Health Insurance : Does Baucus Bill Make Things Worse?

Cartoon by David Horsey / Seattle P.I.

Public option a necessity:
Baucus Bill protects insurance companies

By Ted McLaughlin / The Rag Blog / October 19, 2009

There are two especially devious ways that private health insurers use to keep their own profits high (and deny health care to consumers). The first is to cherry pick only healthy people to cover with insurance, and deny insurance to sick people or people with pre-existing conditions.

The second is to deny coverage for specific treatments to those with insurance. It is not uncommon for seriously ill people to find that their private insurance will not cover the treatment they need to get well. In many cases, these people die because they are unable to get the treatment their insurance company has refused to pay for.

The Baucus Bill, the health care reform bill approved by the Senate Finance Committee, would take care of the first problem. Private insurance companies would no longer be able to deny coverage to sick people or those with pre-existing conditions (or price that coverage out of the consumer’s reach). But it does nothing to fix the second problem.

In fact, an excellent article by Lisa Girion in the Los Angeles Times makes the point that the Baucus Bill would only make the second problem worse, and leave consumers no better off than they are now. After all, what good is private insurance coverage if that coverage will not pay for needed treatment?

Since they could not exclude sick people or those with pre-existing conditions, the insurance companies would be left with two choices to maintain their exorbitantly high profits — raise premiums or deny treatment. Of the two choices, the easiest option is to deny treatment — a choice that could easily be hidden in the policy’s fine print.

Considering the fact that private insurers already do this for many expensive procedures, is there any doubt that they would protect their profits by denying coverage even more often? I think that answer is self-evident. But there is a simple solution to this problem.

One might think the solution is to require coverage and payment of any treatment declared necessary by a doctor, but that won’t work. That would just raise the premium cost of private insurance, and in the Baucus Bill there is nothing by private insurance.

The real solution is to include a public option for insurance in the bill. A public option would cover those with pre-existing conditions, cover all necessary treatments and it would keep premium costs low (by significantly lowering overhead among other things). This would force the private insurers to do the same, or lose consumers to the public option.

Senator John D. Rockefeller (D-W. Virginia) says, “We’ve seen all the insurance industry tricks — hiding rules in fine print, cutting people off when they get sick, and refusing to pay for necessary treatment because of pre-existing conditions. This is why I am fighting for a public option — we need an insurance option out there that puts people first, not profits. We need a real public option, one that competes with private insurance companies to keep them honest and accountable.”

There are those who think the public option would drive private insurers out of the health insurance business. Personally, I don’t care. There are plenty of other things they can insure.

It comes down to a choice. Which is more important — protecting private insurers or providing necessary treatment for sick Americans? I choose the latter.

[Rag Blog contributor Ted McLaughlin also posts at jobsanger.]

The Rag Blog

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9 Responses to Health Insurance : Does Baucus Bill Make Things Worse?

  1. Sara Speights says:

    Tinkering with insurance coverage is not going to help, because regardless of the changes we still won’t be able to afford it and neither will be the government. We have to significantly lower the cost of health care services, which means messing with lots of people’s income levels and jobs in the health care industry.

  2. I believe that the first step towards true health care reform begins by ending the corn subsidies along with our foreign occupations. Until both of these end, no health care plan can be successful. It will cost to much and break this government financially.

    Currently this government pays farmers to grow more corn than we need. Which is turned into high calorie, low nutritional density faux food. Fed to the animals we eat. Marketed to us as a cheaper more convenient healthy food option. Then fed to us.

    It makes us fatter, slower, lazier and sicker. Then they charge us to treat and numb our pain from the illnesses they fed to us. Money is being made at every angle of the deal, it is breaking the middle class and it is completely unsustainable.

    The money saved by removing the corn subsidy and ending foreign occupations would be enough to pay for universal health care for Canada, US (even the illegal ones) and Mexico combined, when coupled with lower health costs from our overall healthier diets.

    The current health care reform debate along with the bank and auto bailouts are huge signs to the cancer of corruption inside our Corporatised Government.

    I am tired of waiting for Washington to solve my problems for me. It is incapable of finding a sustainable solution for any problem, because it is completely unsustainable itself.

    It is up to us, as a community, to figure out a solution for the health care crisis. More than likely all the rest too.

    Community health care co-op?

  3. It comes down to a choice. Which is more important — protecting private insurers or providing necessary treatment for sick Americans? I choose the latter.

