Posts tagged ‘Health Insurance’

12/08/2011

Romney’s Economy: For Rich Insiders

Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, often called a Republican front-runner, should not, on issues regarding the economy, receive the vote of most Americans, because: 1) his tax policies would favor rich individuals and corporations; 2) his Free Trade policies would kill more manufacturing and U.S. jobs; 3) his promise to eliminate Public Broadcasting would reduce the flow of reliable and objective information; 4) his financial policies would save only the big banks and Wall Street; 5) his housing policies would do nothing for underwater homeowners; 6) his energy plans would ignore wind and solar, but would promote oil, gas, and nuclear special interests; and 7) his health insurance mandate idea will yield private insurance windfalls at the expense of taxpayers.

TAXES: While Romney said he wants to repeal tax breaks, he would in fact give more of them to the rich, by eliminating taxes on dividends, interest, and capital gains. He also wants to lower the corporate income tax rate from 35% to 25%. He appeared willing to tax the poor, when he said everyone should pay, regardless of income, though he did oppose Cain’s 9% national sales tax, which would have hurt the poor the most. Although Romney favors an expanded military role abroad, he opposes raising revenue to pay for it, because he thinks more taxes would only kill jobs. While he has said he wants to cut spending, he would run up even more debt, by staying in our unfunded War in Afghanistan. Although he said we should not pass massive debt on to the next generation, he was not sincere, since he will not stop wasting money on foreign military entanglements.

TRADE: Although Romney promised to issue an Executive Order identifying China as a currency manipulator, because they let the prices of their goods fall below market levels, and he pledged to sue them in the Dispute Resolution Body (DSB) of the World Trade Organization, to win the right to selectively impose tariffs, he has no intention of turning back the clock on Free Trade, or the WTO policies that have led to the death of many U.S. industries.

AUTO: Romney said the government should not have loaned money to GM or Chrysler, even though the act successfully saved thousands of American jobs. He would have let them go bankrupt.

JOBS: When Romney was asked to explain why people were laid off from the companies he acquired, he had little to say. He was however clear about his desire to fight unions, and his criticism of the National Labor Relations Board, for taking action against big business. He called corporate profits good, as he believes they trigger new hiring. He called Wall Street protesters people engaged in: “dangerous class warfare.”

FIRST AMENDMENT: While little harm would be done if Romney succeeded in abolishing the Endowment for the Arts, his desire to eliminate Public Broadcasting is a serious threat to the free flow of information, and an affront to those who respect the First Amendment. Those who routinely follow the PBS News Hour and BBC America, searching for reliable news from objective sources, find his desire a real threat to democracy, since we need PBS and the BBC to be informed citizens. As to faith, he correctly said the Founders appreciated the Freedom of Religion, and wrote a Constitution that respected all beliefs.

BANK CRISIS: While Romney said Fed chair Bernanke pumped too much money in the economy, he would not remove Fed power to do so, as he does not want Congress in charge of the currency. He defended President Bush for taking action to keep the banks open, adding we must prevent another contagion. When asked what he would do if the economies of the entire world were collapsing, he promised to take action.

HOUSING: Romney said the housing crisis was caused by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as they gave loans to people who could not afford them. He said slowing down the foreclosure process, buying up troubled homes, or giving a couple thousand towards the purchase of a new home, won’t solve the problem. He predicted home prices will not return, until the free market works.

ENERGY: Romney suggested developing our own oil, gas, and nuclear energy, to achieve energy independence. He said little about putting a new emphasis on solar, wind, or clean energy.

HEALTH CARE: Romney has been the greatest lobbyist the health insurance industry has ever had. He said a problem arose in his state, where 8% of the people had no health insurance, and they sought emergency room care, which shifted costs to taxpayers. He argued everyone has a personal obligation to buy health insurance, an idea he said he got from Newt Gingrich. He enacted a personal mandate and forced everyone to purchase coverage from private carriers. Although subsidies were provided for those who could not afford it, the Mass. plan did not create a more efficient government-run health care plan, like the single-payer system used in Canada. As to the U.S., Romney said Americans were not and are not satisfied with the status quo, because premiums are out of control. Many of Romney’s critics called the new National Health Care law signed by Obama, basically the same as Romney’s state plan. Romney tried, but failed miserably to convince them they were different. He argued the Mass plan was for one state, while the President’s, one-size-fits-all plan was for the entire nation. He argued Obama’s plan raises taxes and spends trillions. He promised a repeal of what has been called Obamacare, claiming we could save 95 billion a year. In a contradictory statement, he offered only to give the states waivers, so they could opt out. He also took both sides of the individual mandate issue, by first saying everyone should buy insurance, but then by arguing mandates are unconstitutional. In the event Obama’s law is repealed, or declared unconstitutional, the question arose as to what to do next. He acknowledged health care costs are disconnected from patient awareness, and people need to have a stake in the cost of health care. He accused the government of having too heavy a role. He advocated co-insurance for patients, but sounded like he did not realize most Americans already had that. Romney said he would turn Medicaid and Medicare over to the states and let them run health care.

