Sunday, August 23, 2009

Why We Need an American Plan for Health Insurance Reform

We need a truly American plan for reforming health insurance. Such a plan would do the following:

* Reduce Costs — Rising health care costs are crushing the budgets of governments, businesses, individuals and families and they must be brought under control;
* Guarantee Choice — Every American must have the freedom to choose their plan and doctor – including the choice of a public insurance option (like Medicare or the plan that federal employees have);
* Ensure Quality Care for All — All Americans must have quality and affordable health care.

People right here in our community and all over the country have signed on to these principles. They are the ones our President says he will use to evaluate whatever plans Congress comes up with.

You say you didn't vote for Barack Obama. Well, if you support these principles, consider it your civic duty to work for them anyway.

I believe that we Americans, at our best: care about people, take responsibility for ourselves and others, and strive to make ourselves and the world a better place. Working for health insurance reform is consistent with who we are because we believe in freedom and fairness for everyone, not just the powerful.

We need to make sure that health insurance reform helps our government fullfil one of its important moral missions - protecting us, its citizens. Right now we have a health care emergency and need to be protected from the excesses of profit-based insurance plans that ration care through the decisions of their profit-serving bureaucrats.

If we only have profit-based insurance plans to choose from, we'll continue to have overhead costs in the 20-30% range - the costs of adminstrative paperwork and decision-making focused on denying care and enhancing profits. For comparison, overhead for Medicare which is publicly administered runs about 4%. And you can bet the public servants working to manage Medicare are earning a whole lot less than the billions in compensation that some private insurance executives are raking in.

One way to look at it is that profit-based insurance companies are taxing us through a chunk of the premiums we and our employers pay (premiums average close to $13,000/year for a family of 4) - if we are lucky enough to have health insurance. When 20 to 30% of premium payments go to denying care and profiting from it, that constitutes a tax on those of us who have health insurance. This private tax decreases the availability of quality health care for us who are taxed and only benefits insurance company managers and investors.

We can't "vote out of office" the insurance companies who have taxed us in this way. A truly American Plan would offer us an alternative to this private "taxation without representation." We deserve a health insurance option that serves the public interest rather than private profits.

Please let your Senators and Representatives know you want a truly American plan for health insurance reform NOW. Ask them to ignore the lobbyists who represent profit-based health insurance and listen to you.

For more information on the economic impact of the health care crisis, go to the web site of the National Coalition on Health Care:

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Where are the myths coming from? Follow the $$$.

There is so much misinformation about health care reform being circulated by those who are more focused on their profits (or satisfying big campaign contributors) than on what's best for the rest of us that I hardly know where to start the debunking.

A general piece of advice for Involved Voters: If you hear something about health care reform that sounds outrageous - it's likely to be a half-truth or even a complete lie. This is especially true when it comes to those who are against giving us the option to have health insurance that's administered by the federal government - just like Medicare and the health plan that Congress has.

I can think of many circumstances in which people would welcome an option for health insurance that wasn't driven by a profit motive. For example, someone who is starting their own business but either can't get coverage from private health insurance companies because of a pre-existing condition - even a minor one that can be controlled by diet and exercise - or can't afford the premiums.

The question I have not been able to find a satisfactory answer for is: How exactly does having private health insurance driven by a profit motive benefit the person who is covered by that insurance? Some of us have public health insurance options now - Medicare and the plan available to members of Congress. These are well-administered, have low overhead costs and give people their choice of doctors and hospitals. Why shouldn't more people have a similar public health insurance plan available to them?

As a person who owns a small business, this particular bit of myth-busting caught my attention, so I'm passing it along:

Health Insurance Reform - DAILY MYTHBUSTER: Impact on Small Business


Myth: The House bill pays for health care reform with a “small business tax” that will kill jobs.

Fact: Small businesses benefit enormously from America’s Affordable Health Choices Act.

  • Reform dramatically reduces small business health costs. The Small Business Majority recently released a report that showed that without reform, small businesses will pay nearly $2.4 trillion in health care costs over the next 10 years. If health insurance reform is enacted, the report found that small businesses could save as much as $855 billion over 10 years, nearly 36 percent. This money can be reinvested in the business and jobs.
  • Reform eliminates price and benefit discrimination against small businesses. A Commonwealth Fund study found the smallest firms pay an average of 18 percent more in health insurance premiums for the same benefits than larger firms. By creating a pool and offering assistance, the House health insurance reform bill will lower small business costs and increase options. Alternatively, those who would rather contribute than offer will have a discrete, predictable contribution and the knowledge that their employees will have decent affordable health care.
  • Reform can save and increase jobs. Phillip Cryan, an economist from the University of California-Berkley, estimates that the 8 percent employer responsibility requirement in H.R. 3200 would result in a net gain of 55,365 jobs, a rise in productivity, and a slowing in the rate of health inflation.
  • Most small firms are exempt; others are subject to lower rates. 76 percent of all businesses are exempt altogether from the employer responsibility requirements. An additional 7 percent of these firms would pay a graduated rate of 2 to 6 percent if they do not offer coverage. More than 72 percent of firms with payrolls of $250,000 to $500,000 and less than 250 employees already offer worker health coverage today – and will have better options under HR 3200.
  • Small business owners and their workers account for the largest share of the uninsured. An estimated 27 million of the 47 million Americans without health insurance are small business owners and their workers, according to the National Federation of Independent Business. H.R. 3200 provides market reforms and assistance to ensure coverage for small business owners and their employees.

That is why employers of all sizes are supporting the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act. The Main Street Alliance, a small business group, supports the bill because it “will help make America's small business more competitive by giving them greater control over one of the most costly and unpredictable aspects of doing business: the spiraling costs of providing quality health coverage.[7/15/09]