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As we move toward a great national "debate" on the merits of whether the United States of America should join the rest of the civilized industrialized world in providing healthcare (NOT health insurance) to all of its citizens, it's important that you know the folks at  AHIP are paid to lie. Yes, lie.

If I were a politician, I'd say AHIP "misleads" us. But I'm not a politician, so I'll just tell you the truth.  AHIP lies.

As Americans, we'd like to believe that people in so-called positions of responsibility feel a sense of duty to be truthful, at least on the margins.  But sadly, we have learned that truth telling is in very short supply in the United States.

Certainly, the for-profit health insurance industry, which I follow quite closely, must lie to stay alive. They must dissemble, it's a fully parasitic industry which does less than zero except take many of our premium dollars and shovel them to Wall Street.

Just so you're clear, I'm not the only one who recognizes that AHIP is lying machine. This organization has only one mission, to maintain the status quo, which means maintaining the death grip of the insurance industry on the healthcare needs of the American people.

Matthew Holt who many believe is the preeminent health policy blogger in the country, often refers to Karen Ignagni as a liar.

Here's a great column from Matthew Holt in TPM

AHIP learns how to lie with surveys

I’m sorry that AHIP (the health insurers trade association) keeps setting itself up as such an easy target. But it keeps on doing it. Today’s fun poll shows how they’re learning to lie with surveys. Here’s how they’re learning.

Step 1: Commission a survey from a Republican polling group who’s mission is to create crappy surveys that can then be released to spread FUD on the public. It’s a step up from the usual Republican tactics of push polling, so give AHIP credit for that.

And Congressman Pete Stark who is a senior member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee and currently the Chairman of its Health Subcommittee, sadly must deal with these thugs on a daily basis. He knows first hand that they lie.


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- "On Friday I sent a press release suggesting that three journalists, Nancy Snyderman and Robert Bazell of NBC News and Susan Dentzer of the PBS' NewsHour, participate in America’s Health Insurance Plans’ (AHIP) Speakers Network," said Stark. "According to these journalists, AHIP and/or the Leading Authorities Speakers Bureau added them to this network without their approval and without their knowledge. I therefore apologize to each for suggesting that they contracted with the insurance lobby."

"Again, my apologies to the three journalists for associating them with this reprehensible lobby. But as is often the case, AHIP’s actions speaker louder than my words. That the insurance lobby would add journalists to their speakers network without approval smacks of the kind of dishonesty they regularly employ. Not only does AHIP lie about health care policy, they also besmirch the reputations of journalists."

Which brings me to the AHIP lies of today. By the way, you know what FUD is?   Fucked up data.

In December AHIP released one of the so-called reports Mathew Holt so beautifuuly debunks, which claimed health insurance premium costs were slowing. A LIE chocked full of FUD (fucked up data).

New Report Shows Slower Premium Growth, But Increasing Pressure to Address Waste in Health Care System

(Washington, DC) – Health insurance premiums have slowed to less than half the growth rate from five years ago, yet higher costs, increased utilization and waste in the health care system continue to fuel underlying health cost increases, a new report released today finds.

Prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) on behalf of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), "The Factors Fueling Rising Healthcare Costs 2008" examines the causes of rising health care costs and analyzes how health insurance premium dollars are being spent.

. . ."Once again PwC’s report demonstrates that we have made strides in lowering costs, but more must be done to make health care more affordable and eliminate waste in the system," said Karen Ignagni, President and CEO of AHIP.  "Today, the AHIP Board put forward specific policies that are designed to reduce future cost increases by more than $500 billion over five years."

An AHIP lie. My premium increased 18.5%, so did my deductible, co-pays and my reimbursement decreased.  All in all, my renewal was a very good day for the insurance industry and a very bleak day for me. Other Americans saw equally horrific increases in cost and reduction in benefits.

Do you know what AHIP means by "waste"?

To AHIP waste is when you go to the doctor because you're sick and heaven forbid the doctor says you need an MRI or something a bit more costly than a generic medication. Every dollar that is spent on your healthcare or mine, means one less dollar for health insurer shareholders and profits.  You and I are waste.  In the jargon of the insurance industry, we are the "loss" part in the infamous  medical loss ratio. For AHIP and the stakeholders it represents, money spent on providing healthcare is a wasted healthcare dollar.

No mention ever, from AHIP of the 31% of very healthcare dollar that is skimmed by the for-profit insurance industry.

Here's what the Washington Post is reporting this morning. I urge you to read the entire article.

A Premium Sucker Punch
Soaring Insurance Costs Are a Blow, Even When Employers Cover More of the Tab

Carter, a technical editor for a District consulting firm and mother of twin boys and a girl, is facing steep increases in out-of-pocket expenses for health coverage this year. What she shells out for premiums and co-pays more than offsets any fuel savings. Her employer picks up 50 percent of the coverage for her family, up from 33 percent a few years ago. But because insurance costs have soared, she says she's actually paying $200 a month more in premiums.

And now we know courtesy of the take-your-breath-away report from  Families USA, that Americans who are losing their jobs in unprecedented numbers cannot afford the back breaking COBRA premiums.

Few laid-off workers keep health insurance, report says

. . .The Commonwealth Fund estimates that the cost of COBRA is four to six times higher than what people pay when they are employed; $4,704 per year for an individual and $12,680 for a family. Live healthy for way less

Erin McCullar, 26, of Birmingham, Alabama, has type 1 diabetes and was laid off from her job as an interior designer in October. At the time, she didn't sign up for COBRA, a decision she now seriously regrets. Overwhelmed, she didn't realize she had a 60 days to sign up for the program and missed the deadline by a couple of days.

"On the day I got laid off I got a packet slapped in front of my face and that was it," she says. "I was just totally in the dark."

She quickly found out that she couldn't get health insurance that would cover her type 1 diabetes, at least without a six-month or year-long waiting period, because it is considered a preexisting condition.

She stockpiled a six-month supply of lifesaving insulin in the two-week period before she lost her job, but since then has scrimped on the drug to make it last longer. At one point, she even disconnected her pump, which delivers a continuous dose of insulin, for about three weeks. She used only a couple of insulin injections in that time to control high blood sugar, a potentially serious threat to her health.

The unaffordability of healthcare is not new news for the American people. The middle class has been bleeding for years.  This is from USA Today in 2004.

As sure as night follows day, we'll be hearing in the next few days or a week from AHIP with more lies misleading reports, complete with tons of FUD.

And I'll end by reminding you that our elected officials avail themselves of the very generous benefits of the FEHBP. They pay 30% of the premiums, the taxpayers--you and I--pick up the balance--70%.

The financing formula for FEHBP is complex – it combines two types of caps on the government contribution: a dollar cap, and a percentage cap. The dollar cap is calculated on the basis of 72% of average premiums, weighted by enrollment among about 280 plans. The percentage cap is 75%, so that no matter what the premium actually is, the government will pay no more than 75% of the premium. For example, if the dollar maximum amounted to 80% of the premium of any given plan, the government would still cap its contribution at 75% regardless of the dollar amount of the weighted average formula.

So, let me dream for a moment.

My monthly premium is $650 a month, if the government picked up 70%, as it does for members of Congress, I'd be paying $195 a month.

What is wrong with us? Why do we tolerate this? If we lived in France we'd be in the streets.

I could really use some help with the extortion I pay every month to maintain my junk insurance. This would be an economic stimulus I think all of us would like until we get single payer.

For starters, all I want is what my Congressman and Senator have.

Originally posted to nyceve on Sun Jan 25, 2009 at 07:52 AM PST.

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