Dems Hope Insurers Are More Unpopular than Obamacare

August 20th, 2010 at 10:46 am | 24 Comments |

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House Democrats have named this week Consumer Protection Week, and emphasized healthcare and Obamacare, starting with a press conference by House Majority Whip Clyburn on Monday.  The events are part of a larger strategy of gaining coverage for their issues during the August recess – obviously with November in mind.  And as they aim to dominate the national debate, they are clearly hoping to build support for their landmark healthcare legislation.

How to do that? Democrats target the insurance industry, as they’ve done for more than a year now.

That may make for smart politics, but is it fair?

Back in August 2009, David Frum made an important observation about American healthcare:

Almost all the problems of the US health system trace back to a pair of unexpected ironies: profit-driven private insurance corporations find it much harder to say “no” than governments do, and American governments are more unsustainably generous than their European and Canadian counterparts.

The first point is particularly interesting.

Based on media reports, it would be easy to draw the opposite conclusion. Too often, the media portray greedy insurance executives putting profits before patients. A particularly winning line for Democrats in the last year was the following: you don’t really trust insurance companies, do you?

It’s striking that while much of Obamacare remains unpopular (as I noted last week, a majority doesn’t support the legislation), insurance regulations remain popular. Even conservative heartthrob Marco Rubio has emphasized in his calls for repeal that he would replace Obamacare with legislation that would regulate the insurance industry more carefully.

The president, of course, picked up on all this. In his speeches, town halls, and press conferences during the marathon that culminated in a White House signing ceremony this March, he mentioned often the stories of rescission – when insurance companies have literally cancelled coverage at the moment when patients needed it the most. The White House went so far as to create a web site so that people could post their health insurance nightmare stories.

Activists also were focused, as organizer Richard Kirsch explains in “What Progressives Did Right to Win Healthcare” published last week in The Nation:

Defining a corporate enemy: From the first ads we ran during the 2008 campaign, which had a female cancer survivor who linked Republican candidates to the health insurance industry, through the final ads we ran after the House passed the law, which thanked members of Congress for standing up to the army of 2,000 health insurance lobbyists, we had a clearly defined corporate target. Our tag-line was direct: “If the insurance companies win, we lose.” At the grassroots, we wrapped insurance company offices with yellow crime tape, with the words “It’s a crime to deny our care.” Two weeks before the bill passed, 5,000 activists staged a mass citizens arrest of health insurance company executives when they met at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington.

I wouldn’t attempt to defend the actions of some insurance companies. Stories out of California have been deeply unsettling, with juries sometimes finding for former patients. But these stories must be put in a larger context. Government-run health care is less compassionate.

Last September, I wrote an essay about insurance rescission on a national scale. I looked at British health care.

Under the guise of “comparative effectiveness research,” NICE makes decisions for the medical system. Instead of denying care patient by patient, they do it more broadly, using complex mathematical formulas to label entire treatments as unworthy. NICE doesn’t aim to better health care. Its mandate is to use formulas to justify health-care rationing.

Consider some recent NICE decisions.

August 7, 2008. British patients are outraged after NICE rejected the use of the drug Sutent to treat kidney cancer, despite evidence the drug could extend patients’ lives by years. The drug is available elsewhere in Europe. The Daily Mail reports: “[NICE] admits the drugs work, but says if they are approved, patients with other diseases will go without.” NICE reversed its decision in March 2009.

August 27, 2008. NICE surrendered, reversing a previous rejection of Lucentis, an anti-blindness treatment. With classic British understatement, the BBC says that NICE felt patients “should wait until they went blind in one eye” before coverage was justified. The Royal National Institute for the Blind bitterly attacks NICE for making patients wait two years for the reversal.

June 11, 2009. Doctors, patients, and drug manufacturers won a court appeal in 2008 after they demonstrated flaws in NICE’s comparative analysis of Aricept, an Alzheimer drug. NICE responds by changing its analysis formula – and then re-announcing the rejection.

July 9, 2009. NICE announced another change of heart. The government body rejected the drug Tyverb for coverage two months earlier, claiming the breast cancer drug cost too much for too little benefit. But NICE will now reconsider its decision based on a different perspective of effectiveness. Meanwhile, thousands of breast cancer patients are left in limbo.

