual currency!’
Could it get any more insidious or cynical? If this doesn’t exemplify the extent and depths to which they will go…and doesn’t frighten you…I don’t know what will. What else are they doing below the radar of the public at large?
And, could the public knee-jerk response to virtual crumbs (for an inane computer game, of all things) in exchange for their vote (contrary to their own best interests) be any more pathetic?
If you are not ACTIVELY working to enact health care reform (or reform in other major areas: financial, environmental, etc), you should be.
Once again, it reminds me of Hillel’s aphorism: (on personal responsibility)
Sow the seeds of civil disobedience now!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

That Was Then & This Is Now

That Was Then…And This Is Now

That Was Then:
Republican President Nixon told a press conference in July of 1969: “We face a massive crisis in health care. Unless action is taken within the next two or three years….we will have a breakdown in our medical system.” An article in Fortune magazine at the time, titled “$60 billion crisis” warned that the American health care system stood “on the brink of crisis.” That was when the national health bill was a mere $60 billion. Even so, skyrocketing medical costs were pricing health care out of reach to most Americans, and medical bankruptcies were on the rise.

At the same time (1970’s) articles were revealing that for all the investment in technology, hospitals, medical specialties and sub-specialties, medical-related expenses, etc. health care in America was not as good as health care in most other industrialized countries; i.e.: America had higher rates of infant mortality and lower life expectancy.

And This Is Now:
A Democratic President, Barack Obama, called “health care reform the single most important thing we can do for America's long-term fiscal health. That is a fact.”

What was $60 billion ($1900/second) in health care costs in 1970 ballooned into $230 billion by 1980, $2.6 trillion by 2006 and is anticipated to reach $ 4.3 trillion ($139,000/second) by 2017. The consequences are already catastrophic.

In addition, things have only gotten worse:

More than 50% of all personal bankruptcies are related to medical bills. Every 30 seconds in the United States, someone files for bankruptcy in the aftermath of a serious health problem

America ranks 180th of 224 nations in infant mortality

The only solution:

For decades, Congress has consistently failed to take any effective actions to restrain the uncontrolled and runaway costs of medical care.

The ONLY solution is for Congress to break the virtual monopoly that the insurance-pharmaceutical-medical industrial complex has on health care delivery and re-imbursement.
The only effective way to do this is for Congress to enact health care reform, creating a public option to compete with Big Insurance, erasing Big Insurance’s longstanding and privileged exemption from anti-trust laws.

With each passing day, the economic and political power of the special interests only grows. Any plan that does not include a public option is a failed plan from the inception. And, we cannot afford to fail.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Health Care Is A Sick Business

Health care is a sick business
Imagine an entity that is both amoral and soulless; its guiding precept is profit and growth. This is the foundation of the modern American conglomerate; including those of the health care, pharmaceutical and insurance industries.
Health insurance giant Aetna is planning to force up to 650,000 clients to drop their coverage next year as it seeks to raise additional revenue to meet profit expectations.
In a third-quarter earnings conference call in late October, officials at Aetna announced that in an effort to improve on a less-than-anticipated profit margin in 2009, they would be raising prices on their consumers in 2010…Aetna actually made a profit in 2009 but not at levels that it anticipated.
This is consistent with other insurers as well. In May of 2008, “Wellpoint (one of the nation’s largest private pay health plans) reported less-than-expected profits from the first three months of the year” Angela Braly, President and CEO reported, “We will not sacrifice profitability for membership."

Cutting their rolls, increasing premiums and lowering physician re-imbursement to enhance profit margins…could it be any more obvious that the only insurance business they are in is ensuring profit?

Cutting their rolls and raising premiums will increase the numbers of uninsured, typically the sick and elderly, who in turn, will be added to government-run Medicare and Medicaid programs. If that isn’t socialized medicine, what is?

Even as drug makers promise to support Washington’s health care overhaul by shaving $8 billion a year off the nation’s drug costs after the legislation takes effect, the industry has been raising its prices at the fastest rate in years.
In the last year, the industry has raised the wholesale prices of brand-name prescription drugs by about 9 percent, according to industry analysts. That will add more than $10 billion to the nation’s drug bill, which is on track to exceed $300 billion this year. By at least one analysis, it is the highest annual rate of inflation for drug prices since 1992.”
Wow, what a concession: raising prices by more than $10 billion, conceding $8 billion, on their way to $300 billion annually, and growing!
In addition, David Brennan, head of pharma giant AstraZeneca, when asked if he would oppose reform said: "We said there were principles we didn't want to see violated. And if those principles -- price controls, Medicare rebates, moving dual eligibles back from Medicare and back into the Medicaid discount program -- if those things happen, I can't see how we could be supportive of the program."
In short, if health care reform does not guarantee increasing profit margins and growth, BigPharma will oppose it.
By 2017, health care costs are projected to reach $4.3 trillion dollars; an astounding $138,890 per second!! Don’t forget; what you and I call health care costs, the medical-pharmaceutical-insurance industrial complex call profit, projected growth and earnings.
It is precisely this profit oriented approach to health care that has created and drives both, the disease crisis and its subsequent disease-care financial crisis in America.
At the current rate of increase, the cost of family insurance will reach twenty-seven thousand dollars or more in a decade, taking more than a fifth of every dollar that people earn. Businesses will see their health-coverage expenses rise from ten per cent of total labor costs to seventeen per cent. Health-care spending will essentially devour all our future wage increases and economic growth. State budget costs for health care will more than double, and Medicare will run out of money in just eight years. The cost problem, people have come to realize, threatens not just our prosperity but our solvency.”

Without reform the only thing that will alter this course is its obvious and anticipated collapse, as happened on Wall Street.
Does anyone really still believe we don’t need reform? If so, what have you got to offer that can save us?