Monday, July 25, 2011

Obama's $1 trillion handout to big business insurers, Part 2

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Once you start following the money rather than the rhetoric, you can start seeing how the Medicaid/Medicare reality has little do to with big business insurers' PR campaign.

Myth 1:  We need to find a good way to reduce costs; rising costs of services is  the problem.

Reality:  When private insurers create HMOs for Medicaid and Medicare, the company is paid by the government a set amount per month per person. With little to no regulation let alone enforcement of minimum spending requirements, reducing costs just gives the company higher profits. 

I've been puzzling for over a month now over an article by Paul Krugman. He states, "Yes, Medicare has to get serious about cost control; it has to start saying no to expensive procedures with little or no medical benefits, it has to change the way it pays doctors and hospitals, and so on."  He compares US Medicare with Canadian health care, which is "less open-ended and more cost-conscious."

The Canadian public health system probably doesn't have a corporate middleman who slips twenty to fifty percent of premiums into his back pocket every month.

Myth 2: Health care companies are making money because people can't afford to spend their deductibles.

Reality:  Unitedhealth sold this line to the Wall Street Journal after last year's earnings figures came out.  It was apparently deemed successful enough that the PR department used it again in May with the New York Times.  This time they brought out some commercial policy holders to interview who substantiated their claim.

In the past three years, Unitedhealth's commercial premiums have increased by only $334 million a month.  Government revenues paid by Medicaid and Medicare are up almost $1.5 billion a month.  Corporate profits from not spending government-paid premiums are up 67%, while the premium revenues themselves are up only 51%.

Unitedhealth's soaring profits are more accurately represented by the family who has been denied hospitalization, or medications, or home care services for their child or grandparent with a disability.

We don't make as good a PR statement, however.

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I'm the mom of a child with disabilities. Hannah's first neurologist said she might never develop beyond the level of a 2 month old infant, and there wasn't anything I could do about it. The brain damage was just too severe. Nine years later, she walks, uses a touchscreen computer and I've just been shown she can learn to construct sentences and do simple math with the right piece of technology. Along the way, I discovered I needed to teach myself what Hannah's rights to services really were. Learning about early intervention services led to reading about IDEA and then to EPSDT. I've been waiting for the Obama administration to realize the power and potential of EPSDT for the medical rights - including the right to stay at home with their families - of children with disabilities. The health reform people talk about long term care, and the disability people talk about education and employment, but nobody is talking about EPSDT. So I am.