Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mawks & Hawks

Everybody knows that the Republicans are phony deficit hawks, pretending to care about spending only when they are out of power. (see: two unfunded wars, unpaid-for Medicare prescription drug benefit.) They hilariously paint President Obama as a big-spending socialist leading us down the road to financial ruin, even as he accurately points out that he has actually slowed down the rate of government growth.

But despite the fact that only about 15% of Americans point to The Deficit as their primary worry (most sane people declaring that the real national emergency is unemployment) Obama never wastes an opportunity to proclaim that the American People have given him a mandate to cut and grow, slash and invest, whip and woo. He likes to call it the Balanced Approach. I prefer to call it schizophrenia. How do you impose austerity and grow the economy? Paul Krugman writes himself hoarse trying to explain Keynesian economics, while Obama talks himself hoarse insisting that we need to tighten our belts now so that someday in the far-distant future, we can reach The Promised Land of American Feel-Goodism.

The truth is that Obama doesn't care about cutting the deficit any more than Republicans do. Otherwise, he'd be talking up the Public Option Deficit Reduction Act just introduced in the House. Government competition with the health insurance industry would actually reduce the deficit by $100 billion over a decade, say the bill's Democratic sponsors.

Forget about it. Obama would rather spend millions of dollars of taxpayer money for his mawkish "Get Out the Premiums!" campaign designed to sign up hordes of new customers for the profit-bloated insurance maggots to feed upon. He is actually using a former campaign operative and White House PR person to head up the effort, called "Enroll America."

It will be Anne Filipic's job to literally and figuratively go door-to-door in search of millions of uninsured people, convincing them to buy private insurance policies. In a puff piece published today in The Washington Post, she strongly implies that she will use the massive Obama for America database to pick and choose among potential new customers. So, in case you've been wondering how the campaign would use that much-coveted treasure trove of private information -- well, this is apparently it.

And Filipic is blunt about her main goal being that of burnishing Obama's image by selling private insurance to the masses:
 I truly believe there’s nothing more important for the president’s legacy than the number of people this law impacts. What is so exciting is how we can apply other tools, from electoral campaigns and the private sector, to increase the reach.... What I envision first is a lot of data and analytics, using a lot of the microtargetting that has taken off in recent years. there’s some potential to do what electoral campaigns do: Find people who wouldn’t be motivated to take action and inspire them in a way that they do. I think in terms of really building a list of the uninsured across the country. If we know where people live, there’s a real ability to have one-on-one conversations. We’ll be doing a lot of what the private sector does, and what a lot of recent electoral campaigns have done in figuring out how do you build that list and then how do you communicate with those people.
Filipic said she would not be surprised if the same vast  resources that propelled Obama into a second term would be matched by the Sign Up America effort. Since it was a billion-dollar re-election campaign, you have to wonder just how expensive this latest marketing campaign will be. All we're being told is "multi-millions."

 Obama is a shill for the corporate mawks. He just talks the fiscal restraint talk. The true cost of implementing ObamaCare is yet to be calculated. Yet, hiding in plain sight, staring him right in the face, is a bill that would reduce the deficit by $100 billion. Beginning right away. But it's being ignored, because it doesn't put profits over people.

And the profits keep rolling in. The insurance companies are drooling in anticipation of Sign Up America, raising their premiums in some states by double-digit percentages thanks to a convenient loophole in the Affordable Care Act. Corporate TV outlets are drooling in anticipation as well, since the Sign Up America campaign also plans a deluge of mawkish TV commercials. One planned spot involves a mother convincing her 20-something son to buy a policy, because it's the economically patriotic thing to do.

Meanwhile, health care spending growth itself is flattening out. It has nothing to do with people living healthier lifestyles and everything to do with them not being able to afford insurance co-pays, deductibles and pricey doctor visits.

Oh, and we're getting sicker and dying sooner than our counterparts in all other advanced countries. So get out your thin wallets, America, and Sign the Hell Up. The mawks need their meat.

