Friday, July 10, 2009


"I don't know if I can support Obama in the next election if he caves in on public option."

"I cannot support President Obama if he does not play Chicago politics."
{{{Call the White House, say no to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's trigger option. No to giving the health insurance industry seven to ten years to clean up their act. Go back to President Barack Obama's original public option idea. 202-456-1111 --as Jack and Jill politics says and Daily Kos says}}}


Ed Schultz, the Rush Limbaugh-sound-alike on Air America Radio drew the line in the sand on public option, Friday, July 10, 2009. (Also on MSNBC .)

A snippet from a recent Huffington Post piece on Big Ed last month (June 24, 2009), Bill Mann, " 'Big Ed' Schultz Is Keeping Dem Senators' Feet to The Fire":

Big Ed's moved from being a publicity-hungry blowhard (remember "John McCain is a warmonger" last fall?) to expressing daily the kind of much-needed real passion for this critical legislation far too many Democrats (and, some might argue, the President) are lacking. Ed's gone on the attack. Someone has to do it.

The one-time pro football player is running interference for the Democrats who are actually doing something to move the ball toward the goal of meaningful national health care by calling out those playing footsie with HMO's and big pharma.


Last December from Paul Waldman of Media Matters, writing in American Prospect:
The basics:
Although the public option wasn't the topic of a great deal of discussion during the campaign, for many progressives it amounts to a beautiful jewel hidden amidst a pile of compromise and disappointment. Ask average progressives what they think ought to be done about health care, and many will reply, "Well, a single-payer system would obviously be the best thing. But since that's politically impossible…" At the end of 2008, some things seem a little more possible than they used to.

That isn't to say a public option is just a modified single-payer system. It would be one option among many for individuals and businesses, and would leave the private insurance system in place (you can read more on the benefits of the public option here). But it does crack the door open for expanding the number of Americans who get their health insurance through the government. And this is what terrifies the insurance companies and conservatives. Their fear is that it will actually work. If the program operates well, more and more people will make the rational decision to choose it over private insurance (what we're supposed to do in a market, after all) and the insurance companies will lose customers.

For all their paeans to the power of private enterprise, we know that private insurers simply can't compete with the government, because they offer an inferior service at higher prices. We know this because of the example of Medicare, which operates more efficiently than private insurance (Medicare spends only around 2 percent of its costs on overhead, a fraction of what private plans do) and gets higher satisfaction ratings. We also know this because the government set up a program to allow private companies to compete directly with Medicare.

It's called Medicare Advantage, and the "advantage" was supposed to be that by allowing private companies to handle insurance for Medicare enrollees, costs could be reduced. Using their free-market mojo, the private firms would naturally bring in the coverage at a lower cost than having the big, bureaucratic government do it.

From: "Health-Care Market Characterized By Consolidation, Not Competition"
By Zachary Roth - June 29, 2009:
Key excerpt:
But the notion that most American consumers enjoy anything like a competitive marketplace for health care is flatly false. And a study issued last month by a pro-reform group makes that strikingly clear.

The report, released by Health Care for America Now (HCAN), uses data compiled by the American Medical Association to show that 94 percent of the country's insurance markets are defined as "highly concentrated," according to Justice Department guidelines. Predictably, that's led to skyrocketing costs for patients, and monster profits for the big health insurers. Premiums have gone up over the past six years by more than 87 percent, on average, while profits at ten of the largest publicly traded health insurance companies rose 428 percent from 2000 to 2007.

Far from healthy market competition, HCAN describes the situation as "a market failure where a small number of large companies use their concentrated power to control premium levels, benefit packages, and provider payments in the markets they dominate."

So extreme is the level of consolidation, in fact, that one former top Federal Trade Commission official working with HCAN has sent a letter to the Justice Department's Antitrust Division, asking for an investigation into the health insurance marketplace.

The problem is most acute in small rural states, according to the report. In Shelby's own state of Alabama, the biggest insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, controls 83 percent of the statewide market. There, and in nine other states -- Hawaii, Rhode Island, Alaska, Vermont, Maine, Montana, Wyoming, Arkansas and Iowa -- the two largest health insurers control at least 80 percent of the market. So much for Shelby's "marketplace for health care."

The report doesn't consider how this reality stands to affect the forthcoming congressional battle for reform. But extreme consolidation may actually be making it harder, not easier, to win support from lawmakers for a public option.

That's because insurers who control large swathes of a given market stand to see their bottom lines particularly threatened by the introduction of a lower-cost public option. So, in turn, they'll be particularly aggressive in pulling out all the stops to pressure lawmakers to oppose the plan. Given the healthy amount of campaign dollars that some wavering members take in from the major insurers, that's hardly encouraging.

Note that the right wing buzz via Hannity, O'Reilly, Limbaugh feeds into voters/listeners; and that IT COMES FROM THE INSURANCE COMPANIES that fear loss of profits.
Josh Marshall, "Bottom Line on Public Option" in TalkingPoints Memo noted this, June 29, 2009:
This won't come as the slightest surprise to those versed in health care policy issues. But I fear it's only barely permeated the health care reform debate in the country, certainly in Washington. And that's this: the opposition to a so-called 'public option' comes almost entirely from insurance companies who have developed monopolies or near monopolies in particular geographic areas. And they don't want competition.

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