Such decisions are too common in government-run healthcare systems.

Thus, while Democrats are busy attacking insurance companies, the reality is more complicated. Governments employ a form of rescission, too – and that’s a point that didn’t make it into the speaking points during Consumer Protection Week.

Recent Posts by David Gratzer



24 Comments so far ↓

  • jg bennet

    tough sell considering the power of obamacare’s opposition. the dems are far weaker at ad nauseum than the republicans.

    History of the Republican propaganda machine
    Posted by parvenu on August 2, 2010 at 10:55pm

    Long before the emergence of Hannity,or Glenn Beck the Republicans set out on a mission to dominate the nation’s airwaves.

    Just how they accomplished this is generally unknown among the public in this day of the iPhone. A brief history is provided below for two purposes. First to to provide information for the general public. Second, to give progressives a glimpse as to the awesome size and depth of the Republican propaganda machine which consists of several extensive nation wide AM Radio networks along with Fox TV and other various smaller TV outlets. So with that introduction here is the way it all got started.

    Over 40 years ago, AM broadcast networks and stations had became an obsolete industry across the United States. Economically TV had finally sucked the lifeblood out of this communications medium dominant in the U.S. from the 1920′s thru the 1950′s. AM stations were abandoned like the textile mills of old and were on the market for the price of the scrap value of the broadcast hardware alone. Nobody wanted AM Radio period.

    However, a few very rich political right wing individuals decided to buy up some of these old AM stations as their own personal hobbies, and use them as propaganda outlets for their so- called “conservative ideology”. They initially used an interview format in their programming format as this required minimum amount of advance scheduling to broadcast. Obviously, the guests selected for the interviews were well known strong supporters of “conservative issues”. Since these stations were completely subsidized by the wealthy owners, there was never any need to worry about making a profit from local advertising revenues to keep the station operating and on the air.

    The success of recycling these old AM stations as right wing propaganda outlets soon attracted other wealthy right wing individuals and over a period of time various groups of AM (Talk) stations morphed into several network configurations, most of which exist today. The prpoaganda distribution by the network configurations is enabled by pre-recorded talk shows simultaneously broadcast from one central big city location to a myriad of “remote” AM stations located in small towns across various regions of the country. The local radio listeners are fed a carefully constructed diet of right wing hate propaganda over the airwaves with no input from residents within each locality.

    Democrats eventually became sensitized to this new tactic as boosting the imagery of the Republican Party and introduced legislation to provide equal access to these local stations by the people who actually lived in the area of each AM station. This became known as the “Fairness Doctrine” and was actively opposed by Republican members of Congress over the years. Like all attempts by Congress to write legislation to solve a political intensive problem with a governmental entity created to serve the best interests of the public, this attempt resulted in a weak watered down “compromise”. The FCC was given jurisdiction of overseeing that AM stations were abiding by the access provisions of the legislation. And whereas the members of the FCC serve at the pleasure of the President, exercise of the supervision of the access provisions of the legislation is naturally dependent on the political party of the current President.

    However, the failure of the enforcement of the Fairness doctrine cannot be attributed to the Republicans alone. The Democrats have also been complicit in allowing these pernicious right wing Talk Networks to continue broadcasting bold statements which are clearly the very essence of slander, perdition, treason, and anarchy.

    In 2007 a group of Democrats tried to pass legislation that would have prevented the Fairness Doctrine legislation from expiring. It was heart breaking to see that there was but one lone Senator, Byron Dorgan (D- North Dakota) fighting against overwhelming odds just to get the legislation to the floor for a vote. He was ignored by virtually the entire Democratic caucus, including the Majority Leader, Senator Harry Reid. Needless to say after a week of fighting to raise interest among his fellow Senators, Dorgan was forced to retire. Even President Obama refused to sign an extension for the Fairness Doctrine in a fruitless effort to appease Republicans as he deemed their support necessary for his ambitious legislative agenda. Over the entire the life of this legislation, the Democrats have constantly traded support of the Fairness Doctrine for Republican support for some other bill that they considered more important.

