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Health-Care Reform Plan Debated

Our Readers Who Comment express great skepticism this morning about the news that health-care industry groups are promising the White House that they will use "efficiencies to trim the rise in health-care costs by 1.5 percent a year," as Michael A. Fletcher and Ceci Connolly report.

The promise comes, of course, at a time when President Obama has placed health care reform at the top of his agenda and reform seems to have some political steam behind it. But many of our readers distrust the collection of interests representing doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and others, seeing it as a cynical effort to protect the status quo or at the very least to control the outcome. These readers want a single-payer plan (read government) that works for much of the rest of the developed world.

And in a related story, we learn from Dan Eggen that a former hospital chief executive has become a "prominent leader" in opposing government-run health-care programs. Taken together these stories have generated more than 500 comments about an issue that affects all of us.

We'll start with stanbarkley who wrote, "I get a warm fuzzy feeling when I know that big insurance comanies, big pharma, big hospitals and the medical profession are going to be looking out for what is best for me. There are some bridges for sale that I will sell to anybody who believes this is reality."

But ccdaley said, "The most inefficient system is one in which providers (hospitals, doctors, pharmacies, therapists) have to master the rules of over 500 insurance companies...It is time we faced the truth that we can easily save money and increase efficiency with a single payer system..."

Aprogressiveindependent wrote, "The Obama administration should be cautious and probably hesitant to accept this "offer" from special interest groups, which have in the past usually opposed expanded health care. Sounds like could well be a Trojan horse...This is a test of how guillible the Obama administration is, whether they seek health care reform that sounds good or actually works."

st50taw said, "If there was ever a bridge for sale, this is it. The health care industry is getting religion in the foxhole. As if they're believable. The minute our attention is turned, they'll find another way to hose us. Don't bite, Democrats. Fix it right the first time. At the least, provide a public alternative so there will finally be some actual competition."

dailykos1 wrote, "These liars only react to pressure and as soon as nobody is watching they will go back to screwing the country and the patients. I am sure their new "initiative will inclde wage cuts to the lowest paid people in the food chain. another mercedes benz for the insurance guys and doctors."

pbarnett52 said, "The Health Care masters of the universe are making this promise out of the left side of their mouths. The right side is busy setting up rehearsals for Harry and Louise."

Otech21 wrote, "This seems dishonest and a reaction to changes they know are coming. Honest would have been to control costs and not allowed so many fall into bankruptcy due to ill health. Honest would have been to create affordable plans for the currently uninsured years ago... Face it, some things need policy - i.e. government to drive our needs."

knowscience said, "...The bankers stole taxpayer pensions so the Obama Administration rewarded their crimes with our tax revenues. Now they are putting Dracula's Private Health Care Insurance in charge of the national healthcare system. Get ready to be sucked dry my fellow Americans."

Ptoadstool wrote, "Nothing strikes fear into the hearts of insurance and health industry executives like "single-payer", if uttered anywhere near Washington. It's the only way to real savings, and would be an excellent way to have a healthier population and make American industry more competitive."

To which Realist20 replied, "Nothing strikes fear into Americans when they hear single-payer system which means government run health care after the way Fed Gov has run the Postal system. Does anyone with a single brain cell really want the same people that can't run the post office efficiently to run our medical system - if this happens our tax rates go above 50%."

riskpref said, "This unstated plan is like Nixon's plan to get out of Viet Nam--empty promises for public relations, to delay. All of the backing groups are afraid of the surge of interest in a single-payer coverage."

mbmclaughlin wondered, "If they're offering this as a starting position, imagine how much more could actually be saved with real reform. This is aimed squarely at the centrists who are looking for any excuse to put off restructuring health-care in this country. Let's hope they surprise us for once and don't take the low ball offer."

oracle2world said, "...So the wealthy will continue to get great healthcare, and the poor will do better, and the middle class will take it in the shorts.
The system can't be fixed because old people are not dying. And they vote. And I sure as heck don't want any changes, since I'm getting old too!"

We'll close with slim2, who wrote, "That's a good start, but not good enough. Private health insurance is so last century. In an age of globalization it's time whats left of America's middle and burgeoning lower classes reap some benefit. That benefit needs to be universal single payer. An idea whose time has come."

All comments on this article are here.

