‘_Medicare Advantage_ a misnomer | The Journal Gazette

Taxpayers foot bill for private insurance to inadequately cover seniors’ health care

Jonathan D. Walker

America has a split personality when it comes to health care. There is recognition that the government has to provide care for the people, but there is a conflicting sense that private industry has to be involved because it can somehow be more efficient. Medicare Advantage is the upshot of this thinking – but the result has been a lot of taxpayer dollars wasted on windfall payouts to private insurance companies.

With Medicare Advantage, the government is basically paying private insurance companies more money to do what Medicare could be doing more cheaply and more efficiently in the first place – if we as citizens asked it to. A lot of this extra money is not used to help the people Medicare is supposed to be helping.

via ‘_Medicare Advantage_ a misnomer | The Journal Gazette.

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Hoosiers for a Commonsense Health Plan

Hoosiers for a Commonsense Health Plan.

The employer-based health care system is failing and is adversely affecting the public health, as well as the financial wellbeing of private industry and the nation’s position as a global economic superpower. Health care policy and public health experts are increasingly calling for major health care reform and an end to the incremental changes in the for-profit, market-driven sector of our health care economy.

Largely because of health care costs, businesses large and small are experiencing such severe financial difficulties that they are both discontinuing or minimizing benefits and outsourcing or changing the nature of their labor forces toward either minimum wage or part-time employment. Simultaneously, wages have stagnated and personal private health insurance is unaffordable for most. Indeed, half of our nation’s uninsured are employed full time, and the number of uninsured now exceeds forty-five million. More than eight hundred thousand Hoosiers lack coverage.

The nation now spends close to fifteen percent of its GDP on health care and spends twice as much per capita as any other nation. Despite our high rate of spending, measures of public health indicate that our health is worse than health in other industrialized countries. Administrative costs in health care simply to handle private insurance divert hundreds of billions of dollars annually from the direct provision of health care. The private health insurance industry routinely experiences inflation of three to four times the general rate, enjoys huge profit margins, discriminates against the sick and minorities, and adds no value to the health care sector. Economists agree that these trends are unsustainable. We concur and maintain that, in the absence of major federal reform, Indiana must seriously examine alternatives.

The top health stories of 2008 – CNN.com

Health care reform

In a period of economic uncertainty, record rates of unemployment and the turbulent economy have left many American families without health insurance, propelling the issue of health care reform into the historic presidential race.

During the campaign, Sen. John McCain and now President-elect Barack Obama acknowledged the flaws of the U.S. health care system but varied in ideas to fix it.

Obama has said expanding access to health insurance is one of his top priorities. He chose former Sen. Tom Daschle, who believes in universal health care, to lead the Department of Health and Human Services.

via The top health stories of 2008 – CNN.com.

Hchp’s Weblog › Tools — WordPress

Hchp’s Weblog › Tools — WordPress.

Is single payer healthcare reform too radical a step for America to take?

Tell MoveOn it is the right step.

“If you bend your back, people will ride your back.“- Taylor Rogers, retired Memphis Sanitation Department worker

There is a vigorous debate among those who agree that the US must move toward universal health insurance coverage, but disagree on how to get there. Health Care for America Now (HCAN) has pushed forward with a plan remarkably similar to that proposed by Barak Obama. It is based on the premise that the most politically feasible path forward requires giving Americans the choice between keeping their current insurance, or buying into a government sponsored plan based somehow on the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, like members of Congress have.

Obama used to be a single payer advocate, and more than once has said that in the ideal world, single payer health insurance would be the best system possible, but given current political reality his plan is the best way to go. There are articulate voices arguing that the Obama-HCAN plan would be a strong step toward single payer. And there are others who argue that Obama and HCAN are simply afraid of the power of the insurance industry and their well-funded lobbyists.

If single payer is the ideal plan, then why compromise before we’ve even sat down at the negotiating table? I’m reminded of a piece NPR did on the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination. They interviewed two of the sanitation workers on whose behalf Dr King had gone to Memphis. Mr. Taylor Rogers was one of those men, and he recalled how bad the working conditions were, and how inspired they were by the words of Dr. King. He explained how thirteen hundred sanitation workers decided they werent going to take it any more. You know, if you bend your back, people will ride your back. But if you stand up straight, people can’t ride your back. So that’s what we did. We just stood up straight.