    Hence, like any other neglected garden, AM Talk radio has become overgrown with weeds along with many traveling roots of poison ivy. It is a fault of man that in his energetic haste to build a society which reflects his own particular vision, he often overlooks that which MUST be taken care of. The “weed” issues must be plucked up and rooted out or eventually they will destroy the entire garden regardless of how noble and breath taking are the plants that populate the garden.

  • sinz54

    jg bennet: The “weed” issues must be plucked up and rooted out or eventually they will destroy the entire garden regardless of how noble and breath taking are the plants that populate the garden.
    In other words,
    you’re opposed to conservatives having any access to mass media. If you had your way, only liberals would be on radio and TV, right?

    We always knew you left-wingers were the real totalitarians.

    We never wanted to shut down Air America or Olbermann.

    But you would love to shut down Hannity and Limbaugh, right?

    Besides, conservative talk radio doesn’t convince anybody of anything. Rather, they provide reassurance to those who disagree with liberalism that someone out there agrees with them.

    The truth is,
    you modern liberals just have no idea how much you’re despised by America’s working class. You don’t have to listen to talk radio to discover that. Go into any tavern out West or down South and start a conversation. Or are taverns also “weeds” to be eliminated?

    I still remember how youthful bearded ragged anti-Vietnam war protesters were beaten up by patriotic American construction workers circa 1970. And that was long before Limbaugh went on the air.

  • sinz54

    Now getting back to the main issue:

    Politico.com has reported that the Dems have now given up trying to convince Americans that ObamaCare will lower health care costs without draconian rationing.

    Despite the claim of “jg bennet” that all these Americans have been fooled by a bunch of talk-show hosts (what is their combined Arbitron rating, compared to the total American electorate), these Americans are right and he is wrong.

    ObamaCare’s predecessor was RomneyCare, in MA where I live. It hasn’t lowered health care costs one iota. In fact, two years after it went into effect, Blue Cross raised my health insurance premium again–this time by 44%.

  • srgolub

    Yours appears to be an apples and oranges comparison. You compare the policies and practices of U.S. health insurance companies with those of the UK government. A more appropriate comparison would be with a US government run system like Medicare. Examples of Medicare practicing rescission or making callous decisions regarding life-saving treatments would make a stronger case.

  • bubba11

    Well, my health insurance sucks, and my parents, who are on medicare, have a better plan. So I’m hoping to live long enough to buy into the medicare program, if it still exists.

  • easton

    It’s striking that while much of Obamacare remains unpopular (as I noted last week, a majority doesn’t support the legislation),

    This is ridiculous, what the hell does “much of Obamacare remains unpopular” mean? Which parts?
    Oh, is it the elimination of denial of care for pre-existing conditions, or is it ending of rescission (because the cancer patient ommitted they had acne when they were 13?). No, it is the mandate that is unpopular, but tell me why Republicans are now in favor of free riders? They know damn well if a person shows up at an ER but doesn’t have insurance or the means to pay, the ER will still treat them.
    And the bill for people under the age of 65 is popular, well over 50%, it is the presently receiving members of Medicare, the elderly, partaking in socialist medicine, who are strongly opposed. (thanks to scare tactics of death panels or democratic bankrupting of medicare to pay for the ACA)

    “Last September, I wrote an essay about insurance rescission on a national scale. I looked at British health care.”

    Oh for the love of God, enough about Britain, look around your house, what do you have that says made in Britain on it? How about looking at the Japanese Health care system, or the Germans, you know the two other nations on the globe that approach us on the competitive scale.
    I never, ever see a damn article comparing the US auto industry and the British, or the US aerospace and the British, or the US computer industry and the British, but suddenly, for health care, Great Britain is the only other country in the world.

    Now is it that Mr. Gratzer has never heard of Japan or Germany? No, I find that hard to believe.
    Maybe he thinks the Japanese or Germans are not human like us, possess some kind of anti sickness gene. No, I doubt that as well. So it is not ignorance, nor is it racism (albeit of a strange kind), so what can it possibly be. Oh, yes. I know. It is being disingenuous.

    So when Mr. Gratzer stops being a disgraceful, lying hack, then I will pay attention to him.

