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blindpig Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 11:18 AM
Original message
Defending the profits of the health care industry
On Thursday, President Barack Obama hosted a White House Forum on Health Reform. The gathering of politicians, health care industry lobbyists and reform advocates produced no concrete policy proposals. Rather, it advanced broad "guidelines" for reform, all tailored to protect the profits of the major insurance companies, pharmaceuticals and health and medical organizations (HMOs).

The US has the worst functioning health care system of any advanced capitalist country. Currently, nearly 50 million Americans, or one in six, are without health insurance, and a majority of the population carries on with either inadequate or unaffordable insurance plans. Americans pay more per capita for health care than residents of other developed countries, yet generally see worse results. Between private and government spending, health care consumes well over $2 trillion annually. In large measure this money does not go toward providing services, but to line the pockets of health industry CEOs and investors.

The gathering was emblematic of the fraudulent character of Obama's "change." While he ran for the presidency on a promise to "overhaul" the health care system and vastly extend medical coverage, his Forum on Health Reform provided a venue for the major health industry interests to dictate terms for future legislation. Behind Obama's claims of "bipartisanship" and gaining cooperation from all interested parties is a simple reality. His health care reform, like his administration as a whole, will serve the interests of the financial elite.

This message was received by industry representatives and lobbyists, who expressed satisfaction with the forum. Among these were Karen Ignani, president of America's Health Insurance Plans, Rich Umbdenstock of the American Hospital Association, the CEO of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Jeff Kindler, and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America head Billy Tauzin.

In an article entitled "In Health Plan, Industry Sees Good Business," the Washington Post quoted a pleased Tauzin. "This is a great start," he said. "There are things we don't like about it. But there's time to discuss all that."

Also on board is Chip Kahn, president of the Federation of American Hospital Systems. In 1993, Kahn played a role in crafting the media campaign that helped to turn decisive sections of the ruling class against President Bill Clinton's modest health care reform proposals.

The Wall Street Journal approvingly noted Obama's retreat from the Clinton years. "The very groupsand in some cases, the very peoplewho were instrumental in blocking the Clinton plan were at the White House on Thursday, vowing to make it happen this time around," it wrote.

Obama did make clear, however, that he intends to retreat from his broader campaign promises on health care. "During the campaign," he said, "I put forward a plan for health care reform. I thought it was an excellent plan. But I don't presume that it was a perfect plan or that it was the best possible plan."

Among these promises was a plan to create a public health insurance provider that would compete with private insurers. This has provoked the ire of the health care industry. In the lead-up to the forum it also drew a warning from five leading Republican senators, including minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Writing to Obama, they warned that a public health provider, even one based on consumer payments, would chase private insurers from the market. "It would create an unlevel playing field and inevitably doom true competition," the senators wrote. "Ultimately we would be left with a single government-run program controlling all of the market."

Buckling under this rebuke, Obama all but promised to abandon the scheme. "I recognize the fear that if a public option is run through Washington," he said, "private insurance plans might end up feeling overwhelmed."

Obama had originally proposed paying for his health care proposals by closing tax loopholes on the richest Americans. This plan raised objections from powerful senate Democrats, among them Max Baucus, Finance Committee Chair. At a budget hearing on Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner indicated Obama would drop the plan.

In the hearings, Baucus protested that closing tax shields for the rich "has nothing to do with health care." To which Geithner responded, "We recognize there are other ways to do this."

To be sure, there are sections of the ruling class that favor changing the health care system. US manufacturing, for example the auto industry, is unable to meet the spiraling costs of health care benefits that workers won from the Big Three in an earlier era. The auto industry would now welcome a publicly run system that would relieve it of these obligations.

Yet the health care industry is a powerful force in the ruling class, closely tied to finance capital through the insurance industry. The Post describes it as "one of the mightiest political forces in Washington, spending nearly $1 billion on lobbying and contributing $162 million to candidates of both parties over the past two years." Obama's first nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, former senator Tom Daschle, withdrew his candidacy after revelations that he had not paid taxes on what were essentially lobbying payments from major health industry players. The industry gave Obama $19 million in his run for the presidency.

