published Friday, July 17th, 2009

GOP hypocrisy on health plan

If there were any doubt where Republicans in Congress stand on health care reform, their position should be abundantly clear by now. But if you haven't been listening, here's a hint: They're all about protecting the big profits of the greedy giants in the medical industry, and not concerned a whit about changing the system to benefit the 90 percent of Americans who struggle with soaring health care costs while their coverage falls off the cliff.

Here's how you can measure where the Republicans stand:

* They are body and soul for keeping the status-quo that chiefly benefits for-profit insurance giants. This is the industry that has doubled the price of health insurance in the past eight years; that heartlessly denies claims with every technicality they can find; that regularly forces even supposedly well-covered insured patients into medical bankruptcy; that cherry-picks the healthy and charges far more for individual coverage than for group plans; and that has forced health care providers to hire legions of office workers solely to contest insurers' denials for claims and treatment recommendations. (Then they have the nerve to run scare-talk ads about "bureaucrats controlling your doctor's decisions.")

* Despite such insurance industry practices, Republicans are lock-step with insurance companies against a public insurance plan, which is precisely comparable to the government-organized insurance members of Congress themselves receive. Never mind that a public plan would help level the playing field for America's stressed working families by providing a Medicare-style plan to individuals and families that can't afford comprehensive health care from the greedy, arbitrary private insurance market.

* Congressional Republicans are also standing solidly behind the price-gouging pharmaceutical firms that charge Americans double-to-triple what they charge every other country in the industrialized world for the top 50 prescription drugs, and that continue to exorbitantly mark up prices in America for their best-selling drugs.

* The Republicans particularly oppose changes to their 2003 Medicare "modernization" act -- the act they passed when they controlled both chambers of Congress and the presidency. But that act desperately needs changing. It was basically designed to enhance the profits and clout of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries while simultaneously eroding the role, coverage and financing of traditional Medicare's non-profit approach to a seniors market that accounts for huge chunk of the nation's health care spending.

* Republicans very clearly favor continuing to waste taxpayer money on federal subsidies to for-profit insurers' Medicare Advantage plans, their plum from the 2003 Medicare act. These subsidies are designed to make it profitable for private insurers to lure people permanently out of Medicare proper, while taking the $150 billion, 10-year-cost of the subsidies out of the traditional Medicare program.

These wasteful subsidies, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office and the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, cost 12 percent more than traditional Medicare's fee-for-service format, yet the Advantage programs often provide fewer services or less in benefits. The subsidies mainly pad insurers' profits and pay for marketing and overhead.

Because these subsidies are taken from traditional Medicare's budget, they have spurred cuts in Medicare reimbursements to doctors and hospitals that provide care to the people who remain in Medicare, jeopardizing the viability of Medicare's provider network.

* Republicans oppose lifting the ban, imposed under their 2003 Medicare modernization act, that makes it illegal for Medicare either to bargain with pharmaceutical companies for drug prices equal to what other industrialized countries pay, or to offer a model prescription drug formulary plan under basic Medicare.

Though Medicare obviously could offer a better and less expensive program without involving private insurers, Republicans favor continuing to force Medicare to send Medicare recipients into the confusing welter of scores of for-profit insurers -- each with its own constantly changing prescription drug formulary and co-pays -- to find a drug benefit plan that best fits their health care needs.

Republicans should be accountable for their industry-oriented Medicare policies. Yet they remain free to brazenly accuse Democrats of wanting to cut Medicare simply because they would end these senseless subsidies, which are nothing better than cozy corporate welfare made doubly bad because it was intended to erode Medicare's viability and public support.

Indeed, Senate Republicans had the gumption to publicly issue a letter Thursday that 35 of them (including Tennessee Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, and both senators from Alabama and Georgia) signed and sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Their letter urged Democrats to "protect this critical health care program for our seniors" by making sure that "any potential monies found through the reform of Medicare should only be utilized to secure the financial status of this program."

It goes on to talk about how "over 45 million senior citizens across the country depend on Medicare for their health care needs," and how Medicare's "long-term financial stability is in serious jeopardy."

All true. But given their record of eroding Medicare while claiming to do good, their letter is chiefly a brazen lesson in hypocrisy -- and one more way to gauge how insincere Republicans are about health care reform.

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EaTn said...

The current legislation and president were elected with a mandate from the people to undo eight years of injustice and make change for the majority of folks in health care and taxes. All the Repubs plan to do is sabotage at every turn. The Dems need to forget bipartisan, ignore the Repubs and implement the projects they were elected for. It's about time need took the place of greed.

July 17, 2009 at 12:04 p.m.
SCOTTYM said...

Good lord, there is so many deceptive ideas in this editorial, I don't even know where to start.