    So Mr. Gratzer, when will you forthrightly and honestly compare the Japanese model of health care with the American one. You know full well it would make you look like an ass so I guarantee that he will never, ever do so. F-ing hack.

    Now for the record, Japan pays much less for health care, have better outcomes, and have full coverage. Now I am sure some people can cherry pick some data that US treatment for this or that disease is marginally superior to the Japanese, but will, naturally, leave out all the areas that the Japanese are superior to the US.

  • jg bennet

    sinz54

    :) that is from the nation magazine.

    i could not resist throwing it out there to make the point that there aint no way the dems are going to out scream the republicans on the healthcare debate.

    do you ever listen to am radio in far flung areas? wow is all i can say…..

    you are an intelligent informed citizen and unfortunately way outnumbered by the Ernest T. Bass “conservative” bunch in the GOP. the Ernest T’s are drawn toward the right wing am radio socialist, tyranny rhetoric like flies to S**T.

    if you don’t know Ernest T or even better Ernest Tea here he is on wiki

    Ernest T. was an ignorant and obstreperous mountain man with a penchant for rock throwing, who was known to wreak havoc on the otherwise quiet town of Mayberry

    remember i’m a goldwater guy not a lefty.

  • easton

    Hey Sinz, you are aware there are 49 other states in the union. Have you ever bothered to study the outcomes instead of constantly bitching that the rates which would have gone up without Romneycare would have gone up anyhow? Look at the results. Would you really want to live in Texas where fully 25% of people have no insurance? Then move there.

    Mass. has 4.9% uninsured, Texas has 26%. Now for a misanthrope that hates most of humanity, Texas seems like a good place to live (provided you are one of the 74%) but even then you would be wrong, Mass. is 4 for life expectancy, Texas is down at 30. With most of the Southern states below them. And, of course, rates have also jumped in Texas as well.

  • abj

    Well, my health insurance sucks, and my parents, who are on medicare, have a better plan. So I’m hoping to live long enough to buy into the medicare program, if it still exists.

    My grandparents are on Medicare, and the coverage is so awesome……..they had to take out a supplemental policy. My grandmother recently overcame breast cancer, and without that supplemental, her out of pocket costs would’ve been significant. Medicare isn’t universal coverage, like so many seem to believe.

  • easton

    And Sinz, how much was your health care costs going down before Romney care? None you say. So you cherry pick one year for one insurance company as evidence of….EVERYTHING wrong with Obamacare. Yeah, right. How convincing.

  • easton

    abj, nor should it be. For the elderly to get nursing home care, they essentially have to divest themselves of all assets or forfeit them to the government. But this is the way it should be. Is this rationing? I don’t see it that way. Nursing homes are very expensive to run. Now a lot of elderly do divest themselves of everything and give it to their heirs beforehand, but this is simply estate planning and is legal. Many then move in with families, with many going to day care, until the need for full time care becomes necessary.

  • sdspringy

    What the Libs/Dems refuse to acknowledge that in order to make ObamaCare revenue neutral, a joke, the Dems had to cut Medicare reimbursements. The budget magic was to occur when the Dems then TRIED to reinstate those reimburesements through separate legislation which did not pass. Thus the misleading CBO projections.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/11/AR2009121102792.html?hpid=topnews
    A Senate plan to cut Medicare to pay for an overhaul of the health system would threaten the profitability of roughly one in five hospitals and nursing homes over the next decade, according to a new analysis by the government official responsible for monitoring the popular health program.

    In a report Friday, Rick Foster, chief actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, questioned the sustainability of many of the proposed cuts, the major source of funding in a plan to extend insurance to more than 30 million additional Americans.

    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/174004.php

    The Senate’s health overhaul plan would cover 33 million more people but fail to curb rising health costs, could threaten some Medicare patients’ access to care,
    The Associated Press: “A new report from government economic analysts at the Health and Human Services Department found that the nation’s $2.5 trillion annual health care tab won’t shrink under the Democratic blueprint that senators are debating. Instead, it would grow somewhat more rapidly than if Congress does nothing.” The AP continues, “More troubling was the report’s assessment that the Democrats’ plan to squeeze Medicare for $493 billion over 10 years in savings relies on specific policy changes that ‘may be unrealistic’ and could lead to cuts in services.”

