The Health Care Deceit

The Health Care Deceit
By Paul Craig Roberts
9-14-9
The current health care “debate” shows how far gone representative government is in the United States. Members of Congress represent the powerful interest groups that fill their campaign coffers, not the people who vote for them.
The health care bill is not about health care. It is about protecting and increasing the profits of the insurance companies. The main feature of the health care bill is the “individual mandate,” which requires everyone in America to buy health insurance. Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont), a recipient of millions in contributions over his career from the insurance industry, proposes to impose up to a $3,800 fine on Americans who fail to purchase health insurance.
The determination of “our” elected representatives to serve the insurance industry is so compelling that Congress is incapable of recognizing the absurdity of these proposals.
The reason there is a health care crisis in the US is that the cumulative loss of jobs and benefits has swollen the uninsured to approximately 50 million Americans. They cannot afford health insurance any more than employers can afford to provide it.
It is absurd to mandate that people purchase what they cannot afford and to fine them for failing to do so. A person who cannot pay a health insurance premium cannot pay the fine.
These proposals are like solving the homeless problem by requiring the homeless to purchase a house.
In his speech Obama said “we’ll provide tax credits” for “those individuals and small businesses who still can’t afford the lower-priced insurance available in the exchange” and he said low-cost coverage will be offered to those with preexisting medical conditions. A tax credit is useless to those without income unless the credit is refundable, and subsidized coverage doesn’t do much for those millions of Americans with no jobs.
Baucus masquerades as a defender of the health impaired with his proposal to require insurers to provide coverage to all comers as if the problem of health care can be reduced to preexisting conditions and cancelled policies. It was left to Rep. Dennis Kucinich to point out that the health care bill ponies up 30 million more customers for the private insurance companies.
The private sector is no longer the answer, because the income levels of the vast majority of Americans are insufficient to bear the cost of health insurance today. To provide some perspective, the monthly premium for a 60-year old female for a group policy (employer-provided) with Blue Cross Blue Shield in Florida is about $1,200. That comes to $14,400 per year. Only employees in high productivity jobs that can provide both a livable salary and health care can expect to have employer-provided coverage. If a 60-year old female has to buy a non-group policy as an individual, the premium would be even higher. How, for example, is a Wal-Mart shelf stocker or check out clerk going to be able to pay a private insurance premium?
Even the present public option–Medicare–is very expensive to those covered. Basic Medicare is insufficient coverage. Part B has been added, for which about $100 per month is deducted from the covered person’s Social Security check. If the person is still earning or has other retirement income, an “income-related monthly adjustment” is also deducted as part of the Part B premium. And if the person is still working, his earnings are subject to the 2.9 percent Medicare tax.
Even with Part B, Medicare coverage is still insufficient except for the healthy. For many people, additional coverage from private supplementary policies, such as the ones sold by AARP, is necessary. These premiums can be as much as $277 per month. Deductibles remain and prescriptions are only 50% covered. If the drug prescription policy is chosen, the premium is higher.
This leaves a retired person on Medicare who has no other retirement income of significance paying as much as $4,500 per year in premiums in order to create coverage under Medicare that still leaves half of his prescription medicines out-of-pocket. Considering the cost of some prescription medicines, a Medicare-covered person with Part B and a supplementary policy can still face bankruptcy.
Therefore, everyone should take note that a “public option” can leave people with large out-of-pocket costs. I know a professional who has chosen to continue working beyond retirement age. His Medicare coverage with supplemental coverage, Medicare tax, and income-related monthly adjustment comes to $16,400 per year. Those people who want to deny Medicare to the rich will cost the system a lot of money.
What the US needs is a single-payer not-for-profit health system that pays doctors and nurses sufficiently that they will undertake the arduous training and accept the stress and risks of dealing with illness and diseases.
A private health care system worked in the days before expensive medical technology, malpractice suits, high costs of bureaucracy associated with third-party payers and heavy investment in combating fraud, and pressure on insurance companies from Wall Street to improve “shareholder returns.”
Despite the rise in premiums, payments to health care providers, such as doctors, appear to be falling along with coverage to policy holders. The system is no longer functional and no longer makes sense. Health care has become an incidental rather than primary purpose of the health care system. Health care plays second fiddle to insurance company profits and salaries to bureaucrats engaged in fraud prevention and discovery. There is no point in denying coverage to one-sixth of the population in the name of saving a nonexistent private free market health care system.
The only way to reduce the cost of health care is to take the profit and paperwork out of health care.
Nothing humans design will be perfect. However, Congress is making it clear to the public that the wrong issues are front and center, such as the belief of Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) and others that illegal aliens and abortions will be covered if government pays the bill.
Debate focuses on subsidiary issues, because Congress no longer writes the bills it passes. As Theodore Lowi made clear in his book, The End of Liberalism, the New Deal transferred law-making from the legislative to the executive branch. Executive branch agencies and departments write bills that they want and hand them off to sponsors in the House and Senate. Powerful interest groups took up the same practice.
The interest groups that finance political campaigns expect their bills to be sponsored and passed.
Thus: a health care reform bill based on forcing people to purchase private health insurance and fining them if they do not.
When bills become mired in ideological conflict, as has happened to the health care bill, something usually passes nevertheless. The president, his PR team, and members of Congress want a health care bill on their resume and to be able to claim that they passed a health care bill, regardless of whether it provides any health care.
The cost of adding public expenditures for health care to a budget drowning in red ink from wars, bank bailouts, and stimulus packages means that the most likely outcome of a health care bill will benefit insurance companies and use mandated private coverage to save public money by curtailing Medicare and Medicaid.
The public’s interest is not considered to be the important determinant. The politicians have to please the insurance companies and reduce health care expenditures in order to save money for another decade or two of war in the Middle East.
The telltale part of Obama’s speech was the applause in response to his pledge that “I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits.” Yet, Obama and his fellow politicians have no hesitation to add trillions of dollars to the deficit in order to fund wars.
The profits of military/security companies are partly recycled into campaign contributions. To cut war spending in order to finance a public health care system would cost politicians campaign contributions from both the insurance industry and the military/security industry.
Politicians are not going to allow that to happen.
It was the war in Afghanistan, not health care, that President Obama declared to be a “necessity.”
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of <http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0307396061/counterpunchmaga>The Tyranny of Good Intentions. His new book, War of the Worlds: How the Economy Was Lost, will be published next month by AK Press/CounterPunch. He can be reached at:<mailto:PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com>PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com