*Update: Please see the comments for Denis Neville's excellent research/reporting on Enroll America. It is even worse than I thought. The already-blurred line between public assets and interests and private profits has pretty much been erased with this initiative. If you were among the millions of people who visited the Obama campaign website this past year or so, and thus were swept up in its secretive database, with such information as your age, medical history, current health status, assets, career history, internet search history, buying habits -- it appears likely that your private info will be shared with the insurance companies as they shill their overpriced and probably shoddy product with the added financial help of the same taxpayers they are already victimizing. If this is the case, I hope some class action lawsuits are filed on behalf of the American people against the government for such a gross violation of their privacy.


Jay - Ottawa said...

“It will be Anne Filipic's job to literally and figuratively go door-to-door in search of millions of uninsured people, convincing them to buy private insurance policies.”

Ha-ha, right. In no time she’ll be as fit as a mail carrier before the Postal Service decided to buy all those modified Jeeps to speed things along, lay off a sizeable chunk of its workforce, and contribute more exhaust fumes to the atmosphere.

Obama will set Filipic straight soon enough. She will not knock on doors from 9 to 5, nor will she be able to hire an army of clerks to do any such thing. For citizens who don’t surrender willingly to ACA he’ll just tell her to hand over directly to the health insurance companies his machine’s “Obama for America database,” supplemented by the eyes and ears of his/our Security State, which will required, in addition to its other surveillance, to round up millions more payers of fat premiums.

One more investment tip for the new year: private health insurance.

4Runner said...

Think I'll opt out of Enroll America---and stick with Rock 'n' Roll America.

Denis Neville said...

Selling private insurance to the masses…it’s not going to be pretty.

Despite previously opposing the health reform law, many health insurers, like pigs at the trough, are lining up to help fund marketing to publicize the [Un-] Affordable Care Act. Enroll America is planning to spend $100 million to help the uninsured get coverage. "We need to develop a culture of coverage," said Paul Markovich, chief operating officer of Blue Shield of California, one of Enroll America's leading members.

The ACA requires that every American find a way to acquire health insurance.

The “culture of coverage” will not guarantee adequate health care and it modifies neither the incentives nor the profit motives of private health insurers.

Given the growing bi-partisan penchant for austerity, how much financial assistance will be provided to help families meet the mandate? Will those subsidies remain adequate as health costs and health insurance premiums continue to rise? What happens when they become inadequate?

What happens when families are faced with the choice of necessary health care or poverty? When the insurer declares that the “normal and standard cost” of care proposed is only half of what the hospital charges? What happens when care prescribed by the physician is deemed to be “experimental” or “unlikely to be effective” according to statistics they have but refuse to disclose? This happened to me when my health insurance denied coverage of an expensive prescribed medical device deemed a “gold standard” treatment for pediatric neuromuscular disease for my son. Didn’t tell the insurer about a forgotten pre-existing condition that now requires costly care? Insurers can still cancel policies citing fraud or intentional misrepresentation as they do now.

“Sorry, nothing personal, its just business.”

The recent Fecal Cliff Aversion Act not only extended and enhanced the generous tax breaks for companies which hire veterans, it also conveniently killed Obamacare’s Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans program meant to promote health insurance competition by funding nonprofit health plans.

Feed the Mawks!

Pearl said...

Nothing is so disheartening as to watch the current deciders of America's future, totally ignoring facts. This is especially true in the health care system and when people say to me, well Obama couldn't possibly obtain a single payer national system in place with all the resistance in Congress,he didn't even try. Never mind that the majority of citizens would have been happy to get a decent health care bill passed (as had been offered by two members of Congress), but to go ahead and make deals with all the private interests while a Republican headed Senate committee made final decisions
with his permission,is contemptible.

No sooner had the health care system started operating, than all the
problems that I and many other informed people foresaw began and with more and more dire predictions coming up about the impossible financial burden of health care costs looming, it is now another recipient of the political surgeon's scalpel.