"traditional Medicare's non-profit approach"

Oh, so pouring billions, nay trillions of our tax dollars into a .gov program is a "non-profit approach"? That has to be the most absurd thing I've ever read, and I read a lot. Is the OpEd aware of the size of the unfunded current and future costs involved in this program? It is north of 30 Trillion as it now stands. Where o where will those bucks come from? And yet, the OpEd is endorsing more coverage for more people, and painting those who are attempting to control costs as "heartless".

The OpEd might do a better job if he/she would learn just a little bit about how the real world works outside the statist echo chamber in which he/she resides.

July 17, 2009 at 12:09 p.m.
SCOTTYM said...

EaTn, You beat me to the punch!

"It's about time need took the place of greed."

I agree, we need to get .gov spending under control. One great way to do that would be for the leeches of society to back off of their greed for other peoples money.

At least the dems have changed up from the old "tax and spend" ways. Now it is the "borrow, spend, borrow, spend, spend, spend, and tax, tax, tax".

My kids are already on the hook for huge amounts of taxes when they start earning, and they are still in grade school.

Perhaps instead of teaching them to be good, productive citizens, I'll just teach them how to work the system and suck the life out of those who are productive.

July 17, 2009 at 12:19 p.m.
EaTn said...

SCOTTYM said "I'll just teach them how to work the system and suck the life out of those who are productive. "

Yeah, talk about working the system. There was plenty working the system the past eight years. A couple days ago I was waiting behind a guy at the walk-up money machine and he stated that he was getting money to pay his hired help. The sign on his $50k truck said lawn service. Now this is one of the small businesses that Bush kept touting. Well, when you pay your illegal help in cash, probably below minimum wages, and don't file any taxes which also allows them not to file taxes-- who's sucking the system?

July 17, 2009 at 2:31 p.m.
SCOTTYM said...

EaTn, Employers who hire illegal workers should face punitive fines so harsh as to cause the loss of all assets. The practice would end overnight.

I'm referring more to those who use our .gov provided safety net as a hammock. Take, take, take, and not a penny paid in federal taxes.

That BDS is a tough nut to crack, ain't it?

July 17, 2009 at 2:41 p.m.
alprova said...

It will be very interesting to see how all of this plays out. I am one of many who will be digging into the campaign money trail of those who vote against the final draft.

It will not be hard to figure out which side of the aisle to start fact checking either. I'll be working right to left.

As much as I desire to see a reform bill passed, if the Republicans are successful in defeating any final bill put up for a vote, they will assure themselves another embarrassing beating in the 2010 and 2012 elections.

I was not sure about the bill that the House crafted, but the more I read, the better I like it. It's not as bad as I feared.

I have found it a little funny that people are out there already spreading lies about what is contained in the bill, as if it doesn't take just a few minutes to find the proof, quote it, and refute the misrepresentations.

It has to be most upsetting that the tried and true tactics of fear mongering just are not working like they used to.

July 18, 2009 at 12:10 a.m.
RightKlik said...

Want to talk about hypocrisy? Ok, let's talk about hypocrisy. Bureaucrats in Washington are telling us that they need to change the rules of the health care system to make it more fair and to make health care more accessible. Fine. But isn't it interesting that our Congress will be EXEMPT from the new rules they are creating for us?

(And isn't it interesting how making the system more "fair and accessible" invariably translates into giving Washington Bureaucrats more power?)

The author of the article above claims that the public insurance plan would be "precisely comparable" to the government-organized insurance members of Congress themselves receive. I'm not sure what "precisely comparable" really means, but Congress has access to a giant package of health care options, vastly superior to the plan they intend to foist upon the American people. And Congress apparently intends to keep it that way.

"Under the current draft of the Democrat healthcare legislation, members of Congress are curiously exempt from the government-run health care option, keeping their existing health plans and services on Capitol Hill."

Congressman John Fleming has offered a resolution that will give members of Congress "an opportunity to put their money where their mouth is, and urge their colleagues who vote for legislation creating a government-run health care plan to lead by example and enroll themselves in the same public plan."

Fleming's resolution has over 40 cosponsors — but not a single one of the cosponsors is a Democrat.

I'm not interested in defending the GOP, but if you're looking for hypocrisy, why don't you examine the hypocrisy of the Democrats who are currently in control of Congress and the White House?

July 18, 2009 at 1:03 p.m.
RightKlik said...

Americans don't know that there is an attending physician on call exclusively for members of Congress, or that Congress enjoys VIP access and admission to Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Bethesda Naval Medical Center. Is Congress going to provide us with "precisely comparable" VIP treatment?

July 18, 2009 at 1:38 p.m.
EaTn said...

All govt employees including Congress pay part or about 20% of their premiums through private insurance. In Tn a family plan costs all govt employees about $200 per month. Not bad, eh?

July 18, 2009 at 7:54 p.m.
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