Healthcare: The Big Issue, The Big Test for Obama

(9:30AM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

I want to try to take buhdy’s essay, “Obama uses his Loud Voice on Health Care” one step further into activism.  So often on this blog, we ask, “But what can we do?”  I want to offer an answer to this question.

We must get Obama’s back on this issue.  In massive, massive numbers, with really loud voices, we must get behind him and push, massively, loudly, strongly.  I want every person on this blog to reach out to friends, family, e lists, and every contact we have to move folks in the direction of REAL healthcare reform.

Buhdy correctly identifies this as the defining issue.  This is the issue Obama wishes to succeed.  If he can win on healthcare reform, if we can keep his back on healthcare reform so that he can win, then we will have a solid basis for further progressive successes in the future.  

Please continue beyond the fold—

The insurance companies are fighting hard to keep not just single payer off the table, but any possibility of even a public option. Big Insurance, and their armies of lobbyists want only the same old insurance company monopoly — the same old monopoly which denies us care when we most need it, wastes our monies in extravagant campaigns, advertising, and the same kind of CEO pay and benefits we have just seen in the market crashes, ponzie schemes and derivatives mazes of Wall Street.

Let me give a few examples from Medicare-D, the infamous Bush-Big Pharma scam to provide prescription drugs for seniors.  As a senior, I’ve had direct experience on this one.   After a monumental struggle of bribes promised and arms twisted, the “Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act” was passed in the House by 1 vote at 3 in the morning and signed into law by George W. Bush on December 8, 2003.

One month later, the ten-year cost estimate was boosted to $534 billion, up more than $100 billion over the figure presented by the Bush administration during Congressional debate. The inaccurate figure helped secure support from fiscally conservative Republicans who had promised to vote against the bill if it cost more than $400 billion. It was reported that an administration official, Thomas A. Scully, had concealed the higher estimate and threatened to fire Medicare Chief Actuary Richard Foster if he revealed it.[2] By early 2005, the White House Budget had increased the 10-year estimate to $1.2 trillion.[3]

  —from Wikipedia

The cost more than doubled in a year.  It wasn’t just the Bush Administration which got what it wanted here.  The CEOs and top officers in many health insurance companies profited greatly as well.

Take for example, Dr. William W. McGuire, M.D., a pulmonologist who gave up his medical practice to become the CEO and Chairman of the Board of United Health Group.  United Health was the insurance group to which I was assigned by the government when the law went into effect.  McGuire had lobbied hard, alongside AARP, for the passage of Medicare-D, and he reaped a mighty profit before retiring in late 2006 or early 2007.  According to the April 18th, 2006 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

the 58-year-old Dr. McGuire is chief executive officer of United Health Group Inc., one of the nation’s largest health-care companies. He draws $8 million a year in salary plus bonus, enjoying perks such as personal use of the company jet. He also has amassed one of the largest stock-options fortunes of all time.

Unrealized gains on Dr. McGuire’s options totaled $1.6 billion, according to United Health’s proxy statement released this month.


Dr. McGuire’s story shows how an elite group of companies is getting rich from the nation’s fraying health-care system. Many of them aren’t discovering drugs or treating patients. They’re middlemen who process the paperwork, fill the pill bottles and otherwise connect the pieces of a $2 trillion industry.

The middlemen credit themselves with keeping the health system humming and restraining costs. They’re bringing in robust profits — and their executives are among the country’s most richly paid — as doctors, patients, hospitals and even drug makers are feeling a financial squeeze. Some 46 million Americans lack health insurance.

United Health’s main business is offering health plans to employers and Medicare beneficiaries. Smaller employers pay an annual insurance premium to United Health in exchange for having the insurer take on the risk of covering employees’ health care.

The “risk” business has been a particular gold mine for United Health and its rivals in recent years. As health-care inflation eased, insurers still raised premiums at double-digit rates. United Health’s stock price tripled between January 2003 and January 2006, helped by acquisitions, although it has fallen back somewhat since the beginning of this year. United Health’s net income in 2005 totaled $3.3 billion, nearly four times the figure in 2001.


The company’s options-granting practices … are being examined by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Read the article here

On December 6, 2007, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced a $468 million settlement against McGuire for backdating stock options.

Several other fraudulent &/or questionable practices are reported by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship in Salon.

These include Rick Scott, former head of the largest healthcare chain, Columbia/HCA who was fired when his company’s scheme to defraud Medicare and Medicaid with bogus claims was discovered and the firm had to pay $1.7 billion to get out of the mess.  

Rick Scott is featured in the attack ads by the PR firm (Creative Response Concepts)hired by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina  to debunk Obama’s healthcare proposals.  CRC, Creative Response Concepts is the same PR firm that brought us the swiftboat ads against Kerry.

    ~~~personal comment: Blue Cross Blue Shield was the insurance group I had for

          my second year of Medicare-D

And to round out my personal experience, my third and current prescription drug insurance provider is Health Net Inc.  As again reported by Moyers, The Chief Executive of Health Net Inc. is Jay Gellert.  Moyers points out that in two earlier government attempts to get healthcare reform, under Carter and Clinton, the insurance industries themselves disarmed the fight by saying:

“You don’t have to make us cut costs,” they promised.  “We’ll do it voluntarily.”