SOCIAL SECURITY: Romney called the Social Security retirement program essential, and said it must be saved, not abolished. He called the use of trust fund money for other purposes criminal, and agreed to make the system sound. As to the unfunded prescription drug program, started by President George W. Bush, Romney would not repeal it.

IMMIGRATION: Romney wants no amnesty for illegal immigrants, a fence with agents to secure it, and an elimination of the magnet caused by states that give tuition breaks, and employers who hire illegal aliens. He would implement the federal E-Verify program. He said 4.5 million want to come here legally. He would admit those with degrees in math or science.

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08/17/2011

Republican Debate Economics (8-11-11)

As the Republicans debated economic issues in Iowa, including the recent increase in the Debt Ceiling, many demonstrated an intellectual dishonesty, as they again pledged not to raise taxes, but simultaneously supported costly military expeditions abroad, two positions that will certainly force the U.S. to borrow billions.

TAXES: Gingrich continued to shovel the idea that tax cuts will led to growth, while Santorum and Cain, respectively, want to reduce to zero the Corporate Income Tax, and Capital Gains Tax.

BORROW-SPEND: The Republican refusal to raise taxes has led to borrowing and spending, which has sunk the nation deep into debt, leaving only two choices: 1) increase the Debt Ceiling and borrow so creditors who lent the money can be paid, or 2) default.

DEBT CEILING: Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann demonstrated a stark ignorance regarding the economy, as she condemned her Republican colleagues for increasing the Debt Ceiling. She confused the issue by saying those who voted for an increase gave Obama money, when in fact all they did was prevent a default on loans already made. The new kid on the block, Herman Cain, also opposed an increase in the Debt Ceiling.

Former Utah Gov. Huntsmann, a voice of reason, said he would never let the U.S. default and called the National Debt a cancer. Former Sen. Santorum also said the Debt Ceiling had to be raised, but Romney just talked about upgrading the Mass. credit rating.

U.S. BUDGET: As to the Budget, Congressman Ron Paul wisely said if there are going to be any federal cuts, military budgets have got to be on the table. Former House leader Gingrich, criticized the Committee of 12, which was convened to resolve budget issues.

FEDERAL RESERVE: Paul’s weakest area is his distain for the Federal Reserve Board. As to monetary policies that have kept interest rates low, Paul was critical, saying they only distort the economy. Apparently, he does not think they will stimulate economic activity. At one point Paul said the U.S. owes the Federal Reserve 1.6 trillion, and the Fed should be audited. Paul’s comments were obviously popular with the partisan crowd, as they booed Santorum for attacking Paul. Gingrich joined Paul saying it is a scandal that the Fed deals with billions in secret, and does not explain who is bailed out, or why.

FREE TRADE & JOBS: On the issue of jobs and trade, Santorum, who consistently supported Free Trade while in the Senate, correctly pointed out the number of Americans employed in manufacturing dropped from 21% to 9%, but he offered no solutions. Romney said we need trade policies that work for us, but he also failed to give any details. When he was asked to explain why people were laid off from companies he owned, he had little to say.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY: Regarding the regulation of the environment, Huntsman, who owns a global corporation, said the EPA does not let businesses expand, and accused them of running a “reign of terror.”

HEALTH INSURANCE: On the economics of health, all of the Republicans of course piled on against the law the Democrats passed in 2009. Pawlenty said the Obama health care plan was modeled after Romney’s in Mass. Romney said the Mass plan was for one state, and the President’s is a one-size-fits-all, for the entire nation. He promised to grant waivers to any state that requested one.

As to the mandate to make people buy health insurance, Romney argued all have a personal responsibility to buy it. Paul said the insurance and drug companies love the mandate, and thought only doctors and patients would suffer. Bachmann thinks the government has no authority to force people buy health insurance, a position her activist right-wing friends on the Supreme Court will likely endorse. Gingrich suggested repealing Obamacare, but like the others, offered no answer to the health insurance crisis.

06/15/2011

Republican Debate New Hamp (6-13-11)

Seven Republicans answered questions on CNN on June 13 in their first presidential debate. Four of the seven are unlikely to get the nomination, because voters usually pick Governors or Senators, who have had statewide experience. Since House members Bachmann, Paul, and Gingrich have not served an entire state, and Cain has not held any office, they are not credible candidates. Of the three with credentials, former Sen. Santorum was beaten badly in a re-election bid in Pennsylvania, and he is damaged cargo. This leaves only two plausible candidates: former Gov. Pawlenty of Minnesota and former Gov. Romney of Massachusetts.

Before addressing Pawlenty and Romney, let’s examine what the party stands for by reviewing the statements of the others.

CAIN opposed auto industry loans that successfully saved GM and Chrysler, along with countless jobs. He supports Ryan’s voucher plan, which would destroy Medicare, as we know it. He would phase out Social Security Retirement, the most popular government program ever implemented. He would single out Muslims, in violation of the 1st Amendment, and would solve a problem that does not exist, by baring Sharia Law in U.S. Courts.

BACHMANN would abolish the Environmental Protection Agency (yes, she really said this). She opposed government loans that prevented the recent Great Recession from becoming a Great Depression. She opposes the right to abortion. She criticized President Obama for working with allies like France, as to Libya.

