Posts tagged ‘health insurance’

May 13, 2011

Everyone but the wealthy suffers when conservatives get their way

by Ben Hoffman

Because Republicans and right-wing sheep defeated any meaningful health insurance reform, we’re paying higher and higher premiums. Obama can be considered complicit for not fighting for the American people. The Democrats should have fought hard for a public option for health insurance. That would have given us another option. Those who like to pay high premiums for private health insurance administration could continue to do so. Those of us who don’t believe insurance companies add much value and should be run as non-profits would have an alternative. But, because of the overly emotional right-wingers and the Republicans bought and paid for by insurance corporations, we don’t have any choice but to pay through the nose.

What would happen if we had a government option? People would have more money to spend on other things, which would stimulate the economy. More people would be able to afford insurance, which would increase demand for health care, which would increase demand for health care workers, which would stimulate the economy. People would be more inclined to seek out preventive care, which would cut down on emergency room visits. Our tax dollars pay for these people to use the emergency rooms and pay for their care when they don’t have insurance. If they did have insurance, it would save us money.

The overly emotional right-wingers just don’t like the idea of government providing services. To them, if you can’t make a profit from it, it isn’t worth doing. Unless, of course, it involves THEIR Social Security or Medicare. Then it’s “hands off!”

So this is what we’re dealing with, now that conservatives have gotten their way:

Health Insurers Making Record Profits as Many Postpone Care
The nation’s major health insurers are barreling into a third year of record profits, enriched in recent months by a lingering recessionary mind-set among Americans who are postponing or forgoing medical care.

The UnitedHealth Group, one of the largest commercial insurers, told analysts that so far this year, insured hospital stays actually decreased in some instances. In reporting its earnings last week, Cigna, another insurer, talked about the “low level” of medical use.

Yet the companies continue to press for higher premiums, even though their reserve coffers are flush with profits and shareholders have been rewarded with new dividends. Many defend proposed double-digit increases in the rates they charge, citing a need for protection against any sudden uptick in demand once people have more money to spend on their health, as well as the rising price of care.


Significant increases in how much people have to pay for their medical care may prevent a solid rebound. In recent years, many employers have sharply reduced benefits, while raising deductibles and co-payments so people have to reach deeper into their pockets.

In 2010, about 10 percent of people covered by their employer had a deductible of at least $2,000, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit research group, compared with just 5 percent of covered workers in 2008.


High deductibles also can be daunting. David Welch, a nurse in California whose policy has a $4,000 deductible, said he was surprised to realize he had delayed going to the dermatologist, even though he had a history of skin cancer. Mr. Welch, who has been a supporter of the need to overhaul insurance industry practices for the California Nurses Association union, said he hoped his medical training would help him determine when to go to the doctor. “I underestimated how much that cost would affect my behavior,” he said.


Because they say they expect costs to rebound, insurers have not been shy about asking for higher rates. In Oregon, for example, Regence BlueCross BlueShield, a nonprofit insurer that is the state’s largest, is asking for a 22 percent increase for policies sold to individuals. In California, regulators have been resisting requests from insurers to raise rates by double digits.

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BlueCross passes itself off as a non-profit while paying its CEOs over 10 million dollars a year, as do many insurance companies. Medicare operates at about a 4% overhead with no multi-million dollar salaries for people whose objective is to figure out ways to deny coverage. Profit is the reason private insurance companies are in business and denying coverage increases profits.