Sunday, August 9, 2009

What Health Insurance Reform Is Really All About

I can hardly recall an issue that has emotionally affected me more than following The Continuing Battle Over Health Insurance Reform. In my previous posting I talked about the health insurance industry using “guerilla tactics” and waging a “proxy war” and even equating them to the devil. When I wrote that posting, I wondered to myself if I might have been a little too over-the-top in how I portrayed the health insurance industry.

After what has happened in the week since, it looks like I may have been too kind to the health insurance industry. When
seeing what is happening at these Town Hall meetings that are being sabotaged by protesters that often have been planted by those with ties to the health insurance industry, there can be no doubt that this is a war that is being waged against anybody who is a threat to bring reform to the health insurance industry which would put a damper on the huge profits they have been enjoying under the present system.

So what’s the big deal about people coming to a Town Hall meeting to voice their opinions and concerns? Nothing, if that is really their intent. But it is obvious that the intent of these protesters is not to promote public discussion on health care reform but to disrupt it! This is not about accommodating those of differing viewpoints but is instead about silencing them!

What so many observers including many in the media are missing is that this fight is really not about the protesters or even the others on the political right who are spreading the poisonous rhetoric. In fact, these people are little more than surrogate warriors on behalf of those in the health insurance industry who are truly pulling the strings in this war against health insurance reform.

The most important thing is to realize who is actually getting hurt the most by this war. No, it’s not the Democratic politicians taking the verbal abuse although their egos may have been bruised a bit in the process. The people who are truly getting hurt in this war are those who are struggling to get by without health insurance and sitting on a ticking time bomb hoping they do not get sick enough to require a hospital stay. While those who wish to obstruct health insurance reform try to stall for time and hopefully kill it, it is easy to forget about the roughly 14,000 people who are losing their health insurance each day along with the roughly 1,500 people on average who die each month in the US simply due to lack of health insurance. Is it any wonder that those who are really behind this war welcome all of these distractions?

I realize that my rantings about the health insurance industry may make me look like just as much of an extremist as those on the other side of the issue who rail against the evils of “socialized medicine”. But the case against the health insurance companies is quite compelling if not overwhelming.

Even though most conservatives hate Michael Moore on general principles, his documentary Sicko still does the best job of describing the serious problems inherent with the for-profit health insurance system in the US and how people literally die due to insurance company decisions based on maximizing profit. For those who have still never seen this movie and wish to, it is available for viewing online
in this link.

One of those who appeared in the movie,
Dr. Linda Peeno became a whistleblower against the abuses of the HMO system while testifying to Congress that one of her decisions while working for an HMO caused the death of a man.

Another more recent whistleblower is
Wendell Potter who made a recent appearance on Bill Moyers Journal. The complete interview is available for viewing online in this link. I urge those who wish to learn more about this issue to take the time to watch this roughly 35 minute interview. I have to admit that the more I listened to the interview, the more feelings of rage I had towards the health insurance industry as Potter confirmed most of the darkest suspicions many of us had about them.

Here are a few excerpts from the interview.

Despite at one time being part of an industry campaign to discredit Sicko, we have this stunning admission.

BILL MOYERS: So what did you think when you saw that film (Sicko)?

WENDELL POTTER: I thought that he hit the nail on the head with his movie. But the industry, from the moment that the industry learned that Michael Moore was taking on the health care industry, it was really concerned.

BILL MOYERS: What were they afraid of?

WENDELL POTTER: They were afraid that people would believe Michael Moore.

And concerning the present pending legislation on a proposed public option…

BILL MOYERS: Why is public insurance, a public option, so fiercely opposed by the industry?

WENDELL POTTER: The industry doesn't want to have any competitor. In fact, over the course of the last few years, has been shrinking the number of competitors through a lot of acquisitions and mergers. So first of all, they don't want any more competition period. They certainly don't want it from a government plan that might be operating more efficiently than they are, that they operate. The Medicare program that we have here is a government-run program that has administrative expenses that are like three percent or so.

BILL MOYERS: Compared to the industry's--

WENDELL POTTER: They spend about 20 cents of every premium dollar on overhead, which is administrative expense or profit. So they don't want to compete against a more efficient competitor.

So the next time you hear this issue being obscured by blowhards pontificating on the supposed horrors that health insurance reform is going to bring us, please remember what this issue is really all about — a health insurance industry that will stop at nothing to preserve its handsome profits even if it means that more sick people will suffer or maybe even die needlessly as a result. Only then will you know whom to support when you talk to or write to your senator or congressman!

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