With his health care forum, Obama has set out to achieve the impossible: effect health care "reform" that in no way touches the wealth and power of the health care industry.

In fact there can be no resolution to the crisis in the American health care system that does not take as its starting point wresting away control of the industry from the insurers, pharmaceuticals and HMOs.

The subordination of health care to the profit system costs, quite literally, millions of lives the world over each year. Hundreds of millions more suffer with eminently treatable conditions. In the US, millions forego necessary medical treatment for lack of money.

This is an unnecessary tragedy. Medical science has produced enormous breakthroughs, many of these pioneered in the US. And there are millions of dedicated and talented doctors, nurses and health care professionals. Yet capitalism stands like a Goliath blocking the road to even the most modest improvements.

The hospitals, factories and technology of the health care industry must be taken out of the hands of big business and placed under the democratic control of its doctors, nurses and workers, who will determine how medicine's enormous potential can be best deployed to meet human needs, rather than the profit imperatives of the CEOs and investors.

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2009/mar2009/heal-m07.shtm...
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msongs Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 11:20 AM
Response to Original message
1. I bet Obama has great health care - well, he's got his so... nt
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SammyWinstonJack Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-08-09 11:43 AM
Response to Reply #1
22. Same with Congress. They got theirs so...
x(
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dbackjon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 11:22 AM
Response to Original message
2. So you want Obama to make the USA a communist country?
Does the company you work for make a profit?

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BlueJac Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 11:36 AM
Response to Reply #2
3. Communist country?
Sounds total ring wing.
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blindpig Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 11:38 AM
Response to Reply #2
4. You are completely clueless

I don't 'want' Obama to do anything, as I don't expect he'll do anything that I see as necessary.
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readmoreoften Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 11:42 AM
Response to Reply #2
5. Okay, that is the dumbest, most Republican thing I've ever read by a DUer who isn't a troll.
Are you saying that EVERY industrialized nation in the world besides us is a communist country? Are you fucking stupid?
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Greyhound Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 12:17 PM
Response to Reply #5
16. Chandler, AZ. They elected Jeff Flake and that pretty much says it all. n/t
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dbackjon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-09-09 11:39 AM
Response to Reply #5
32. No, I am not
The original OP is though.

He seems to not want to let an entire industry make a profit, which is assinine.
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cliffordu Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 11:42 AM
Response to Reply #2
6. Sarcasm smilie????
or, you need to learn what a communist country is.
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Donnachaidh Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 11:59 AM
Response to Reply #2
11. oh, so Canada and the UK are communist countries?
What a dunbass puke-like response.
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RC Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 12:05 PM
Response to Reply #2
13. I hope you were being sarcastic.
Edited on Sat Mar-07-09 12:14 PM by RC
Too many lives are being destroyed with bankruptcy, too many people are dying because the bottom line and bonuses are more important than the health insurance companies contract with their customers.


This is a non-profit, non-stock BCBS health insurance company that is asking for up to a 18% rate increase.
http://www.inforum.com/event/article/id/233138 /

CEO Unhjem says hell pay his own expenses; Hamm calls for examination of companys executive pay.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota will scrap its sales reward trips after public outrage over a Cayman Islands resort getaway, and the states top insurance regulator called for a targeted financial examination of the companys executive pay.

Thursdays developments came as public anger continued to flare over the sales reward trip, estimated to cost $250,000, and recently disclosed pay figures for top executives at Blue Cross Blue Shield, whose bonuses last year totaled $853,194.

Meanwhile, Mike Unhjem, the Blues chief executive officer, announced during a radio talk-show appearance that he will pay for his expenses on the trip, which he estimated would total $4,000, including a $1,000 airfare fee for flying back early to answer questions about the trip.

Edited to add:
Hamm said he is considering an audit to delve into executive compensation and the reward trip at Blue Cross Blue Shield. I want to have a complete picture of how these things are determined, he said.

