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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Health Care in the House: Not Single-Payer, But Good Enough?

Knowing amendments may pile up quickly, I hesitate to go too deeply into the details of the new health care bill before the House. But here are some praiseworthy bits I find in HR 3200:
  1. A prohibition on pre-existing condition exclusions.
  2. Guaranteed issue and renewal: insurers can't drop you for getting sick; you lose your coverage only for not paying your bill or defrauding your insurer.
  3. Insurers can charge you higher premiums as you get older, but the highest geezer premium can be no more than twice the best young-pup premium.
  4. Health plans must cover mental health and substance abuse treatments, preventive care, and (here's the real pro-life policy!) maternity and well-baby/well-child care.
  5. Cost-sharing—deductibles, copayments, etc.—on essential coverage is capped at $5K per individual and $10K per family, with annual increases tied to the Consumer Price index.
...and that gets me about a tenth of the way through the bill. Much more to read!

H.R. 3200 is not single-payer, so obviously, Dennis Kucinich and I are disappointed. but for those of you who think we can sit back, do nothing, and let the magical invisible hand solve everything, consider Rep. Kucinich's damning assessment of health care in America:

Medicine in the U.S. is a profit driven market commodity distributed according to the ability to pay rather than a basic human right distributed as a public service according medical need. No wonder that the United States ranks 47th in life expectancy and 23rd in infant mortality. In this profit driven, private insurance based system there are over 1400 manage care organizations and 5000 health insurance plans. We have the most expensive health care system in the world – over 16% of our GDP. Two point four trillion dollars a year goes to health spending and 1 out of every 3 dollars go to the activities of the for-profit system- for corporate profits, stock options, executive salaries, advertising, marketing, and the cost of paperwork. Yet 47 million people remain uninsured and another 50 million are underinsured. I submit that there is a direct relationship between the for-profit health care system and the uninsured and the underinsured [Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), opening statement, House Education and Labor Committee, 2009.07.15].

The market isn't working. We need a public option—yes, one run by the government. The ideal would be single-payer, but if we can get even a partial public option to compete with the private insurers and put people over profits, we'll have made progress.

1 comment:

  1. From a numbers standpoint I doubt all those mandates can be added without also requiring everyone be enrolled.

    For a little more good reading Physicians For a National Health Program: http://www.pnhp.org/news/2009/june/the_facts_about_the_.php

    "The individual insurance companies are out for profit and must work to maximize their value on the stock market and not our friends. They treat patients like widgets or cost centers. This is not a culture of trust, caring, compassion, and fiduciary responsibility. If you were dumb enough to hope that Countrywide Mortgage would preserve your home and Lehman Brothers would preserve your retirement fund, then you will be stupid enough to expect Anthem Blue Cross and the other insurance companies to be there to protect your health. Yet it seems all Washington continues under this delusion."

    I left my job after BCBS of Colorado was taken over by Anthem. It was all about the money.


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