    So the government attempt at providing healthcare results in INCREASED cost, CUTS in service.
    This is the government plan the Libs wanted, Gee thanks.

  • jg bennet

    abj

    Ernest Tea, Ernest Tea wants to replenish the tree of libertea

    At a town hall meeting held by Rep. Robert Inglis (R-SC):

    Someone reportedly told Inglis, “Keep your government hands off my Medicare.”
    “I had to politely explain that, ‘Actually, sir, your health care is being provided by the government,’” Inglis told the Post. “But he wasn’t having any of it.”

    They threw Inglis out of congress.

    What does my point of right wing propaganda have to do with this articles point of selling Obamacare? Ask Inglis

  • easton

    “the Dems had to cut Medicare reimbursements”

    ha, are you talking about the 500 billion dollar big pharm giveaway that Bush gave for Medicare?

    The Senate’s health overhaul plan would cover 33 million more people but fail to curb rising health costs, could threaten some Medicare patients’ access to care,

    Oh my god, I had no idea covering 33 million more people would be cheaper than not covering them. Freaking D’uh. Covering the uninsured of course will cost more, but we have the value of, you know, covering the uninsured. And, of course, you are ignoring that the Government is simply assuming the costs that are now passed onto premium holders via uncompensated care at hospital ER’s. Now, I will be honest and admit that providing insurance to the 33 million Americans will add about 1% to health care costs, because of their increased usage for routine care that they now suffer through untreated. However, it can easily be argued a health society is more productive.

    And springy, when you provide links, you should no they also contain info. that refutes your claims. I just love how you cherry pick the parts you think are right:
    “Congress has implemented even larger savings in Medicare in the past, and no access problems materialized.”

    Democrats say doctors and hospitals rarely pull out of the Medicare program, and providers have agreed to the cuts in exchange for the chance to serve millions of new customers with insurance.
    Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the Senate bill’s chief architect, focused on other aspects of the report Friday, hailing Foster’s conclusion that the Medicare savings, if realized, would extend the financial life of the program by nearly a decade and would reduce premiums and cost-sharing for beneficiaries by an annual average of nearly $700 per couple.

    Republicans played up Foster’s conclusion that overall health spending in the nation would increase slightly under the bill.”

    So, lets see. Medicare will be extended by a decade and 33 million more Americans will be covered. But costs will go up slightly.

    This the best you can do?

  • easton

    So the government attempt at providing healthcare results in marginally increased costs while insuring 33 MILLION MORE Americans, ending of RESCISSION and DENIAL OF SERVICE due to pre-existing conditions, and cuts in some kinds of service which will ensure the continued VIABILITY of the program.
    This is the government plan the Libs wanted, thanks.

    See, I can use SELECTIVE CAPS TOO.

    I will tell you what springy, if you are willing to pick up the tab for some little girl with cancer who has no insurance, then I will listen to Conservatives. Telling her to f off and die, no. I got no patience for that. And don’t pretend her not being able to get insurance is not a death sentence.

  • DeepSouthPopulist

    The new Republicans in the new Congress need to put repeal at the top of list, and then let Obama veto it in front of the whole country even though people will have just overwhelmingly rejected his agenda.

  • easton

    DSP, um…that is impossible. Republicans won’t even win the Senate much less get the 60 seats necessary to repeal it so there will be nothing for Obama to veto.

  • abj

    Someone reportedly told Inglis, “Keep your government hands off my Medicare.”
    “I had to politely explain that, ‘Actually, sir, your health care is being provided by the government,’” Inglis told the Post. “But he wasn’t having any of it.”

    Ahh, the favorite straw man – “keep dem gubmint hands off my medicare.”

    The only point I was making was you don’t enter some sort of healthcare utopia once you turn 65, which is what many on the left tried to argue throughout the healthcare debate. If Medicare were so awesome, my grandparents wouldn’t have needed a supplemental policy to cover their most serious medical issues.

  • anniemargret

    easton: Haven’t you figured it out yet? The Republicans don’t give a d- – n about those 33 million Americans without healthcare insurance, recission, denial of service…. why, that would make sense.

