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If you still need yet another reason to fight like your life depends on it (because it does) for the public option, the data which follows, will undoubtedly re-energize you.

If you take only one action on Monday, please make a call or two for the Whip Count Project!

Here's a link to the  Citizen Whip Count Tool.

The first news item belongs squarely into the "think you're insured, think again" category.

Before I go any further, let me remind you that laying the blame for the collapse of our healthcare system, directly on the shoulders of the Murder by Spreadsheet for-profit insurance industry is a serious no-brainer.  And I'll also remind you again, that unless we fight every day, this industry will remain at the center of the "reformed" U.S. healthcare system.

Here's a link to the  Citizen Whip Count Tool.


Say you've been dutifully paying insurance premiums , month-after-month, year-after-year.  You've been scrimping and saving just to make these outrageous monthly payments. Finally the day comes, when you actually need to file a claim.  You think you'll receive a  reasonable, contractually agreed upon reimbursement, right?  Wrong!

The bastards thieves at Ingenix (a subsidiary of UnitedHealth) are in the news again. They're cooking the books against you and me (are you surprised?) and in favor of the insurance industry.  This unregulated industry is happily scamming the American people out of billions. Here's the tale of larceny and corruption that The Washington Post and every other news organization is reporting.

Senate Panel Hears of Health Insurers' Wrongs
Ex-Insider Testifies to 'Fear Tactics'

Health insurers have forced consumers to pay billions of dollars in medical bills that the insurers themselves should have paid, according to a report released yesterday by the staff of the Senate Commerce Committee.

The report was part of a multi-pronged assault on the credibility of private insurers by Commerce Committee Chairman  John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.). It came at a time when Rockefeller, President Obama and others are seeking to offer a public alternative to private health plans as part of broad health-care reform legislation. Health insurers are doing everything they can to block the public option.

Yet, many of those we elect to  do our business, continue to want to condemn Americans to the lawless tactics of this industry. Equally remarkable, at this very moment,  the political class is working overtime to maintain the status quo, which will leave private insurers at the center of the U.S. healthcare system.

Where I come from, when you discover individuals engaging in blatantly anti-social, lawless activity of the sort the for-profit insurance industry has seamlessly woven into its corporate culture, you get them out of your life. But this is not how the game is played in the United States Senate.


Still not scared?  Still not angry?  Read on.

Uwe Reinhardt is a professor of economcs at Princeton and a renowned healthcare economist.  His blog entry in the New York Times today makes a slam dunk case for a stong public option, available to all Americans on Day One.

Reinhardt asks, Is Health Care Reform Worth $1.6 Trillion?

His answer: You bet it is.

A price tag of $1.6 trillion seems immense if one contemplates the figure in the abstract. It is, however, only about 4 percent of the total cumulative health spending of $40 trillion, the amount government actuaries now project for the decade from 2010 to 2020. That is also less than the 6 to 7 percent that total national health spending has increased each year in the past decade.

And $1.6 trillion is only about 1 percent of the amount of G.D.P. that America can reasonably be expected to produce in the next decade (about $150 trillion to $170 trillion).

That 1 percent would not be lost to G.D.P., of course, because health spending is part of G.D.P. Rather, it would be a diversion of G.D.P. — away from other uses, and toward providing the otherwise uninsured with the peace of mind that comes with health insurance and access to timely health care. It would represent merely a change in the composition of G.D.P.

And what of the politicians? They've proudly set a 1 trillion cap on a ten year healthcare bill which they also say will be fully funded by tax increases, Medicare cuts and new penalties for employers who do not offer health insurance. Amazing how whenever we need to find money for the American people, it's awfully hard to come by.  So we'll just give 'em bare bones junk insurance for nearly all Americans.

When you remove politicians and their agendas (which is to protect the status quo), it's amazing the clarity which miraculously appears.

Like I said, the take home message from Professor Reinhardt is horrifying.

In the past decade, average wages in the United States have grown at about 3 percent per year. With the economy likely to be in the doldrums for years to come, it would be highly optimistic to expect an average growth rate in wages any higher than 3 percent. Most probably it will be lower.

But even at an optimistic 3 percent growth rate in the average gross wage base, a base of $60,000 now will have grown to only to about $80,000 a decade hence. The $36,000 of projected health spending would have to come out of that wage base of $80,000. In other words, health care alone would chew up 44 percent of the wage base that must support such a family.

One can change the assumed growth rates for such a calculation to get slightly different forecasts. But the conclusion for any realistic set of assumptions remains the same: In the coming decade, an ever larger number of middle-class American families will see their household budgets chewed up inexorably and mercilessly by the cost of health care.

Millions upon millions of middle-class families will see themselves pushed into the ranks of the uninsured — and possibly into bankruptcy — unless someone helps them financially. But it is doubtful that it can be done if the 10-year budget cost of the proposed health reform bill is constrained to $1 trillion or less.


Professor Krugman, also of Princeton, agrees with Professor Reinhardt.

. . .Which brings us back to health care. It would be a crushing blow to progressive hopes if Mr. Obama doesn’t succeed in getting some form of universal care through Congress. But even so, reform isn’t worth having if you can only get it on terms so compromised that it’s doomed to fail.

What will determine the success or failure of reform? Above all, the success of reform depends on successful cost control. We really, really don’t want to get into a position a few years from now where premiums are rising rapidly, many Americans are priced out of the insurance market despite government subsidies, and the cost of health care subsidies is a growing strain on the budget.

And that’s why the public plan is an important part of reform: it would help keep costs down through a combination of low overhead and bargaining power. That’s not an abstract hypothesis, it’s a conclusion based on solid experience. Currently, Medicare has much lower administrative costs than private insurance companies, while federal health care programs other than Medicare (which isn’t allowed to bargain over drug prices) pay much less for prescription drugs than non-federal buyers. There’s every reason to believe that a public option could achieve similar savings.

Indeed, the prospects for such savings are precisely what have the opponents of a public plan so terrified. Mr. Obama was right: if they really believed their own rhetoric about government waste and inefficiency, they wouldn’t be so worried that the public option would put private insurers out of business. Behind the boilerplate about big government, rationing and all that lies the real concern: fear that the public plan would succeed.

So Mr. Obama and Democrats in Congress have to hang tough — no more gratuitous giveaways in the attempt to sound reasonable. And reform advocates have to keep up the pressure to stay on track. Yes, the perfect is the enemy of the good; but so is the not-good-enough-to-work. Health reform has to be done right.

So, you think things are in freefall now, you think things are bad now. You believe with all your heart, that things can't possibly get even worse. Fasten your seatbelt, here's the really bad news, you ain't seen anything yet.

Fraud and larceny from the private for-profit insurance industry, and sharply escalating costs, lead to only one rational conclusion.  It's time to banish this industry from the face of the planet, or certainly sideline it to the extent possible. But that's not going to happen.

As I often say, no need to believe me. But take a look at what Wendell Potter,  the whistle-blowing former CIGNA executive has to say about how the insurance industry preys on its vulnerable customers. For starters, they "dump the sick".

Here's a link to the  Citizen Whip Count Tool.

Originally posted to nyceve on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 04:48 PM PDT.

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