2 thoughts on “The Health Care Deceit

  1. In the past not too many Americans and legal residents were unaware of the happenings in Congress. Today instant contact is a way of life for anybody who has access to a computer. In 1986 other than the paper media, tv and radio gave any evidence of the Immigration Reform package and that was surely limited? The US population was isolated from the truth that was to befall them, after the Simpson/Mazzoli bill passed because the politicians hid the truth? 2 million guest workers were to be given citizenship, but the process became full of corruption and 5.3 million was eventually approved for blanket AMNESTY. Expeditiously the guest workers moved away from agriculture and joined the mainstream of workers. BOTH POLITICAL PARTIES ARE EQUALLY TO TAKE BLAME FOR THE ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION OCCUPATION OF OUR NATION.

    The people who picked the fruit and vegetables in the farms vanished, so that meant more floods of illegal workers to take the empty places. Today Obama wants to pass another miserable immigration reform bill, even though the main author Edward Kennedy insisted there would never be another path to citizenship. Millions of honest voter don’t believe the rhetoric or lies that spill from the politicians anymore. Again behind closed drapes they have been having a secret summit, with little or no participation of the press or pro-sovereignty groups. When lawmakers declare no more Immigration reform than they better stick to their words. Both parties contain corrupt legislators who care nothing for the working man/women and are ready to present in the House and Senate a new immigration reform bill.

    287 G, was a lifeline to train local police authorities to arrest and question people, but that may have seen the end of days. The no-match letter may also have been sold out, as well as ICE raids to pander to extremist groups such as La Raza. A recently released report by the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 42 states lost jobs last month with Indiana alone losing 9,500 jobs! With 15 million Americans out of work and most states continuing to lose jobs on a monthly basis, it is completely obnoxious that the United States hands out about 100,000 green cards each month! THIS IS NOT RACISM THIS IS ABOUT SURVIVAL!

    President Obama is holding the reins, this time and already confusing the American people over health care. Joe Wilson was right to some degree about no mechanism in the health care package to identify illegal aliens. After the fact and bombarded by livid Americans they added amendments that would cut off all access. That why our legislators need to amplify the verification procedures, to remove foreign nationals from cheating the system.

    I trust neither Sen. Harry Reid, House speaker Pelosi and all those who fumble along behind the major conspirators. Harry Reid’s Nevada has hospitals in dire need of funds, because of the massive illegal alien population there. The same with California that’s having release 20.000 prison inmates, because they were on the edge of bankruptcy, owing to indifferent assembly in Sacramento who allowed unfettered benefits to millions of illegal immigrant families feeding out of the waning state money trough.The businesses that draw them here, pay nothing to their living conditions. Those expenses are left to the taxpayers. Call your Senator or Representative at 202-224-3121 and demand no more Immigration Reform. If you want real facts find out about the corruption and other sinister issues at NUMBERSUSA & JUDICIAL WATCH. Only your irate voices will curtail another AMNESTY travesty and stop millions more arriving illegally in America?
    Certainly I would like a Public option for some family members, but not if illegal aliens can benefit from US taxpayers paying the bill?

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