So we shouldn't be surprised by the continuation of this approach, which
further destabilizes the financial balance between citizens and rewards the private sectors who rake in all they can while they can. It is obvious that it is not a struggle between democrats and republicans, but support of a bloated system that rewards those who have the power to support it.

One wonders what goes through Obama's mind which seems like a giant filter
allowing only his interpretation of America and democracy to access his
mind. He is an ambitious man and I can't help thinking that his vision of
himself for the future involves success and importance over a record of real contribution to the ideals scripted in many parts of the Constitution by clear thinking men. He is making the connections now to ensure his future according to his own script.

I know many things I have said are repetitive but I think we have to be
aware that the current administration is incapable of change and worse
still, lacks the knowledge to keep the train from going off the rails.


"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Denis Neville said...

Carnival hawkers for Enroll America

Ron Pollack of Families USA, chairman of Enroll America’s board, opposed single payer reform and instead supported reform based on private insurance plans.

Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners also rejected single payer reform. Her polling and focus groups pushed “Choice” to promote private insurers, despite the fact that private insurance plans strip choice of health care professionals and institutions.

Both Pollack and Lake exert significant influence in Democratic administrations.

We now have healthcare “reform” based on private insurance plans.

Pollack and Lake formed “Enroll America.” The private health insurance industry is financing “Enroll America.”

Because many uninsured people balked at the cost of the mandatory insurance, even with federal subsidies, Lake Research Partners recommended that “Enroll America” not cite specific dollar amounts when pitching new coverage options to the uninsured. “Talking about ‘free or low cost’ plans may be more motivating.”

Don McCanne MD @ Physicians for a National Health Plan writes:

“Just as they concocted the “Choice” campaign to sell the legislation, they are now concocting the “Free or Low Cost” campaign to sell the uninsured on the new coverage options. When the survey found that many people may balk at the cost of coverage even with the subsidies, Lake recommended that Enroll America not cite specific dollar amounts at all when they talk to the uninsured about new coverage options.

“Can you imagine? Just as they sold the nation on legislation using “Choice” for a program that takes away choice, they now are selling the nation on “Free or Low Cost” plans that the uninsured cannot afford to pay for. What chutzpah!

“Where is the Occupy movement? Maybe we should occupy Enroll America and use it instead to enroll everyone in a single payer national health program – an Improved Medicare for All.

Denis Neville said...

“Once a whore, always a whore.”

Journalists in the service of Pete Peterson, working at Peterson Fiscal Summits, 2010-2012:

Get out that Muckety demented ferris wheel from hell.

“Do remember that dishonesty and cowardice always have to be paid for. Don’t imagine that for years on end you can make yourself the boot-licking propagandist of the Soviet regime, or any other regime, and then suddenly return to mental decency. Once a whore, always a whore.” - George Orwell, As I Please

“There is nothing to fear except the persistent refusal to find out the truth.” - Dorothy Thompson

pete v said...

minor edit (?):

"But it's being ignored, because it doesn't put [people over profits] profits over people."

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks, pete v. Phrase has been duly changed. A blogger who edits herself has a fool for a proof-reader. Or something. Corrections here are always gratefully accepted, in any event!

Outsida said...

For those of you still hoping for the Democratic party to change, take heart, it is changing! Obama has hijacked, pirated, looted, and otherwise engaged in a hostile takeover of the Democratic Party and all those millions of loyal Democratic voters.

Obama is morphing his Obama For America campaign juggernaut into a tax-exempt, non-profit 501(c)4 corporation named Organizing For Action. It will, of course, accept corporate donations, and by law the names of those donors need not be revealed. We will certainly be assured of the usual Obama total transparency, which in Obamaspeak means total secrecy.

So if you wondered why he still seems to be in campaign mode, it's because he is now engaged in a campaign for a third term shadow Presidency. He can hold onto political power for years to come if he plays his cards right with his corporate donors.

ObamActivists unite! We are the ones he's been waiting for!