Will We Get What We Deserve?

     All Americans deserve affordable healthcare. There should not be children in this country whose parents cannot afford to take them to the doctor. Some families have insurance and still can’t afford to go the doctor. The healthcare industry should be ashamed that there are families that have insurance with a $5000 deductible and $600/mo. premiums, while insurance industry CEO’s make millions of dollars a year. Ron Williams of Aetna, had a total compensation in 2008 of $24,300,112. Does anyone really deserve 24 milliion dollars while children go without healthcare? I don’t think so.
      Now I’m a single-payer guy, I think Medicare for everyone is the way to go. It works for our parents and our grandparents and I don’t hear any complaints that it’s a government program and should be dismantled. I think my parents deserved low cost healthcare in their old age and I’m glad they got it. I don’t hear anyone at the townhall meetings this summer saying we should abandon Medicare because it smells like socialism. 
      In 2008 we voted in the Democrats because we wanted change. But corporate America is going to resist change. When the Congress began to debate a public option that would create competition for the healthcare industry and cost savings for Americans, corporations pushed back. They went into action and mobilized the right wing with money and rhetoric and we sat back while they took control of the debate and killed any effective change. We let them do it. I don’t think we are going to get the change we voted for. Instead I think we a going to get what we deserve. 
      For 20 years as a union steward I fought the apathy of the general membership that believed that once they joined the union, they no longer needed to participate and could go to sleep because the union would fix things. A good example of this is how the union has attempted to use the Internet to strenghten its collective voice. How many of you have joined the IBT email activist list? How many of you send an email to your Congressman when the IBT or your Local asks you too. When our Local tried to set up an email activist list, they got less than 100 participants out of 5000 members. People are lazy and they want someone else to do the work.
      On the healthcare reform issue, the corporations are going to do the work and we are going to pay the bill. We are too lazy to get involved. We won’t stand up and shout out that we want change. We expect our elected President to do it. But his voice is only so loud and when big money shouts him down and we remain silent, then we are going to get what we deserve. I’ve never seen a for-profit corporation that was set up and run for the good of the people. They are in business for profit. Profit before people. 
      If we let corporations run our government, then we are going to get what we deserve and we are going to  get it good and hard.

Op Ed

Published: August 17, 2009

It’s never a contest when the interests of big business are pitted against the public interest. So if we manage to get health care “reform” this time around it will be the kind of reform that benefits the very people who have given us a failed system, and thus made reform so necessary.

Bob Herbert

Forget about a crackdown on price-gouging drug companies and predatory insurance firms. That’s not happening. With the public pretty well confused about what is going on, we’re headed — at best — toward changes that will result in a lot more people getting covered, but that will not control exploding health care costs and will leave industry leaders feeling like they’ve hit the jackpot.

The hope of a government-run insurance option is all but gone. So there will be no effective alternative for consumers in the market for health coverage, which means no competitive pressure for private insurers to rein in premiums and other charges. (Forget about the nonprofit cooperatives. That’s like sending peewee footballers up against the Super Bowl champs.)

Insurance companies are delighted with the way “reform” is unfolding. Think of it: The government is planning to require most uninsured Americans to buy health coverage. Millions of young and healthy individuals will be herded into the industry’s welcoming arms. This is the population the insurers drool over.

This additional business — a gold mine — will more than offset the cost of important new regulations that, among other things, will prevent insurers from denying coverage to applicants with pre-existing conditions or imposing lifetime limits on benefits. Poor people will either be funneled into Medicaid, which will have its eligibility ceiling raised, or will receive a government subsidy to help with the purchase of private insurance.

If the oldest and sickest are on Medicare, and the poorest are on Medicaid, and the young and the healthy are required to purchase private insurance without the option of a competing government-run plan — well, that’s reform the insurance companies can believe in.

And then there are the drug companies. A couple of months ago the Obama administration made a secret and extremely troubling deal with the drug industry’s lobbying arm, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. The lobby agreed to contribute $80 billion in savings over 10 years and to sponsor a multimillion-dollar ad campaign in support of health care reform.

The White House, for its part, agreed not to seek additional savings from the drug companies over those 10 years. This resulted in big grins and high fives at the drug lobby. The White House was rolled. The deal meant that the government’s ability to use its enormous purchasing power to negotiate lower drug prices was off the table.

The $80 billion in savings (in the form of discounts) would apply only to a certain category of Medicare recipients — those who fall into a gap in their drug coverage known as the doughnut hole — and only to brand-name drugs. (Drug industry lobbyists probably chuckled, knowing that some patients would switch from generic drugs to the more expensive brand names in order to get the industry-sponsored discounts.)

To get a sense of how sweet a deal this is for the drug industry, compare its offer of $8 billion in savings a year over 10 years with its annual profits of $300 billion a year. Robert Reich, who served as labor secretary in the Clinton administration, wrote that the deal struck by the Obama White House was very similar to the “deal George W. Bush struck in getting the Medicare drug benefit, and it’s proven a bonanza for the drug industry.”