By Doug Feaver  |  May 11, 2009; 7:50 AM ET
 | Tags: Health-Care Reform  
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Comments

I have "government" health care, the same plan that all members of US Congress have. The overhead is only 2 - 3% year as compared to 25% for BC/BS and other profit insurers.

Why do these people keep putting down the UK and Canada system - if it's so bad, how come we don't read in the news that millions of them are dying, or losing their homes due to high costs of health care as we are in the US. It's insulting to put down their system.

The US is horrendous in the infant mortality rate, and we don't have the world's best longevity. We only have health care to those who can afford it, that's not a democracy, that's an oligarchy. The WHO lists Switzerland as having the best system.

While visiting Spain, my mom had to go in an ambulance and spend 6 hours in an emergency room. Since we were visitors and not eligible for their "socialized" medicine, we tried to pay something and they aren't allowed to take any money at all. That treatment would have cost thousands of dollars, the ambulance, the ER crew, heart specialist and in a bed for 6 hours hooked up to monitors and it cost not one penny!

Single payer, the only way to get rid of the idea that big profits are to be made on the health of our people.

Posted by: fiberartist | May 12, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

As far as I'm concerned, as with any industry, in the health industry you get what you pay for.

Posted by: thebink | May 11, 2009 6:38 PM | Report abuse

People DYING under the present system?...just wait till you lot get your OBAMACARE,YOU'LL ALL BE dead A WHOLE LOT QUICKER..DEAD FROM SHOCK AT THE TAXES YOU'LL BE PAYING FOR LOUSY CARE AND RATIONED CARE. IN FACT BY THE TIME YOU'VE FILLED OUT ALL THE GOVT, REQUIRED FORMS FOR TREATMENTS ETC. YOU'LL BE DEAD OF EXHAUSTION
Good luck!

Posted by: postitnow | May 11, 2009 6:05 PM | Report abuse

"Explain why 100K British people leave the country every year for medical care"
_
lets see now. that 0.16% of the British population -- which would translate into about 500,000 Americans.
_
In this nation, over 15% are without adequate health insurance each year -- 47 million. The number of Brits without adequate health insurance each year is about 0.
_
single payer may not be perfect...but nothing is perfect. Single payer, regardless of its flaws, remains the most cost-effective means of providing health care to the citizenry.


Posted by: PaulLukasiak | May 11, 2009 1:21 PM
===============================
Nice try but 3 flaws

1. Even excluding SCHIP 46 million is a flat out lie. There is proof many of these COULD afford it but don't want to spend the money on it and want other spending money.

2. The .60 a pack cigarette tax we were told was going towards this insurance. Lies?

3. I bet the number would be higher than 100K leaving Britain if more people could afford it.

Posted by: Cryos | May 11, 2009 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Interesting that all these people are posting regarding "the industry" being the problem yet no one has tried to address my post with the 3 glaring problems none of which are controlled by the industry.

1. Tort reform
2. Cost control
3. Illegal immigration

So far as the 46 million I guess democrats lied about their recent tax. They told us the SCHIP bill, paid for by hiking cigarette taxes .60 a pack would cover most of these uninsured people.

Smokers should know this 46 million number is bogus.

Posted by: Cryos | May 11, 2009 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Medical care needs to be a right, not a privilege. I can't pay a $700 premium anymore. $600 was tough enough, but it shot up in Jan to the point where something I barely use anyways, costs so f'ing much, I had to drop it and could not replace it. I'm not a freeloader, I work my butt off, I used to do better, never got sick... until now, the unfairness of our healthcare system.

Now that the every group that spent billions opposing ANY changes, who practically bought off the Republican party to protect them... now wants to play ball?

NO watered down, toothless, voluntary industry designed healthcare program that saves me $12 a month, please!
Time for a complete overhaul. If the "industry" gets involved, God save us all.

Posted by: jfern03 | May 11, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

OBAMA QUOTE: "46 million AMERICANS don't have any health insurance at all"

THIS IS A FLAT OUT LIE!!!

WHAT HE DOESNT TELL YOU IS THE FACT THAT THIS NUMBER INCLUDES 12 MILLION ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS.

THIS INFORMATION IS ON THE CENSUS WEBSITE, UNLESS THE OBAMANITES HAVE REMOVED IT.

