Friday, November 15, 2013

The Ghost Bill

I'll give President Obama credit where it's due. By ordering the restoration of the cancelled health policies of a couple million Americans suffering from the sticker shock of, say, having to pay for somebody else's pregnancy when they themselves are post-menopausal, he's inadvertently displaying the deep sickness of the for-profit health care system itself. 

And I have to admit, watching Big Insurance Maven Karen Ignagni squirming in the bind that the predatory insurers now find themselves in, over a law that they themselves dictated to Max Baucus for their own sole profit, does evoke the old schadenfreude.

The restoration is just the latest example of the gradual chipping away at Obamacare a little more here, a little more there, until all that's left is a pool full of sick people. As any predator worth his salt will tell you, fresh young healthy meat is preferable to the diseased rejects of the herd.

There's a bill coming up for a vote in Congress today that would permanently restore the hodge-podge of cheap crappy insurance policies as well as those whose premiums are going up in order to comply with such things as pregnancy and mental health care.

But there's another another bill being denied a vote, despite the fact that it has almost 50 co-sponsors.  It's been floating around since 2011, as a matter of fact. It's called H.R. 676. Since it would end Obama's crisis of confidence in just seven short pages, and since it enjoys the bipartisan support of more than 80% of the American people, you'd think it would be welcomed with open arms. It starts out this way:


Eligibility and registration


In general

All individuals residing in the United States (including any territory of the United States) are covered under the Medicare For All Program entitling them to a universal, best quality standard of care. Each such individual shall receive a card with a unique number in the mail. An individual’s Social Security number shall not be used for purposes of registration under this section.


Individuals and families shall receive a Medicare For All Program Card in the mail, after filling out a Medicare For All Program application form at a health care provider. Such application form shall be no more than 2 pages long.


Individuals who present themselves for covered services from a participating provider shall be presumed to be eligible for benefits under this Act, but shall complete an application for benefits in order to receive a Medicare For All Program Card and have payment made for such benefits.   
The bill goes on to explain that Medicare for All covers preventive care, mental health, podiatry, dental care, nutritional counseling, emergency care, vision care, palliative care, medical equipment and prescription drugs. There will be no deductibles or co-pays.... no bronze, silver, gold or platinum plans to perpetuate the class system (a world in which Dick Cheney gets a new heart, but you won't, because you don't have the right health insurance or enough money in the bank.)
And since Medicare for All is non-profit, it would save the taxpayers $592 billion in the first year of operation alone. Everyone would pay according to ability. So what's not to love?
Hint: the richest of the rich, those who own and operate the government of the United States, do not give one crap over whether other people live or die. The greatest good for the greatest number does not apply in the Land of the Free. It's the dogma of I've Got Mine.
Just ask Dick Cheney, out plugging his new book with the chilling title of "Heart." Gwen Ifill of PBS did sort of ask him about his own good fortune of an organ transplant, given that 45 million of his fellow citizens lack insurance, and an estimated 47,000 people a year die because of it. He is definitely worried about this critical situation:
The thing I worry is that, in the rush to Obamacare and the problems that are arising with the program and the Web site and so forth, that there's a real danger here that we will do serious damage to what is the world's best health care system. And I really believe it is.
For example, things such as the device tax, there's provision in the new bill for -- the new law for medical devices to be taxed. That raises serious questions about the ability to continue the pace of innovation and, in effect, to save my life with stents, implantable defibrillators, left ventricular assist device, and so forth.
So, all righty then, we got the selfishness part out of the way. Cheney and his cohort have droit de seigneur when it comes to health care. What is wrong with you people, he fumes, for not realizing that a caste system exists in American medical care?
Well, the care I got in terms of the procedures and the medications and so forth is available to anybody who is in the system.
So I didn't get anything extraordinary there. What happened to me, because, as vice president, obviously, the country has an interest in the health and capability of the president and vice president, that's why there's a thing called the White House medical unit, just like Secret Service protection -- it's a part -- it goes along with the job, but it's not a perk.
It's something that the country has an interest to seeing to it that we keep the president and vice president as healthy as possible.
The rest of you peasants are on your own. Either stay sick, or grab your pitchforks and torches.


Cirze said...

Or die.


Love you, K.

Neil Gillespie said...

Appreciate the information on H.R. 676 Karen, "And since Medicare for All is non-profit, it would save the taxpayers $592 billion in the first year of operation alone." Yes, the health of our Nation and People is too important to turn over to profit-making.

As for "...Americans suffering from the sticker shock of, say, having to pay for somebody else's pregnancy when they themselves are post-menopausal...", sadly too many Americans view the common good this way; they understand their own need for [fill-in-the-blank] but not the need of their neighbor. As you noted, "It's the dogma of I've Got Mine."

Politico reports that Pres. Obama was "personally involved" in making sure members of Congress and their staffs continue to receive their current health insurance subsidies, as they do under the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program.

Wikipedia: "The Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program is a system of "managed competition" through which employee health benefits are provided to civilian government employees and annuitants of the United States government. The government contributes 72% of the weighted average premium of all plans, not to exceed 75% of the premium for any one plan (calculated separately for individual and family coverage).[1]

The FEHB program allows some insurance companies, employee associations, and labor unions to market health insurance plans to governmental employees. The program is administered by the United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM)."

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

I wonder what would happen if it really was each person being on his or her own - including our politicians - to buy health insurance. Dick - who is such a dick he proudly wears the name - would have to pay a lot more and probably would have been dumped by his insurance company (never again able to buy health insurance) if the market were REALLY allowed to run freely and fairly. I say, cut off all those in Congress and the White House and let them buy their insurance on the open market. They might sing a different tune.

Thanks for shining a light on HR 676. Sounds like a subject Moyers should do a show about.

Rose in SE Michigan said...

@Valerie: "Thanks for shining a light on HR 676. Sounds like a subject Moyers should do a show about."

Let's flood Moyers' website with requests for exactly this. I bet he'd respond.

@Nail: You're right, but it won't resonate in America today. The idea of "you pay for my preganacy and I pay for your prostate surgery" just won't fly.

Again, single-payer/universal-contribution is the answer. Which is why it will never happen in America As We Know It.