Obamacare is anti-choice, anti-consumer and anti-patient. Obamacare forces Americans to buy insurance, yet still allows premiums and deductibles be controlled by insurance companies that can freely raise rates. Then, if Americans refuse to buy (or can’t afford) the insurance, the IRS will come after them to collect penalties on their income.
Insurance companies are the real winners in Obamacare. Their objections to the plan have been coy and tepid because insurance company executives know that Obamacare’s forced mandates will not only fill their coffers — the companies anticipate at least $500 billion revenue in the next 10 years, including subsidies from Medicare (!) — but also give them control over pricing. Oh sure. Obama met with insurance executives this past week to plead with them to control rate increases, but all he can do is beg since he’s already in bed with them.
Progressives who truly care about real health care reform are as appalled by this plan as the rest of us.
On Friday night, Bill Moyer interviewed single-payer advocate Dr. Marcia Angell, the first woman editor-in-chief of The New England Journal of Medicine and a senior lecturer at Harvard University Medical School. Dr. Angell hammers Obama’s plan for caving into — and enriching — the insurance and pharmaceutical companies:
BILL MOYERS: So, has President Obama been fighting as hard as you wished?
MARCIA ANGELL: Fighting for the wrong things and too little, too late. He gave away the store at the very beginning by compromising. Not just compromising, but caving in to the commercial insurance industry and the pharmaceutical industry. And then he stood back for months while the thing just fell apart. Now he’s fighting, but he’s fighting for something that shouldn’t pass. Won’t pass and shouldn’t pass.
What this bill does is not only permit the commercial insurance industry to remain in place, but it actually expands and cements their position as the lynchpin of health care reform. And these companies they profit by denying health care, not providing health care. And they will be able to charge whatever they like. So if they’re regulated in some way and it cuts into their profits, all they have to do is just raise their premiums. And they’ll do that.
Not only does it keep them in place, but it pours about 500 billion dollars of public money into these companies over 10 years. And it mandates that people buy these companies’ products for whatever they charge. Now that’s a recipe for the growth in health care costs, not only to continue, but to skyrocket, to grow even faster.
We all know that the current situation is bad, and that’s an argument Obama et al. use to urge the passage of Obamacare. The problem is that Obamacare will make things worse, according to Dr. Angell:
[I]f you look at it as a matter of policy, the President’s absolutely right that the status quo is awful. If we do nothing, costs will continue to go up. People will continue to lose their coverage. Employers are dropping health benefits. Things will get very bad. The issue is will this bill make them better or worse? And I believe it will make it worse.
MARCIA ANGELL: The government part of that. So if they can save money in Medicare, then they come out ahead, no matter what happens out in the private sector. And so that’s what he’s talking about. It will take money out of Medicare and put it into the private sector. Medicare is the source for a lot of the funds that are going to go to subsidize the private health insurance industry. So that’s the first thing. The second thing is the CBO has to build in assumptions. And those assumptions are arguable, to put it mildly.
And as far as cost-cutting, there are sort of promissory notes. ‘We’ll get a committee to look at the cost of effectiveness, of various medical procedures.’
BILL MOYERS: Well, you remind me 45 thousand people, as Wendell Potter said earlier, die every year for lack of health insurance. That should be– they’re–
MARCIA ANGELL: It’s not lack of health insurance. It’s lack of health care. There is a difference between health insurance and health care. You can have insurance offered that is too expensive to buy or too expensive to use. What good does it do? And what happens when this occurs, is that what you see is instead of improvements, look at my state of Massachusetts.
Instead of seeing improvements, you see it shredded even further. You see more people denied access anyway. Now they’re about, I think over 60 thousand people in my state who are exempted from the plan for financial hardship and this is also in the Obama plan. If you’re really poor, you don’t have to participate, and these are the very people who should be in a plan to cover them.
BILL MOYERS: But, the very poor do get Medicaid.
MARCIA ANGELL: Yes, yes. And one of the things about the Obama plan that I do like is that it expands Medicaid up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level and that’s fine. The problem is that could have been a stand alone measure. You didn’t need to have it incorporated in this massive Rube Goldberg apparatus.
BILL MOYERS: Is there anything else in there you like, in the Obama plan?
MARCIA ANGELL: Oh yeah. I mean–
BILL MOYERS: What?
MARCIA ANGELL: First of all, the intention is very good. The expansion of Medicaid is very good. Raising the age of dependents to 26, and saying that they have to be covered under parents’ plans. I think that’s very good. Looking at the cost-effectiveness of various procedures is a good thing to do in its own right.
So yes, there are things in it. But the bill as a whole, the more I look at it, the worse it gets. It’s going to increase costs, not decrease them. And it’s going to increase the rate of growth. It’s not going to bend the curve, except in Medicare.
I think in order to look at a reform and to measure a reform, you have to look at the problem it’s designed to answer. You have to look at what’s wrong with our system, in order to evaluate a reform. You have to ask yourself, “Why is it that we spent over twice as much per person on health care and yet don’t manage to cover everyone?” … Read all or view the video of the interview
In December, in “
10 11 Reasons to Kill the Senate Bill , I posted progressive Jane Hamsher’s strong objections, among them:
- Forces you to pay up to 8% of your income to private insurance corporations — whether you want to or not.
- If you refuse to buy the insurance, you’ll have to pay penalties of up to 2% of your annual income to the IRS.
- Many will be forced to buy poor-quality insurance they can’t afford to use, with $11,900 in annual out-of-pocket expenses over and above their annual premiums. …
True progressives get that this is a disastrous plan. So do we.
Even the good parts of the bill fail on closer inspection. For example, Obama likes to stress his bill does away with the “donut hole” that Medicare patients endure every year when their prescription costs hit an arbitrary amount. Many seniors have to take expensive drugs that, come August or September, suddenly cost them thousands per month, rather than a reasonable co-pay. What is Obama’s fix for this? A $250 check to those seniors who hit the donut hole. Hell. $250 will barely cover the costs of part of one month for these drugs. $250 is an improvement over receiving nothing, but it does NOT begin to eliminate the terrible burden of the donut hole, as Obama has claimed. It’s a band-aid on a gaping wound that allows prescription drug insurance companies to escape having to provide coverage for most seniors for part of every year.
The insurance companies are the clear winners. Check out Dr. Angell’s remarks at the end of the interview:
MARCIA ANGELL: No, no. If you take out the mandate, then the private insurance industry says, “No, we’re out of here.” This Congress will do what the private insurance industry wants it to do. If you look at the money that has flowed into Congress over the last year, and particular to people who were crafting this bill, you can see that the pay masters get what they want.
And Americans get? Oh, just another bill they can’t afford to pay, higher premiums, larger co-pays, and the threat of the IRS coming after them if they can’t afford the forced health insurance.