Felicia Muftic – No health care reform: Now that’s scary
September 8, 2009
I have been struck by the fear and anger on so many faces at town halls, their voices shouting for the defeat of the public option they call socialism. In their passion, they drown out presentations of fact based information to set straight their lack of understanding of what insurance reform is about. Fright is closing their ears and minds.
What was driving this, I wondered? There is plenty to be frightened about if health insurance reform is not passed. Do consumers really like private insurers to get between them and their doctors, dictating and rationing their care? According to the New York Times (Aug. 30), insurers even reward agents who “cut medical losses” by finding ways to deny claims or kicking the insured off their plan. Insurers are already purging their small business accounts according to Business Week, Sept. 7.
Medicare is going into the red by 2019 and is the single largest contributor to the federal deficit, dragging our economy into the ditch. Big business cannot compete internationally as the costs to insure their employees outstrip any economic measure and are projected to increase 70 percent.
The fearful and angry do not see this train wreck coming, that health insurance as they know it will change in any case, but the change will be for the worse if reform is not started now. It is going to take 10 years to fully implement any reform plans that cut medical care costs.
Then I saw the television commercials and I understood. Ads on TV and certain talk show voices are bombarding small business owners, middle class taxpayers, seniors, and women with all kinds of misleading messages carefully crafted to scare the stuffing out of them.
Let us get some perspective here. Capitalism survived Medicare, Medicaid and social security, all at least partially government funded; all are government run. They dictate terms of care far less than private insurers do. Proposed legislation in Congress even formalizes private insurers’ participation so the United States will not become England or Canada, which banned competing private insurance.
All plans in Congress enforce maintenance of employer based private health insurance. Even those eligible to buy insurance in the “exchange,” an approved list of plans meeting certain criteria, would have a choice of public or private insurers, with premiums more affordable than the open market.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that only one-third of those participating in the exchange would choose the public option (that’s 4 percent of our total population), hardly enough to torpedo capitalism.
The very low income would receive a subsidy based on income to buy public or private insurance in the exchange. To pay for this, no taxes would be raised from the middle class families who make less than $250,000 per year.
True, small business with payrolls of less than $500,000 would be exempted from providing employee health insurance, but employees who lose insurance can still get insurance through the “exchange,” keeping their choice of doctor and hospital, and a burden will be lifted from the backs of small business.
One important element of any exchange is to make sure participating private insurers do not gouge taxpayers. Those insurers already ding us with a 13 percent-plus markup for administrative costs . There are two ways to keep those private insurers’ costs under control: Either make them compete with the standard set by the public option or cap their administrative costs, charges, and profits by regulations. That is the value of the public option to taxpayers: Competition keeps private insurers from taking taxpayers to lunch without the need of having heavier-handed regulation. Of course, the value of the public option to consumers is always having a cheaper plan from which to choose.
I can understand why seniors fear when they hear that $500 billion will be cut from Medicare over the next 10 years, but the ads and TV talkers do not tell them the reduction will come from administration, not from benefits. More home health care, lower drug costs, eliminating high fees for private administrators and medical record efficiencies are the cost cutters.
Another commercial is scaring the living daylights out of women by falsely claiming we will become like England and 300,000 more U.S. women will die from breast cancer. Here is what the ads do not tell women: Reform proposals would require all insurers to cover mammograms and annual checkups; 18 million women now uninsured and 10 million more underinsured no longer have to live in fear of going bankrupt paying for treatment if they ever get the dreaded diagnosis because they will have access to affordable health insurance; cancer and pregnancy would no longer be pre-existing conditions nor can you be dropped if you get sick again. These protections are the main reason I support reform; I am the mother of a breast cancer survivor.
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