The bonanza to come would be even larger, he said, “given all the Boomers who will be enrolling in Medicare over the next decade.”

While it is undoubtedly important to bring as many people as possible under the umbrella of health coverage, the way it is being done now does not address what President Obama and so many other advocates have said is a crucial component of reform — bringing the ever-spiraling costs of health care under control. Those costs, we’re told, are hamstringing the U.S. economy, making us less competitive globally and driving up the budget deficit.

Giving consumers the choice of an efficient, nonprofit, government-run insurance plan would have moved us toward real cost control, but that option has gone a-glimmering. The public deserves better. The drug companies, the insurance industry and the rest of the corporate high-rollers have their tentacles all over this so-called reform effort, squeezing it for all it’s worth.

Meanwhile, the public — struggling with the worst economic downturn since the 1930s — is looking on with great anxiety and confusion. If the drug companies and the insurance industry are smiling, it can only mean that the public interest is being left behind.

The Truth About the Public Option

New Poll Shows Tremendous Support for Public Health Care Option

Bernie Horn's picture


Eighty-three percent of Americans favor and only 14 percent oppose “creating a new public health insurance plan that anyone can purchase” according to EBRI, a conservative business research organization. This flatly contradicts conservatives’ loudest attack against President Obama’s plan to provide quality, affordable health care for all.

The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) calls itself “the most authoritative and objective source of information” on the issues of employee retirement and health benefits. Founded in 1978, EBRI says it “is the gold standard for private analysts and decision makers, government policymakers, the media, and the public.” And EBRI is funded by many of the largest corporations in America.

EBRI’s biggest donors include: AT&T, Bank of America, Boeing, General Dynamics, General Mills, IBM, JBMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Northop Grumman, Schering-Plough, Schwab, T.Rowe Price, UBS Financial, and Wal-Mart. EBRI also receives large contributions from the insurance industry, including: Blue Cross Blue Shield, CIGNA, Hartford, Kaiser Permanente, Massachusetts Mutual, Metropolitan Life, Union Labor Life, and UnitedHealth.

Here’s who paid for the poll, as stated by EBRI:

This survey was made possible with support from AARP, American Express, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Buck Consultants, Chevron, Deere & Company, IBM, Mercer, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Principal Financial Group, Schering-Plough Corp., Shell Oil Company, The Commonwealth Fund, and Towers Perrin.

So clearly, no one can accuse this organization of being “liberal” on health care issues.

These findings are from EBRI’s 2009 Health Confidence Survey, their 12th annual poll:

Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose the following:

Creating a new public health insurance plan that anyone can purchase:
• Strongly support—53 percent
• Somewhat support—30 percent
• Somewhat oppose—5 percent
• Strongly oppose—9 percent

Having national rules requiring insurance companies to cover all people, regardless of their health problems:
• Strongly support—55 percent
• Somewhat support—25 percent
• Somewhat oppose—9 percent
• Strongly oppose—9 percent

Expanding government programs, such as Medicare or Medicaid:
• Strongly support—45 percent
• Somewhat support—30 percent
• Somewhat oppose—9 percent
• Strongly oppose—12 percent

Requiring all employers to pay toward subsidized health insurance for employees:
• Strongly support—42 percent
• Somewhat support—33 percent
• Somewhat oppose—10 percent
• Strongly oppose—12 percent

Requiring everyone to participate in some kind of health insurance plan:
• Strongly support—38 percent
• Somewhat support—30 percent
• Somewhat oppose—13 percent
• Strongly oppose—16 percent

Despite clear public support for these provisions—all of which are likely to be in the Democrats’ health care reform legislation—conservatives won’t go along. The biggest battle right now is over the public plan option. As commentator Al Hunt points out:

Although almost half of Americans are already covered by a public health plan, inclusion of a government option is a deal-killer for most Republicans and [some] Democrats…

The Congressional Progressive Caucus says it is a deal-killer if the public option is left out of the health care reform legislation. Get ready for a titanic tug of war.

There was another new health care poll in the news today, this one by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg. Although the specifics aren’t yet released, he talks about his polling in the New Republic. I point it out because it echoes two important points I made last week in a somewhat controversial post called “Why Not Single-Payer?”

I said “About 3/4ths of insured Americans are satisfied with their health insurance.” Greenberg says: “Yet three-quarters are satisfied with their own health insurance.”

I said “When Americans hear about a health care proposal, they immediately think “how is it going to affect me and my family.” That’s their overarching, overwhelming concern.” Greenberg says when Clinton proposed his plan, “people responded personally, working to figure out what it all meant for them—the impact on their family, access to their doctors, dollars and cents, and on everything they’d done to become satisfied with their health care.”

Some readers commented that they simply didn’t believe the polling I cited in “Why Not Single-Payer?” It is natural for all of us—myself included—to seek out polls that support our side and disregard contrary polling results. But please understand that President Obama and progressive health care advocates have access to so much polling on this issue; they are not picking-and-choosing the polls they like. They are making clear-headed decisions in an effort to get the very best health care plan that can possibly be enacted by Congress this year.