Policyholders, he added, many of whom face possible premium increases of 15 to 20 percent, dont understand six-figure bonuses to executives when the company had a loss of $9 million last year from payouts exceeding premiums.

There doesnt seem to be any sacrifice on their side, the company side, Hamm said. That is where the anger and confusion comes in.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield board chairman defended the sales reward trip, a practice that dates back 18 years, but decided to end that form of incentives in light of the public furor.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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Greyhound Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 12:13 PM
Response to Reply #2
15. You're joking right? n/t
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FormerDittoHead Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-08-09 10:57 AM
Response to Reply #2
21. I vote for universal single payer. Does that make us a communist country? OK then.
I remember when all hospitals were non-profit. How did that possibly work?
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annabanana Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-08-09 11:46 AM
Response to Reply #2
24. (searching for the sarcasm smiley in this post)
Are England & Canada communist countries?
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Cleita Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-08-09 11:55 AM
Response to Reply #2
25. Single payer health care is neither communist nor socialist. The only socialistic
aspect of it is the collecting and disbursement of health care dollars by a single entity that doesn't do it for profit and that usually in a democracy is the government. It doesn't have to be, but our previous century experiments with HMO's have proven that the private sector doesn't do it very well because they are also motivated by profit and can't do it universally. Actual health care is done in the private sector, meaning the doctors, clinics and hospitals. You can see any doctor you want and when you move or change jobs, you still have your health care and choice of health care providers. All senior citizens over 65 have Medicare and although the conservatives have tried to destroy it over the years, by underfunding it and privatizing a sector of it, it still limps along as the most reliable health care option and doctors prefer it by large to private health insurance or HMOs.
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eridani Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-09-09 07:50 AM
Response to Reply #2
30. My fire department fucking well does not make a profit
Neither should health insurance companies.
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TahitiNut Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 11:43 AM
Response to Original message
7. It's remarkable that so many openly admit that single-payer is the BEST for PEOPLE.
Edited on Sat Mar-07-09 11:44 AM by TahitiNut
Read this 'argument' carefully ...
Among these promises was a plan to create a public health insurance provider that would compete with private insurers. This has provoked the ire of the health care industry. In the lead-up to the forum it also drew a warning from five leading Republican senators, including minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Writing to Obama, they warned that a public health provider, even one based on consumer payments, would chase private insurers from the market. "It would create an unlevel playing field and inevitably doom true competition," the senators wrote. "Ultimately we would be left with a single government-run program controlling all of the market."

Buckling under this rebuke, Obama all but promised to abandon the scheme. "I recognize the fear that if a public option is run through Washington," he said, "private insurance plans might end up feeling overwhelmed."

Now, what the GOP and the Insurance industry are BOTH saying is that a Medicare-for-all (or Tricare-for-all) system is so superior to anything that the PRIVATE (for PROFIT) sector can provide that virtually every person in the country would select it and private industry can't compete.

They can't compete ... not on the basis of cost, or quality, or even lies.

So, I ask you ... what's "bad" about that? Well, the only answer can be that it's "bad" for existing corporations that regard this as their "rice bowl" ... even though the PEOPLE could do better.

Amazing that they're so bald-facedly saying that it's OK to FUCK PEOPLE in order to preserve the corporate rice bowls.

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TBF Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 11:49 AM
Response to Reply #7
8. Desperation does funny things to people... n/t
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Lugnut Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-08-09 11:43 AM
Response to Reply #7
23. I see nothing bad about that.
Well, maybe it's not so good for the for-profit insurance companies but I call tough shit on that.
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blindpig Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-09-09 08:31 AM
Response to Reply #7
31. The business of America is business.
This hallucinatory dictum, which gets everything wrong, paper thin as it is, is all they got.

The business of America is the welfare of it's people.
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TBF Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 11:51 AM
Response to Original message
9. Excellent article. K&R n/t
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leftstreet Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 11:56 AM
Response to Original message
10. OMG they don't want the poor corporations "feeling overwhelmed"
Insurance and pharmaceutical corporations have feelings too.

