To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Observercast

Stop This Train! Let Me Off!

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BY EDWIN E. VINEYARD

In the recent past we have been an outspoken advocate of health care reform. We agree that the present situation is abominable – overly expensive, insufficiently accessible to all citizens, and full of greed and corruption. We agree with most of the ideas of the president for remediation of these intolerable conditions.

However, we are NOT in agreement with all the ideas being proposed by those in Congress, particularly the Senate. When Sen. Max Baucus, D-MT, came out with his “plan,” it made the Militant Moderate shout: “Stop the train! Let me off!” Where are those Town Hall meetings, I want to object loudly.

Don’t try to do this reform in such a way that it will not offend the insurance companies. Giving them more clients and increasing the profits which they gouge from their premium payers is not our goal. The Baucus ideas are a “bird’s nest on the ground” for predatory insurance companies.

If we can’t do something right, for gosh sakes let us NOT do something else wrong in health care.

The prescription drug plan, passed under the last administration was a give-away to pharmaceutical companies. Yes, it did help seniors, but it helped the drug companies more – at the expense of Medicare. Nobody with business sense would deliberately leave out mass bargaining by the government for drug prices and encapsulate in law a prohibition from re-importation of American drugs cheaper abroad.

This was plainly and simply a sell-out to the pharmaceuticals. Now, under the Baucus plan, we would create a new group of captive new clients for the insurance companies to harvest at taxpayers’ expense.

The private option, called Medicare Advantage, passed under the last administration under which insurance companies are paid extra to recruit Medicare enrollees and sign them up for similar benefits administered by the insurance companies is another rip-off for the Medicare system. It costs the Medicare fund 13% more for every senior who is enrolled in the private insurance plan. This comes out of the trust fund provided by Medicare taxes and Medicare premiums paid by other seniors.

This is a dumb thing for the government to be doing, and it is obviously a rip-off from Medicare and taxpayers – just handed to the insurance companies. But “privatization” was the big theme song of the Republicans. They tried to privatize Social Security also. Remember?

It would indeed be good to cover another 45 million Americans with health insurance coverage of some kind, but to just hand these over for insurance companies’ profits with Uncle Sam covering the tab is ridiculous.

That Baucus plan would do nothing to reduce the exorbitant costs of health care, to introduce efficiencies, nor to set a bargaining floor for premiums and provider payments that a public plan alternative would do. Insurance companies would just have it all handed to them. They would have no incentive to bargain with providers on behalf of their consumer clients as long as they make their profit anyway. Premiums would rise more.

There are many who suggest that the millions in campaign donations funneled to Republican leaders, and to a few Democrats like Mr. Baucus, influence their proposals for “reform.” The facts are there. We wonder.

Wouldn’t a plan, perhaps called something like Medicare II, separately accounted and funded but with similar coverage and discounts, really make a lot more sense? This would be true especially for people over 50, who would be paying insurance company premiums five times the 30-year age group under the Baucus plan?

Mr. Baucus, if you are now the engineer of the train, and if you are determining the direction it will go – then, “Stop This Train! I want off! I want to catch a train going another route.”

President Obama, give us a free choice plan throughout, so that we can choose a public, Medicare-like plan if we prefer that to private insurance company offerings and rates.

Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate, lives in Enid, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer

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Arnold Hamilton
Arnold Hamilton became editor of The Observer in September 2006. Previously, he served nearly two decades as the Dallas Morning News’ Oklahoma Bureau chief. He also covered government and politics for the San Jose Mercury News, the Dallas Times Herald, the Tulsa Tribune and the Oklahoma Journal.