Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Real Health Care Reform

If it were my decision to make, I would put all the health insurance companies out of business and replace them with a national single payer health care system. No halfway measures.

Right now, there is a furor over Anthem Blue Cross slamming policyholders with as much as 39% rate increases. Are they doing this because they have been losing money? No, they are a subsidiary of WellPoint Inc. which reported a $4.75 billion profit in the last quarter of 2009.

The reason that there are 45 million Americans without health insurance coverage is because the insurance companies have been doing things like this for years, which effectively prices some people out of the market. Others, who have pre-existing conditions, they will not sell policies to at any price.

In the past, insurance companies have thrown out the red herring of claiming that ridiculously high malpractice settlements have forced the rates up. Believe that and you might as well believe that research alone is the reason for the high cost of prescription drugs in this country, not marketing or promotion. Funny how people in other countries can buy those same medications for about half of what we pay.

In the not so distant past, St. Ronnie, the former president and shill for the insurance companies, made propaganda films asserting that a national health care plan was a communist plot.

But national health care plans are what they have in the countries of Scandinavia, Britain, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, and the rest of Europe as well as in the other industrialized nations of the world. Are these all communist countries? Of course not.

Michael Moore's movie Sicko is about our health care system, and I know that there are people who cannot stand him and discount anything he says. I recommend Sicko. It has a lot of heart and contains truth. In that film, you will see an interview with a doctor who was with Humana and quit because she could not reconcile her conscience as someone who was trained and committed to helping heal people with her role in the company which based its rewards on the denial of claims.

I have Humana health insurance. Even if you go to one of the doctors on their list, and the doctor recommends a test or procedure for you, that does not mean that they will pay for it.

So much for the fear mongers who tell us that if we had a national health care plan that we won't be able to have everything we want unless we pay for it out of our own pocket. I have no fear. I already have that kind of coverage from a private company.

All this is not a new wrinkle that just developed recently. It is not a necessary result of modern medicine or modern finance.

When my parents got married, they bought a family health insurance plan. I was born with one leg that was not formed properly, and that required a number of surgeries to correct. My parents had to work out a payment plan with the surgeon in order for me to get my surgeries and they had to pay for it out of their own pocket, my father working two jobs to get the money. Why?

Because the insurance company told my parents that their family health insurance policy did not cover birth defects. My parents, being honest working people who respected authority, took the insurance company's word for it.

Not so long ago, my mother, who is no rabble-rouser, told me that she now knows that if an insurance policy does not specifically exclude something, then that means it is included. But consumer education was not a big thing just after World War 2. I asked her if it was some little podunk company that did that to them. She said that it was one of the big ones, a company that is still around, but she would not tell me the name. She probably didn't want me to name them in one of my blog pieces.

That's OK. I can make my point without knowing their name. And my point is that health care is a necessity, not a luxury. And executives should not be getting rich by denying claims (payment for care), jacking up rates, and refusing to care for those who already have some kind of health problem. Medical debt should not be a leading cause of personal bankruptcy.

The bill that is pending in the senate is crap. It would just let the insurance companies stay in charge of the system. Both the Democrats and the Republicans should be ashamed of themselves for selling out to the lobbyists for the insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

We should do better because we can do better. The health care business exists to treat ill and injured people. There is no other reason for it to exist. Some people seem to have forgotten that. It is time to remember, and make real changes.

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