In a plan revealed November 13th, less than a week after the historic election of a new Congress, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) called for more hundreds of billions of dollars to be provided by the federal government to pay for the uninsured – and to pay for them in ways that would continue to line their own pockets. They call it ‘Hope for Millions.’
Here are some of the questions that were not addressed. Why would the insurance companies who are raking in hundreds of billions of dollars in excess profits and basically standing in the way of a national non-profit healthcare program for all create a new plan to cover the uninsured? Why haven’t they done it before? What do they stand to gain? What do they stand to lose?
The follow-up story should explore the fact that a national healthcare program is the number one domestic priority of the voters. According to some statistics, 83% of the people want such a program and recognize that we are the only industrialized country in the world that doesn’t have such a program. People expect Congress to take decisive action to provide a national healthcare system.
Most of the people want such a program because the healthcare crisis isn’t primarily about the uninsured. We are all close to being uninsured, and even when we are insured we face the growing costs of insurance policies, the co-pays and deductibles, the potential of losing our job, and worst of all, the fact that insurance companies cancel insurance policies when people get really sick.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Reporters ought to talk with Congressman John Conyers whose bill, the United States National Health Insurance Act, H.R. 676, was introduced during the last Congress and has 78 co- sponsors on it. There is a growing constituency of millions of people who understand and support this bill. It would provide comprehensive, quality healthcare for all residents of the United States including payment for all physicians and hospital costs, dental, optical, mental health, prescription drugs for all and long-term care, among other benefits. You would never receive another healthcare bill. There would be no co-pays, deductibles, or denials. There would never be any more bankruptcies caused by healthcare costs.
Congressman Conyers has jurisdiction over bankruptcy as apart of his Judiciary Committee duties. About 50% of the bankruptcies in the U.S. are caused by healthcare crises. People are losing their homes and their jobs and their livelihood, children are missing a college education, and businesses are going bankrupt and/or cutting out healthcare coverage entirely because of the rising cost of insurance.
It would be good for reporters to check out Conyers’ bill and see how it would be financed by all of us, employers and employees, paying a small premium based on our income, and that all of us except 5%, the ultra rich, would be spending less money than we are now paying for healthcare.
The cost of high-priced insurance companies would be eliminated because we wouldn’t need them. They don’t provide any healthcare at all. This would save almost $300 billion each year. Insurance companies just take the money, make a huge profit, and pay out a reduced amount, too little for the healthcare of the people. They are money-managers, not healthcare professionals. They even invest our money in tobacco and other detrimental corporations. They control the doctors, the Congress, and our healthcare at the moment. They want to keep that control. So they are scurrying about to try to get their own survival plan firmly entrenched in Congress.
President Bush’s Health Savings Accounts and ownership plans are also promoted in the AHIP plan. These would provide money to managers and put more money into Wall Street. The affluent who would then get tax breaks for saving money for future healthcare needs. Because of their tax-breaks, government money sorely needed for a healthy society would be used to further enrich the money managers. People would be urged to pay as much as possible out of pocket into the system before accessing their Health Savings Accounts.
Healthcare-NOW is a national movement made up of hundreds of organizations challenging this kind of continuing government subsidy for the health insurance industry. We need healthcare not insurance companies. AHIP represents those 1300 insurance companies that would be replaced by a single payer such as an improved Medicare for All. At present, they benefit from the increasing privatization of Medicare Part D and Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements for their management costs. That’s why they are proposing to ‘help the uninsured’ by providing more tax money to Medicare and Medicaid.
The uninsured must be covered. It is a mandate. But the rest of us need a good healthcare system too. It could be so simple and so beneficial if we went for a single payer national non- profit healthcare system instead of more money to the insurance companies.
Marilyn Clement is National Coordinator of Healthcare-NOW, www.healthcare-now.org