11 September 2007

Colorado's fifth proposal for reform

The Denver Post's report on the latest 208 Commission news was as good as can be expected. Katy Human is a thoughtful reporter who does her homework.

According to Human, only seven commissioners voted against the commission coming up with their own proposal, including Mark Simon and Linda Gorman. The usual suspects, in other words.
The "208" commission suggested requiring individuals to purchase health insurance and banning insurance companies from rejecting sick applicants.

The group's latest proposal, which resembles the plan Massachusetts started last spring, would levy a tax penalty on anyone who didn't have insurance.
My favorite quote: "The solution is not giving more money to the insurance companies" said Mark Simon, an advocate for the disabled and former business owner on the panel.

There was a "what planet does she live on?" quote from Gorman: "What you are talking about doing is taking a functioning market and ruining it," said commission member Linda Gorman, senior fellow at the Independence Institute.

Let's see, you've got about 15 percent of Americans uninsured, an equal number underinsured, a quarter of Americans on Medicaid, Medicare, the VA, etc., millions of Americans forced into bankruptcy because of medical bills, annual cost increases that double to triple the cost of inflation and you call that a functioning market? Actually, of course it is a functioning market. It's just not a functional market. Another way of looking at this is the fact that government — aka your tax dollars — already pay for 60 percent of U.S. healthcare costs. You pay another big chunk straight out of your pocket. Health insurance pays for very little care compared to how much they take in. This "functioning market" adds nothing of value to the system, but rather only skims the cream off the top.

The Rocky Mountain News' article got the number of commissioners wrong (picky, picky, picky, but there never were 23 — there were 24 before Governor Ritter appointed three more, making 27) but the reporter also got a good quote from Simon: "I have an increasing level of discomfort . . . but I've got to say the solution is not to give more money to the insurance companies," Simon said. "That's outrageous."

HCAC members at the commission meeting report that early in the meeting Lewin went over some detailing on the SEIU proposal specific to their efforts to reduce costs and spread service for long-term care. The strategy results in damaging effects to vulnerable and disabled populations. It was in fact so onerous that it led to a heated exchange between commissioners and may have damaged the SEIU proposal.

However, the Commission is going full throttle towards subsidized mandates. The fight for U.S. reform, in fact, comes down to mandated private insurance vs. publicly-funded single-payer. People need to understand that their tax dollars will be going to private insurance companies through this scheme: mandates will be publicly funded and subsidized, in some cases up to 400% of FPL.

Barry Keene, HCAC's vice president, made a forceful public comment on this issue, telling the commissioners that they were becoming vulnerable to group think about enforced insurance mandates that the public was not going to accept. He noted that when he talks to people about this they're incredulous about mandates, with a uniform reaction of: "They wanna to do what?!? No way I'm going for that!"

But, Barry notes, Massachusetts voters went for mandates.

Mandates have become the default answer for mainstream health care policy thinkers, a way of assuring themselves that everybody is covered. Single-payer supporters must work hard to push Legislators away from this notion. Legislators need to be concerned about the public reaction to subsidizing insurance companies.

"Subsidizing insurance companies." When Barry put it that way to the Commission, reports are that some of them shifted uncomfortably in their seats. Mark Simon also used those words.

Christopher this morning asked me what value health insurance companies add to our healthcare system. What good are they?

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