    How do you think we got from a country doctor with a few sharp instruments in his black bag to the state of the art hospitals that provide all those necessary treatments? Do you think the government gave us all those advances and innovations? Governments kill innovation. Having been significantly involved in several startup companies, I can tell you what drives innovation. Profits. Risk taking people will only risk their personal money and their careers and spend 18 hours a day trying to perfect their product and marketing and sales if there is a potentially huge payday at the end of that effort. So if you want to ensure that you miss out on the next 100 years of medical and technological advances, just keep trashing corporate profits.

    Senator John D. Rockefeller (D-W. Virginia) says, “We’ve seen all the insurance industry tricks — hiding rules in fine print, … I hope you’re kidding. A US Senator accusing an industry of hiding things in fine print and using tricks is LAUGHABLE. Fine print and hiding things in bills is basically all that happens in Washington. It’s a really big really black pot calling the kettle black.

    In a choice between two evils, I will pick corporate profits every day. Why? Corporations don’t steal income from current and future generations to service massive debts resulting from decade after decade of deficit spending. They don’t print money that results in inflation. Markets will correct themselves when profits get too far out of line (assuming the government gets out of the way), but at least it is their own money they are using. Nothing can correct a Federal government that won’t live within its means. Its unstoppable.

  4. Richard says:

    Hey! What the futch happened here! I thought we were gonna get free universal health care. Instead we get the right…no, the obligation to pay the insurance company.
    whatta scam.
    JJR, your comments are right on. Too bad the “health care” bill(s) have nothing to do with Health.

  5. There is no “free healthcare”.
    Healthcare for “free” does not exist.
    In case you missed it, “free healthcare” is not free.

    But its not just Richard that believes in “free” Fed goodie bags. A few weeks ago, residents in Detroit lined up blocks deep to get some “free Obama stimulus money”. The interviews were hilarious if the concept of functional illiteracy can be thought of as funny. Even funnier was the evidence of how “Stimulus” money was being spent. Talk about a scam! No need to ponder any further why the “stimulus package” didn’t create any of the jobs the administration promised it would.

    If there ever was any doubt about the utter failure of the “free” public education system in this country, the belief in “free” goodies from the Feds should dispel all doubt.

  6. Richard says:

    Sorry DHS, I guess I was a little too “free” with the word “free.” No of course health care is not and no plan will make it “free,” we should pay for it with the tax money the government collects just like all the other countries who have “free” health care. The government is going to squander everything they can beg, borrow or steal anyway. I would rather pay for health care than unwinnable illegal wars or giving it to the banks, insurance companies, auto makers, and other capitalist pigs.

  7. In a real way, I agree with you Richard. We both know the government just wastes the money it collects. I would like to find a way to return to a government that lives within its means. If we had a government that was fiscally responsible, I think conservatives would be far more likely to support things like government regulated health care and other social services.

    No one that I know of is opposed to better and more available healthcare. But I am not willing to settle for creating a massive debt knowing that our kids and grandkids will be required to pay that debt off. They deserve the same chances in life that I have had. If that means that some today have to suffer without healthcare today, so be it. The banks insurance companies and other capitalist pigs may make obscene profits, but at least thay are not asking the next generation to provide the money. Only governments get to do that.

  8. Richard says:

    Yeah DHS, But, how do all the other countries pay for “free” universal health care without indebting their future generations?

    Health care won’t break or impovish us, but unwinnable wars and bailouts for the capitalist pigs will.

  9. I am no fan of bailouts. I could care less how many ineptly managed corporations bite the dust. It is interesting however to note with irony that Progressives scream about companies that loose money(i.e. asked for and got a bailout) yet also complain when corporations make profits and don’t need any govt help. Make up your minds.

    As for the debt question, the simple answer is … “they don’t” 7 of the 10 largest economies in the world are also among the 10 largest debtor nations. These include Japan, US, UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain. In the UK particularly, the aggregate Debt is nearly equal to the annual GDP. The accumulation of debt is increasing faster than economy is growing. The US will have a debt/GDP ratio of ~80% at the end of FY2010. Canada and France have ratios of ~65%. Chinas’ ratio is ~16.5%. The IMF has reported as follows concerning the G20 countries:
    “Japan’s debt burden, which is already the largest of the world’s big economies, will reach a sumo-sized 225% of GDP in 2010. Rich countries’ debt is set to grow from 83.3% of GDP in 2008 to almost 100% in 2010. Developing economies will see much smaller growth from 35.7% to 37.8% in two years, but these countries also have lower debt tolerance than rich ones.”

    I don’t know about you, but most of the people I know who spend every penny they earn and save nothing and never pay off their bills, usually go under when times get hard (like now). Is it too much to ask the govt to exercise a little common sense and restraint.

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