:cry:

What a bunch of bullshit.

:banghead:

K&R
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BR_Parkway Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 12:00 PM
Response to Original message
12. 1 in 6 without health care yet we pay the most per person - how much
further do they need to look than at that very simple statement? Obviously the only way to reform it is to get the profit margin out.
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frebrd Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 12:11 PM
Response to Original message
14. K&R n/t
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Cleita Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-07-09 12:25 PM
Response to Original message
17. The spinners and propagandists have done their job very well.
Edited on Sat Mar-07-09 12:26 PM by Cleita
We really need to get commercial time on TV to unspin these lies but I don't see the organizations who could do this like the unions and professional medical organizations stepping up to the plate to make this happen. We can get what we want if we convince the White House and Congress that two-thirds of Americans want the same health care plans that are so successful in the Scandanavian countries and Canada. In order to do that we have to do a non-stop barrage of mail, emails and telephone calls to our President, cabinet members and Congress. I have been sending an email to the White House on their website daily arguing one aspect of why we need single payer, universal health care. I try to do it in under 500 words. Today's will be on my prescription drug benefit that sucks because my drugs have doubled in price since Medicare part D. This byzantine legislation will be what the result of privatizing health care with government money will be on all coverage. God help us. Not only were the insurance companies, et al fleecing us the public but now they will be able to fleece our treasury and we still will not have health care security. Of course my one little email will not get noticed, it will take all of us doing it to make them sit up and pay attention.
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TBF Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-08-09 09:58 AM
Response to Reply #17
18. Yes, they do. Especially when we have to explain even to other
DU posters why we need single payer health care (see response #2).
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Cleita Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-08-09 12:02 PM
Response to Reply #18
26. Bernie Sanders said it best Friday on Thom Hartmann. We need an
amendment to our Constitution making health care a human right, just like liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Every other industrial and advanced nation in the world has it included in their rights in their Constitutions. From there we have to hammer out a plan that will meet those rights. In those other countries, it is met best and most cost effectively with single payer health care.
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Senator Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-08-09 10:39 AM
Response to Original message
19. Healthcare Is Not A Commodity: All Profit Is Blood Money
This is not an ideologic, idealistic, political, or altruistic statement. It is simple economics (yes, capitalist economics).

The simple reality is that healthcare -- exactly like national defense -- is something we all need, in exactly the same amount. Which is say we need as much as necessary, when it is necessary.

This makes it a non-commodity. Not something that can really be bought and sold, or even properly "insured." This is what all other industrialized nations have recognized long ago.

This is why the "public health provider" option is so threatening to the profiteers. Because, without the burden of having resources siphoned off for profits, the "public" insurer will easily outperform them in the "marketplace" (yes, the capitalist marketplace).

The question is whether or not Obama acts on this simple reality or not. As he refuses to act on the simple realities of torture and war crimes, it's hard to be hopeful.

---

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Triana Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-08-09 10:50 AM
Response to Original message
20. Health care should NOT be a for-profit Industry - PERIOD. Until that is dealt with...
...and the "insurance" middlemen are REMOVED from our health care system (such as it is) - then we will NOT have affordable or adequate health care. We don't have health care at ALL right now - we have CORPRAT WELFARE the profits which are scraped off the backs of the injured, sick, and dying in this country.

DESPICABLE! :mad:
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TBF Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-08-09 04:30 PM
Response to Reply #20
28. It is despicable, and it will help our small businesses survive as well.
It's long past time for single-payer care here.
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blindpig Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-08-09 03:58 PM
Response to Original message
27. kick
I'll be back.
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Vinca Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-08-09 04:37 PM
Response to Original message
29. I happened to see this and I wouldn't describe Obama as
"buckling under the rebuke" at all. He acknowledged there was a concern made by private insurers about a public plan and that's about all he said. He didn't "all but promise to abandon" the idea of a public sector health provider. If anything, he left the insurance industry hanging. I am absolutely positive he has not abandoned a government option.
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