OBAMA IS PURPOSELY OVER INFLATING THIS NUMBER FOR HIS OWN POLITICAL PURPOSES.

ANY ETHICAL JOURNALIST WOULD REPORT ON THIS FACT BUT YOU WILL PROBABLY NEVER HEAR A WORD ABOUT IT.

WHAT A JOKE...

Posted by: xinunus | May 11, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

"Explain why 100K British people leave the country every year for medical care"
_
lets see now. that 0.16% of the British population -- which would translate into about 500,000 Americans.
_
In this nation, over 15% are without adequate health insurance each year -- 47 million. The number of Brits without adequate health insurance each year is about 0.
_
single payer may not be perfect...but nothing is perfect. Single payer, regardless of its flaws, remains the most cost-effective means of providing health care to the citizenry.


Posted by: PaulLukasiak | May 11, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Obama is all about government control. He wants government to dictate what healthcare we will receive. He'll get everyone on gov-run healthcare by removing the tax-deductibility of our insurance coverage.

What we really need is tort reform. We make it harder for ambulance chasers to sue frivolously, all of our costs will go down.

=======================
We need pro-individual liberty politicians, not big government power-mongers in office:

http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/we-demand-true-conservative-leadership.html
--

Posted by: ensignbay | May 11, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Privatize nothing, ignore the trojan horse being offered. This is the time for a single payer system so that the U.S. can join the rest of the modern world instead of descending into a three-tiered style of health care such as that of Mexico.


Posted by: slenon | May 11, 2009 12:56 PM
===================================
Go talk to people from those countries don't listen to talking points. Explain why 100K British people leave the country every year for medical care and why a million a year resort to "do it yourself dentistry."

Posted by: Cryos | May 11, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

My comments are not vulgar, but some times appear meaningless. I am Just adding my comments to "As far as a bureaucracy goes I can tell you as a solo physician dealing with Medicare is a breeze as compared to any for profit insurance company.When your HMO or insurance company denies referral to a specialist or drug treatment off their formulary that's rationing care and control of medicine by bureaucrats. If you put off seeing a doctor or filling your prescription because of cost that is rationing medical care for the most venal reasons and the most evil way".

I agree it is a "BREEZE", but Medicare lays the rule down, specially for Medicare patients.Medicare sets $ amount and deducts a certain percentage and send their portion. This usually gets the doctor in four weeks.come from the MEDIGAP insurance- this is the amount which is applied. When the Medigap computes, the base is MEDICARE SET FEE and its CODE. Now, the nightmare starts for the patient.Bill after bill comes in and finally it is transferred to BILL COLLECTOR.
Actually, there are two areas Health care has address- General diagnostic should be done by one physician annually, unless otherwise needed- a specialist monitoring a patient with Cancer as an example.MRI,CATSCAN has huge toll on the total Health care cost.

Another is, MEDIGAP, all insurance companies have no competition, eg: United Health Care and AARP-they split the premium.Similarly other providers are there. If the government sets the amount-it is already done, the cost will sky-rocket.

The young and the very old go to the doctors frequently, but middle group who are healthy, Health premium must be low.
When the government takes over, premiums will reach the Heavans

Posted by: jayrkay | May 11, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

"
Instead of focusing on an "estimated" saving on tax changes, let's discuss what this program will cost over ten years and then 20 years. The numbers are staggering.

Posted by: Bubbette1 | May 11, 2009 11:25 AM "

Lets talk about what my private insurance will cost going up 30 percent per year like it did this year. Its 10,000/yr now for bare minimum, high deductible plan. In 30 years it will be 27 million dollars. Not even the government could do worse than that.


Posted by: tweldy | May 11, 2009 12:09 PM
===================================
Well lets talk about 3 things; tort reform and "managed" healthcare aka limiting benefits and illegal immigration.

1. Tort reform - Not including the costs of litigation and litigation insurance the US spends somewhere between 100-200 billion a year in "defensive medicine" aka CYA from lawsuits.

Why is it that democrats, the party of trial lawyers, refuses to address the elephant in the room? This could significantly reduce costs.

2. Reducing benefits - Democrats have already said if national healthcare is brought on board they will be cost controlling and limiting treatments and benefits. Why do democrats sue over "choice" in the private industry yet make different rules for the government?

