September 23, 2009

Bloody Healthcare


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We hope you didn't miss Will Ferrell's bleeding heart video about insurance companies who stand to profit handsomely from the Baucus Bill as it stands.

"It's a bonanza," said Robert Laszewski, a health insurance executive for 20 years who now tracks reform legislation as president of the consulting firm Health Policy and Strategy Associates Inc."Hallelujah!"

Ex Cigna PR executive turned consumer advocate, Wendell Potter says about insurance companies:

They don't want a public plan. They want all the uninsured to have to be enrolled in a private insurance plan. They want-- they see those 50 million people as potentially 50 million new customers. So they're in favor of that. They see this as a way to essentially lock them into the system, and ensure their profitability in the future. The strategy is as it was in 1993 and '94, to conduct this charm offensive on the surface. But behind the scenes, to use front groups and third-party advocates and ideological allies. And those on Capitol Hill who are aligned with them, philosophically, to do the dirty work. To demean and scare people about a government-run plan, try to make people not even remember that Medicare, their Medicare program, is a government-run plan that has operated a lot more efficiently.

James Kwak of The Baseline Scenario explains eloquently that no one in the United States has health insurance except for those over 65 who are eligible for Medicare, since most insurance is job-based and there are many ways one can lose one's job-based healthcare. Someone on NPR said the other day that most people were satisfied with their current coverage because 75% of policy holders have never really needed their health insurance.

A recent Harvard study estimates that 45,000 people die annually for lack of health coverage.

Even if you do have health insurance, your claim can be denied. California is the only state that requires that denied health care claims by insurance companies be reported

The state Nurses Association issued a press release saying that data it obtained from the Web site of the state’s Department of Managed Health Care showed that in just the first half of 2009, California’s six largest HMOs had rejected more than 31 million claims -- 21 percent of those they had received.

You might be equally to learn that the only US industries that are not subject towhay are we letting insurance companies get away with this
"> the Sherman Antitrust Act are Major League Baseball and insurance. A full 94 percent of the insurance markets across the nation are not competitive and engaged in price fixing and market allocation. Which brings us to Paul Krugman on the public option

....others understate the extent to which even a public plan with limited bargaining power will help hold down overall costs. Private insurers do pay providers more than Medicare does — but that’s only part of the reason Medicare has lower costs. There’s also the huge overhead of the private insurers, much of which involves marketing and attempts to cherry-pick clients — and even with community rating, some of that will still go on. A public plan would probably be able to attract clients with much less of that.

Second, a public plan would probably provide the only real competition in many markets.

Third — and this is where I am getting a very bad feeling about the idea of throwing in the towel on the public option — is the politics. Remember, to make reform work we have to have an individual mandate. And everything I see says that there will be a major backlash against the idea of forcing people to buy insurance from the existing companies. That backlash was part of what got Obama the nomination! Having the public option offers a defense against that backlash.

Members of congress themselves have a rather lavish plan for which they pay a handsome $503 per year. Of course, Republicans can get behind a public option for pets and property.

It's time for us to wake up and smell the insurance executives and the senators they have purchased - (scroll down for price tags)

Photo note: Heart without healthcare

Addendum: go back and read the Kwak clickie , then you can see more of Potter on Moyers

Posted by Dakota at 10:35 AM

September 14, 2009

Lose something?


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All of us here at Dakota are dying to land a big cybersmack on Judge Jed Rakoff's white whiskers because he ruled today that a mere $33 million settlement between the SEC and the Bank of America “does not comport with the most elementary notions of justice and morality.” The duplicitous Bank of America told investors that Merrill would not pay year-end bonuses without BoA's consent when, in fact, it actually paid between 3.6 and $5.8 BILLION in bonuses and didn't share that information with shareholders.

Stephen Bernard reports for Huffington Post

A federal judge on Monday rejected a $33 million settlement between the Securities and Exchange Commission and Bank of America Corp., saying the SEC's accusations of inadequate disclosure by the bank over bonuses paid at Merrill Lynch must now go to trial....

Rakoff, in his ruling, found that the proposed settlement "suggests a rather cynical relationship between the parties: the SEC gets to claim that it is exposing wrongdoing on the part of the Bank of America in a high-profile merger, the bank's management gets to claim that they have been coerced into an onerous settlement by overzealous regulators. And all this is done at the expense, not only of the shareholders, but also of the truth".

The Observer tells us why his ruling was full of snappy quotes: "Rakoff, who has a B.A. in English from Swarthmore and went on to read philosophy at Oxford, quoted briefly in his Bank of America ruling from Oscar Wilde's 1892 play Lady Windermere's Fan. He cited only one line, that a cynic is someone 'who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing'."

Thirty three million would have been quite a bargain if the greedy bastards had slipped this one by.

When it comes to banking practices in general, our heroine, Elizabeth Warren, reminds us that we, the American people, have no lobbyists representing our interests, and recommends that we barrage our congressmen and senators with calls and email asking for the three things:

. a consumer financial protection agency
. regulation of credit rating agencies
. a creditable liquidation threat to those organizations that are deemed "too big to fail" (like the one require for GM)

We can also hope New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo will nail the sleazeballs or take matters into our own hands.

Photo note: Purse on fence - cross onto which to get nailed in background - a metaphorophoto

Posted by Dakota at 03:54 PM

September 02, 2009