    They. Don’t. Care.

    They’re counting on those confused tea party members who hate social programs, but still want their Medicare and Social Security. They hope they don’t catch on.

    And those of us out here listening to these bromides about “Obamacare’ and all that’s wrong with it are paying attention. So far it’s Dems=10, Republicans=0

    We need a single payer system. We need to keep Republicans far, far away from governing this country every again.

  • sdspringy

    Really Easton, a little girl with cancer is told to F@@ off, thats what the argument is about?
    Ever heard of CHIP. look it up.

    Actually if you do any reading you should know the reduction in Medicare reimbursements is pushed because every American is being FORCED to purchase medical insurance.

    Something which is in the courts and the possibily is it will not stand up to a constitutional test. If it fails so does HCR.

    So Anne no matter the good intentions, the political/Lib/Dems are still required to follow the Constitution. Nothing so far requires an American Citizen to buy medical insurance. If it does maybe next the Lib can force the closure of McDonalds, Ben&Jerry’s Ice Cream, and FritoLay, anything is possible.

  • easton

    springy, so when she turned 19 and is no longer for S-Chip, then she can die? How kind of you to keep her alive till then.

    And FORCED? to buy insurance? So you are in favor of free riders? Yes, and people are FORCED to buy car insurance, and if you have a mortgage on your house you have to have homeowners insurance. Well, in our society if you show up at an ER they will treat you regardless of your ability to pay. Now if you are going to state change the law to allow only those that can prove their ability to pay before they are treated, then people have a responsibility to have insurance.
    Do you really imagine people dying on the streets outside of ER’s is going to play over well for Republicans? By all means, press for that.

    By the way, the Heritage Foundation supported mandates based on responsibility. If you are willing to pay out of your own pocket uncompensated care then do so, I don’t want to.

    So how about it springy, are you in favor of people not buying insurance of any kind? Car, home, life, health, etc.? Do you think this is responsible?

  • sdspringy

    Really, if I did not drive, would I be required to buy car insurance, you know better. If I did not own a home, or owned my home out right I would NOT be required to buy homeowners insurance.

    Those individuals with Car or Homeowners insurance have taken on the responsibility, what responsibility do you require to get healthcare. None, drug users, illegals, aboration, you have no requirements, healthcare is a right with no responsibility.

    HCR does not lower health care costs, the very issue which drove the legislation. Healthcare recission, or denial of coverage could have been covered with a 5 page piece of legislation but those two problems were not the focal point for HCR.

    Now the greedy Lib/Dems will see their whole package get tossed because of the insurance mandate. Because the state can not compel/force an individual to purchase healthcare insurance. And likewise the state/healthcare provider is not required to provide healthcare services.
    I think it returns to the responsibility issue.

    And as far as your first comment, people die all the time, I actually plan on it happening to me and other members of my family. They even die in countries which have the public option, go figure. You can keep all that deep seated Lib guilt on your shoulders, I live just fine without it.

  • easton

    healthcare is a right with no responsibility. What??? “HCR does not lower health care costs, the very issue which drove the legislation.” No, it was not to lower costs, it was to bend the cost increase curve downwards. And we will see when it comes into effect if it does. As of now, nothing has happened yet.

    “Healthcare recission, or denial of coverage could have been covered with a 5 page piece of legislation but those two problems were not the focal point for HCR.” Impossible, since if people do not need to buy when they are healthy, they won’t and if they are guaranteed coverage when they are sick, they can wait until they are sick before buying it. It is a 3 legged stool.

    Now to be honest, I think we can find an alternative to mandates via tax and rebate. Those who buy insurance can get those taxes back, and those that don’t, the money will go into a dedicated fund to care for those that do not purchase health insurance.

    And the state sure as hell can compel you to pay taxes, so when and if the Democrats do this tax and rebate, you will be SOL in your arguments.

  • easton

    by the way, when I talk about tax and rebate, I am saying if you provide the government with proof you have insurance, the taxes would not be taken out, if you don’t…then you pay…lets say $100.00 a week. You want to see how quickly people buy insurance then?