And this time, Moyers tells us:

As if on cue, hardly had their pledge of volunteerism rung out across the land than Jay Gellert, chief executive of Health Net Inc. and chair of the lobbying group America’s Health Insurance Plans, assured his pals not to worry about the voluntary reductions. “We believe that we can do it without undermining the viability of comnpanies,” he said, “and in effect enhancing the payment to physicians and hospitals.”  In other words, their so-called voluntary “reforms” will in no way interfere with maximizing profits.

The list goes on, but I will let it suffice with my batting a thousand on CEOs for my prescription drug insurance plans.  While I was considered so low income that I had not had to pay anything for my prescriptions before Bush’s Medicare-D plan, I now am up to paying around $1K per year.  In part this is because, the Insurance companies keep switching prescription drugs to being over the counter and, therefore not covered at all.  So the patient has to buy them over the counter.  It’s another form of denying coverage.  My wonderful, small, independent pharmcy was driven out of business by the excessive paper work, ridiculous regulations, and bureaucratic madness of the Medicare-D program.  So we, the consumers, are driven into huge, error-prone conglomerates like CVS.


Lets get behind Obama on this one.  Lets get his back and give him the strength to stand strong against these crooks and fraudsters.

There are many reasons.  

1) I think, along with buhdy, that it is Obama’s primary issue; the issue which means the most to him.

2) There is tremendous support around the country for single payer; it is well above 50%, somewhere more like 60%.  

3) Because of the strength of this support, it will be easier to push on this one.

4) If we succeed in this, our strength will grow accordingly.

So read up on the facts of single payer.  There’s a lot of information on this at Progressive Democrats of America, at Senator Bernie Sander’s web page, at the California Nurses’ Association, etc.

And, Senator Chris Dodd has sent out an e-mail asking people to comment on the dem’s healthcare proposal.  You can find this poll at facebook, twitter, and other sites listed at the end of his e-letter which I quote here:

We took on the credit card companies and won. We’ve taken on big tobacco, and we are on the verge of winning again with a bill that will protect kids from the dangers of smoking and finally allow the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco.

But we’re not taking a break. This week, we put forward landmark legislation to reform the nation’s health care system. Our bill does the following:

Covers All Americans. Our legislation will provide health care to all Americans.

Reduces the Costs of Health Care. Our bill will reduce health care costs through higher quality care, preventive health measures, and increased health information technology.

Adds Choices for Patients. If you like the coverage you have now, you can keep it. But if you don’t have health insurance or don’t like the coverage you have, our legislation will give you new, more affordable health care options.

Modernizes the Health Care System. It’s finally time to modernize the health care system for the 21st Century by making large investments in training doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals. Our legislation will ensure that patient care is better coordinated and addresses individual needs.

Improves Long Term Care. Our legislation will make it possible for elderly citizens and individuals with disabilities to live at home independently instead of having to move to a nursing home.

I’m playing a key role in this fight, and I need your help. I’ve started by convening working groups with my fellow Democrats on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Now we are starting Senate hearings on the reform bill. And I’m going to work closely with President Obama to make sure that the principles we care about end up in the final health care reform bill.

I need your help to make this happen. The first step is to get input from as many people as possible all over the country, from ordinary Americans to health care experts.

I want you to have your chance to speak out. If you have something to say — an idea, a suggestion, your own story to share — please send me your thoughts.

Make your voice heard in the health care debate.

This is the single biggest issue facing the American people, and together we have an important role to play. But if we work together, I know we can take on the special interests and win health care for all Americans.

Thanks for helping,

Chris Dodd




read more

All right, guys, see you in the victory line on healthcare and at the front lines of our next issue!


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  1. Ask your friends and family from all over the country to support single payer.  And, if Congress won’t give us that — Insist on a strong public option.

    Free Congressionbal switchboard numbers:

        1 (800) 828-0498

        1 (800) 614-2803

        1 (866) 340-9281

        1 (866) 338-1015

        1 (877) 851-6437

    The main (toll charge) number is (202) 225-3121 .

    As the free numbers are changed periodically, you can stay up to date at:

        www dot CallCongress dot org    

  2. …for the promo.

  3. from Salon

    The healthcare industry isn’t going to play nice

    The GOP and the medical establishment begin to push back on the public option, so Obama returns to the stump.


    Obama may have gotten big healthcare industry players to agree to talk about reforms, but now that things are actually moving, they’re not playing along as nicely as the White House hoped they would. “Remember how [healthcare interest groups] all wanted a seat at the table?” one consultant working on the issue said. “Well, now they’re all throwing their food.”

    • RUKind on June 13, 2009 at 04:42

    Big pharma – execs, board members, major investors

    Big insurance – execs, boards, investors

    Law firms that work for these people

    Lobbying firms that work for these people

    Legislators in the pockets of these people

    Legislative staff that revolve through the doors

    Industry lobbying associations

    Find the names, addresses and backgrounds. Let’s build a database. Make your persuasion as personal as possible. And persistent.

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