3. Illegal immigration. This is a HUGE cost for medical care right now and is particularly causing problems with doctor/nurse availability.

Here is a real basic example to back up that case. If you have 20 million illegal immigrants move into the US and 0 are doctors please explain how that is not a huge burden on the industry.


Fact is democrats for the past 10-20 years have sued and sued to force health care "choice" and for insurance to pay for all sorts of treatments including "alternative medicine" not even proven to work.

Democrats have refused to address tort reform even in medical care where it is a blatently high cost.

Democrats refuse to address illegal immigration even encouraging it to get votes.

The only conclusion I can come to is democrats once efforts failed in the 90s to socialize medicine have been working to purposely drive up the costs to make government health care more attractive. A lot of the measures they are advocating FOR in GOVERNMENT health care they have been lobbying and suing AGAINST in PRIVATE health care.

Posted by: Cryos | May 11, 2009 1:04 PM | Report abuse

As for the interests of the pharmaceutical houses, insurance companies, corporate hosptials, toward the average citizen; just recall that these companies are chaired and managed by the same wonderful group of folks who engineered the "medicare drug benefit doughnut hole."
And they are close cousins, if not siblings, to the financial wizards who spent the previous eight years gutting our nation's treasury.

Privatize nothing, ignore the trojan horse being offered. This is the time for a single payer system so that the U.S. can join the rest of the modern world instead of descending into a three-tiered style of health care such as that of Mexico.

Posted by: slenon | May 11, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

When Obama addresses one of the biggest controllable costs of health care today, litigation, I will believe he is genuine.

As long as Obama refuses to address tort reform because it hurts democratic donors he is just full of it.

Posted by: Cryos | May 11, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

If you would like to help pressure Congress to pass single payer health care please join our voting bloc at:
http://www.votingbloc.org/Health_Bloc.php

Posted by: letsgobuffalo | May 11, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

"...health-care industry groups are promising the White House that they will use "efficiencies to trim the rise in health-care costs by 1.5 percent a year," "

No, it's not trimming the rise in costs but trimming the rate of growth of those costs. That's two very different things.

The costs will still go up; just not as quickly.

Posted by: cab91 | May 11, 2009 12:38 PM | Report abuse

One of the main problems is that the people who can afford to pay the least pay the most, and the people who have good insurance pay the least. I ended up in the emergency room a few months ago for something that turned out not to be the life-threatening emergency it initially seemed. The total bill for the hospital was more than $12,000. My insurance company paid less than 10% of that.

If the price to the insured is 10% of the "retail" price, why have the retail price at all? The hospital wouldn't have agreed to that amount if it was losing money on it, so it must be a reasonable amount. Everyone should be charged the amount the insurance companies are willing to pay for a service. People without insurance should not have to pay 900% of what people with insurance pay.

Posted by: Reader3 | May 11, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

"
Instead of focusing on an "estimated" saving on tax changes, let's discuss what this program will cost over ten years and then 20 years. The numbers are staggering.

Posted by: Bubbette1 | May 11, 2009 11:25 AM "

Lets talk about what my private insurance will cost going up 30 percent per year like it did this year. Its 10,000/yr now for bare minimum, high deductible plan. In 30 years it will be 27 million dollars. Not even the government could do worse than that.

Posted by: tweldy | May 11, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse


Hardly any of you are Health care administrators or Providers. As a Physician,now retired, I am not sure how they squeeze the Health care budget, still provide the same quality Health care. The services are going up and the medicines are expensive.The Physicians are eager to try the most recent drugs. The patients are unaware of it.And equivalent generic medicines some times are not available. Being a physician, I often reject and ask for a generic preparation.This privilege is not available for many.Yes, Bulk buying may make it easy.

Thousands of CODES are developed for a procedure in the doctor's office, which needs to be submitted- there is no way out of it.

Finally, One gets to see the doctor or his PA, every diagnostic test is ordered, needed or not- this an algorhytm, This costs money, So translated, it is MONEY,MONEY. Do not forget these were testing results. Now, comes the treatment- depend upon the test results. If some thing, more tests are needed. You may have with the common FLU, you may come with another TAG-Incidental Diabetes, which needs a different treatment protocol.