I went to medical school 35 years ago to learn how to take care of sick people, and that’s what I still do. I serve the sick and the suffering. I love my work, but I hate how I’m paid. The cost shifting, the complicated crazy undecipherable bills, the lives ruined by my unpaid bills turned over to collections, and on and on. The insurance industry, on the other hand, is here to serve its shareholders, not its customers. It takes money in the form of premiums from the healthy, and in order to make a profit, it must put all its ingenuity and guile into not paying for the care of the sick. That’s how they are profitable, take in money as premiums, but find ways to not pay it back out for health care. I am completely at odds with that. I want to take care of the sick, and they want to avoid taking care of them.

The sins of the insurance industry are well documented, and I don’t need to recount them here. Our entire system has become distorted, inefficient, and administratively bloated, and the reason is as simple as this: Americans want the sick to get taken care of, and the private insurance industry doesn’t want to take care of them. The insurance companies are the problem. They are not going to be a helpful part of the solution, but the HCAN plan protects them. And yet they are collapsing as our bloated system collapses. The for-profit insurance industry is like a dinosaur stumbling toward a tar pit. Let them go.

On the other hand, we have over forty years experience with a universal single payer system. It’s called Medicare, and although not perfect, it works very well. It already takes care of our sickest and most expensive patients, folks over age 65. Medicare is very popular. Medicare runs at about 3% overhead, compared with 15-30% overhead with private insurance. Expanding Medicare to cover everyone can hardly be called radical. It,s the most commonsense idea on the table.

As we seek our way forward, let’s hold our heads high and our backs straight. Who can foresee what compromises may have to be made to bring about true universal health care in America, but let’s start our with a clear voice: We want the best health care system in the world! We can have the best. If we walk into the room already compromised and bent over, they will climb on and ride. Stand tall, America. Medicare for All.

Health care summit brings together providers, patients, candidate staffers Jennifer Boen, The News-Sentinel

Article published Sep 25, 2008 Health care summit brings together providers, patients, candidate staffers Jennifer Boen, The News-Sentinel A number of experts who spoke at Wednesday’s health care summit at the downtown library touted the benefits of a system that guarantees people who pay a set amount access to care. America is the only developed country where you have to worry about getting sick and going bankrupt at the same time,  said Dr. Jon Walker of Fort Wayne.  You are one diagnosis away from bankruptcy,  said the retinal surgeon, a member of Hoosiers for a Commonsense Health Plan. According to the journal Health Affairs, 51 percent of bankruptcies in 2005 were related to medical expenses. The summit, organized by the local grassroots advocacy group Public 1, drew less than a handful of people from the general public but featured representatives from both presidential candidates’ campaign staffs, as well as community health care providers serving the uninsured or underinsured. Co-organizer Dan Jehl said the summit will air on public-access TV in the near future. With more than 800,000 uninsured Hoosiers and nearly 22,000 people in the U.S. dying each year because they cannot get health care, Walker said it is obvious the employer-sponsored system is broken. Despite spending more on health care per capita than any developed country in the world, mortality rates and life expectancies lag behind Canada, Germany, Japan and many other countries. The consumer health group Families USA released a report Tuesday showing Indiana health care insurance premiums have risen 7.3 times faster than earnings between 2000 and 2007. Walker contended the root is greed among investor-owned companies, pharmaceutical marketing, cost-shifting to the insured to cover the uninsured and heavy administrative costs. More than 30 percent of all health care dollars are administrative costs. Julia Vaughn, a health care consultant for Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, called the current system an ineffective mishmash of different systems.  Nobody ever sat down and created the U.S. health care system. We don’t need to spend more on health care. We need to take the system and turn it into a single-payer system.  That could happen if proposed legislation before Congress becomes law. Such a system  think Medicare  for all legal U.S. residents would initially save taxpayers $200 billion, with more savings coming from the ability to negotiate prices for drugs and doctors’ and hospitals’ fees, she said. Although individual taxes would increase about 3.5 percent, people would see an annual savings of at least $1,400 a year. The average family now pays about $12,000 a year in insurance premiums. There is no one single, silver bullet that’s going to be the answer to fix the health care system,  said State Health Commissioner Dr. Judy Monroe.