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Healthcare Insurers Get The Upper Hand: Part 2

Posted Sep 02 2009 5:50pm

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

There is good reason for the negative approval rating polls of the congress and the President. They have proven over and over again what they tell us is not what they mean. The public does not trust the Congress or Senate. The public is starting to mistrust President Obama. I suggest he not say trust me anymore. He needs to give the public reason to trust him.

The healthcare insurance industry has little desire to repair the healthcare system. It wants want the healthcare system to generate increased revenue and profits.

In the first half of 2009, the health service and HMO sector spent nearly $35 million lobbying Congress, the White House and federal healthcare offices, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.”

The healthcare lobbying effort has been extremely profitable for healthcare lobbyists. President Obama had promised to decrease the influence of lobbyists.

 
“With more than 900 lobbyists, that sector -- whose top spenders are insurance giants UnitedHealth, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Aetna -- was poised to spend more than in 2008, a record lobbying year.”

President Obama promised America a change. The president’s directives against lobbyists were among his first official acts. His stated goal was to make government more open and accountable to the public.

“We are here as public servants, and public service is a privilege,” Obama said, addressing his White House staff and Cabinet on his first full day in office. “It’s not about advancing yourself or your corporate clients.”

Tom Daschle is an unregistered and highly paid lobbyist. He is President Obama’s go to man for healthcare reform. Yet he is a consultant for a lobbying firm Alston & Bird whose clients are the healthcare insurance giants like UnitedHealth and hospital associations.

President Obama said; “We need to close the revolving door that lets lobbyists come into government freely and lets them use their time in public service” to promote their own interests when they leave.”

The public does not forget Presidential candidate’s promises. They have recognized the contradictions in President Obama’s actions. His actions only lead to the public’s increasing cynicism and mistrust in him and his administration. There is great public hesitation to trust the government to take care of their healthcare needs.

 

“T he LA Times article that the "change" being supported by the White House is going to make the for-profit companies fatter and wealthier at the expense of a healthcare system bloated by the excessive administrative, profits, and grossly high salaries of the health insurance and drug companies.”

The public protests are not only about the public option. They are about the government offering “affordable” public insurance to all. An entitlement the government cannot afford. The protests are about the control over our freedom of choice.

The healthcare insurance industry will make more money when the insurance pool is increased. The government will subsidize all policies to keep the price “affordable”. The healthcare insurance industry’s profit will increase. President Obama will raise taxes and inflate the economy.

“Undermining support for the public option wasn't the only gain scored by insurance lobbyists.

Public option was a diversion by the healthcare insurance industry. Its purpose was to frighten and distract the public from the healthcare industry’s other goals. The healthcare lobbyists have made deals with congress and the President. The deals are not transparent.

“In May, the Senate Finance Committee discussed requiring that insurers reimburse at least 76% of policyholders' medical costs under their most affordable plans. Now the committee is considering setting that rate as low as 65%, m eaning insurers would be required to cover just about two-thirds of patients' healthcare bills. According to a committee aide, the change was being considered so that companies could hold down premiums for the policies.”

You bet. President Obama promised to provide affordable premiums. He also promised to regulate the healthcare insurance industry. The terms are favorable to the healthcare insurance industry and not favorable to consumers. President Obama has said nothing about the increase in out of pocket expenses.

“Most group health plans cover 80% to 90% or more of a policyholder's medical bills, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service. Industry officials urged that the government set the floor lower so insurers could provide flexible, more affordable plans.”

The healthcare insurance industry is going to get its wishes. Healthcare insurance premiums might be more affordable but out of pocket expenses will be higher.

 
"It is vital that individuals, families and small-business owners have the flexibility to choose an affordable coverage option that best meets their needs," said Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for America's Health Insurance Plans, the industry's Washington-based lobbying shop.”

Isn’t that disingenuous? The greater tragedy is our representatives are going to approve the change in the deductibles. President Obama will call it a victory for healthcare reform. The Democratic party’s goal is to ultimately have a single party payer system.

Who is roping which dope? Who is the dope? The government thinks it is manipulating the healthcare insurance industry. The healthcare insurance industry thinks it is manipulating the government.

The net result is they are both manipulating consumers of healthcare. Consumers will get less healthcare coverage at greater out of pocket expense and higher taxes. The American consumer is the dope.

“Consumer advocates argue that a lower government minimum might quickly become the industry standard, placing a greater financial burden on patients and their families.”

"These are a bad deal for consumers," said J. Robert Hunter, a former Texas insurance commissioner who works with the Consumer Federation of America.”

Consumer advocates have seen through the charade. However they do not have enough money and consumer support to make others aware of what is going on behind the scenes. AARP is not providing awareness. Consumers know they have been promised transparency by President Obama but they have seen little transparency.

" They have beaten us six ways to Sunday," said Gerald Shea of the AFL-CIO. "Any time we want to make a small change to provide cost relief, they find a way to make it more profitable."


Meanwhile, companies would probably see a benefit by providing less insurance "per premium dollar," Hunter said.
Taxpayers do not want more government control over their lives and freedoms. They do not trust government to do things efficiently. Recent experience has confirmed consumer distrust. One only has to look at the inefficiencies in the bank bailouts, the economic stimulus package, the two wars, and the mounting deficits. All theses inefficiencies are at the taxpayers’ expense.

It is time for consumers to take over and demand control of their healthcare dollars and their own healthcare decisions no matter what socioeconomic level they are in.

The government’s role should be to encourage and incentivize consumers to pursue a path toward better health without permitting them to be taken advantage of by the other stakeholders. This will be the only way to control healthcare costs.

The opinions expressed in the blog “Repairing The Healthcare System” are, mine and mine alone.

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