That is how the Medical System Healh Care works- most are administered by PRIVATE group. Mere agreements will not help.The Doctor has to pay for his STAFF,rental/monthly basis-Doctor has to have a revolving credit. He ,usually collects the bill- please believe me, the insurance included, pays and deposits in the doctor's account. On an average,My doctor gets paid $ 22.00 for his bill of $ 76.00. I see him every six months mostly for talk

Posted by: jayrkay | May 11, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

This "saving trillions" is an easy goal. If we do the right job in healthcare technology alone, we could achieve that. Remember that this is the first time we have had a President who trusts technology.

Posted by: tommariner | May 11, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

I am glad at least health care coverage is debated. Now, the REAL question: Since a huge number of people prefer holistic treatments that are not presently funded by Government health plans, will they be covered under this new plan, potentially saving our country $hundreds of billions, and giving people a TRUE choice of health care practitioner, and not just "choice of Doctors"? http://www.HealingNews.com

Posted by: HealingNews | May 11, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Instead of focusing on an "estimated" saving on tax changes, let's discuss what this program will cost over ten years and then 20 years. The numbers are staggering.

Posted by: Bubbette1 | May 11, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Private Health Care. What care. We NEED single payer..Obama and Shummer DO NOT DISAPPOINT. This is your main goal. Let's get it done now. Do Not trust the insurance companies... what about people with pre-existing conditons. Higher premiums or thrown by the wayside. Now is the perfect time to get single payer.

Posted by: sheriaro | May 11, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

The "reforms" proposed by industry will only make it harder for those of us already in the system. Two cases in point for me:

1) I have been on regular prescription drugs for cancer and for high blood pressure for more than 5 years-- I get 30 days of tablets for each prescription. YET-- when I try to call in to renew the prescriptions, invariably I get a message from the pharmacy that my physicians will have to be called to confirm. How inefficient is that?

2) I've been a cancer survivor for years. Yet, when I call to make an appointment with my oncologist for my recommended 6-month check-up semi-annually, I have to get a referral from my primary care physician. And, sometimes, the primary care physician will insist that I come in to visit him before I can get the referral.

Believe me, the proposed "reforms" will only make matters worse for all of us--those already in the system, and for new subscribers who would seek to gain access to the system. When industry offers "reforms," everyone should ask, "cui bono?" Who benefits?

Posted by: scoleman1 | May 11, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Bubette has swallowed the canard that government cannot efficiently run a program. She is obviously not of Medicare age.

Medicare's administrative costs are always less than 3% per year and private health insurance companies report in the 10K's an administrative cost that averages over 20% some as high as 25.

As far as a bureaucracy goes I can tell you as a solo physician dealing with Medicare is a breeze as compared to any for profit insurance company.

When your HMO or insurance company denies referral to a specialist or drug treatment off their formulary that's rationing care and control of medicine by bureaucrats. If you put off seeing a doctor or filling your prescription because of cost that is rationing medical care for the most venal reasons and the most evil way.

Posted by: sauerkraut | May 11, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

What's to understand?

Health insurance companies make money taking in premiums and denying as many claims as possible. It's an adversarial relationship by it's very nature.

If the fire department were private like the health insurance industry, there would be a lot of burned down houses because putting out a fire would cut into profits. That's why the fire department is not private--for now, at least.

And that's why the private health insurance industry should cease to exist. People are DYING because of the private health insurance industry.

Posted by: geezjan | May 11, 2009 11:16 AM | Report abuse

"
Ok let's discuss these "savings". How much will this program cost us over the next 10 years, then 20 years? The alleged savings are all theoretical eye-wash. The cost of this is going to be hideous. A program run by the government will be a disaster.

Posted by: Bubbette1 | May 11, 2009 11:03 AM "


I just discovered my company's health insurance costs went up 30 percent. I am considering dropping the health insurance entirely because they don't pay for my son's condition because, well, they're the insurance company and they make the rules. So a government program? Why not, the health insurance industry is a massive failed market.

Posted by: tweldy | May 11, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Ok let's discuss these "savings". How much will this program cost us over the next 10 years, then 20 years? The alleged savings are all theoretical eye-wash. The cost of this is going to be hideous. A program run by the government will be a disaster.

Posted by: Bubbette1 | May 11, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

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