GINGRICH would dismantle the National Labor Relations Board. He would not pay Medicare “crooks,” as he put it. He supports unconstitutional loyalty oaths for Muslims.

RON PAUL, usually an interesting man, would have denied government assistance to all private enterprise. He said average retirees draw three times as much as they contribute to Medicare, but his numbers need a fact-check. As to Afghanistan, he courageously said he would not duck the issue by waiting for the generals to act; he would pull out now, and would save billions of dollars.

SANTORUM criticized sending jobs overseas, yet he historically supported free trade. He opposed loans to help American industry. He supports the Ryan plan to privatize Medicare, and apparently thinks elderly people will somehow be able to afford private health insurance premiums. He would not close U.S. military bases around the world, as he thinks we need every single one of them.

PAWLENTY opposes unions and labor laws that protect ordinary working people. He thinks Congress created the housing bubble, but did not explain. He supports an unspecified option, other than Medicare. When asked about separating church and state, he left non-believers out of the 1st Amendment, as he referred to “people of faith.” He is proudly pro-life. He would allow the 50 states to have their own immigration laws, even though the constitution clearly delegates naturalization to Congress. He promised to bomb other countries.

ROMNEY opposed the auto industry loans that successfully saved thousands of American jobs, saying he would have let them go bankrupt. He dodged a question about Afghanistan, and cowardly failed to indicate a willingness to withdraw, by saying he would instead defer to generals or conditions on the ground.

As a group, Republicans oppose saving American industry and their jobs. They oppose labor laws that protect ordinary working people. They would repeal environmental protection. They wish to destroy Medicare, as we know it. They appear to be ignorant of the problems with private health insurance. Some would end the Social Security Retirement System. They support a Christian Nation, to the exclusion of other faiths and non-believers. They would discriminate against Muslim-Americans and would require loyalty oaths. They would deny women the liberty to have an abortion. They talk about spending too much, but refuse to close unnecessary military bases around the globe, and promise no end to the waste of tax dollars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The only thing they were really good at was convincing me not to vote for them.

04/29/2011

U.S. Health Ins.–Pass A $100 Bill

The problem with the American health insurance system is that big insurance companies, big hospitals, and big government, all surrounded a great big conference table, exchanged big smiles and handshakes, and then agreed upon big premiums, big hospital bills, and big bailouts, but no one invited the forgotten little man, or has asked him what he thought.

I realize I am late to the table, but as that little man, I wasn’t invited. In any event, let me digress from the big plan, by interjecting a little idea. Let me start by saying: all of the big boys, with their big ideas, are wrong. The system needs to start with the little man. It must work from the bottom up, not the top down.

The first question in crafting an affordable health care system is: What can the little man afford? By comparison, auto insurance for me runs about $1,200 per year, or $100 per month. While it is much more expensive than it needs to be, it is affordable. It covers liability of $100,000 per person, and $300,000 per occurrence.

I propose a $100 Health Insurance Premium Act. The “$100 Bill,” as it would be known, would apply to all. A young single person would pay $100 per month for health insurance. A family of three would pay $300, and a family of four, $400, and so on.

By universally locking in the premium, all of the doubts and fears of the unknown cost of the health system would fade, and public approval would grow. Without galloping premiums, confidence would be restored. Employers would know their health care costs.

The next step would be for health insurance companies to collect the premiums and to calculate 20% off the top for all of their expenses, to be regulated and approved of by the government.

The third step would be for the government to mandate the coverage that must be provided, under all health policies, using 80% of the premiums collected. Minimum coverage would start at the bottom and work up, focusing on the most common or frequent health care needs, like semi-annual check-ups, sprained ankles, child birth, and so on. The mandatory coverage would stop at the point where 80% of the premiums are exhausted, since that is all we as a society can afford.

The “$100 Bill” would insure the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people. Our objective as a society should be to provide health insurance to as many Americans as possible.

While some may fear that brain-dead persons in vegetative states will be unplugged from their life support systems, after time, they will stop being plugged-in, and the issue will become academic.

The nation cannot continue Cadillac health coverage, based on the price of a Chevy. We are going to have to end our long test drive with the Cadillac, and return to the days when Americans saw the USA in their Chevrolets.

04/28/2011

Dutch Health Care: A U.S. Model

After teaching one night class at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse for 8 years between 1995 and 2003, I looked into turning my part-time contract into a full-time position, so I could have health insurance. Although the pay for teaching 3 to 4 classes per semester, as a non-tenured lecturer, was not great, the insurance was attractive, since it was absolutely unaffordable at my self-employed day job.

As luck would have it, a tenured professor resigned in 2003, and a position opened. So, I ceased to be self-employed, and started lecturing full-time. 15 months later, while finishing my last class of the day, I noticed a severe pain across my chest and into my arms, as I was having my first heart attack. At the hospital in Wisconsin, 2 stents were inserted to open my vessels. Luckily, the university’s health care paid all of the charges in the amount of $44,523. I was fortunate to have dodged a bullet with insurance.

After the search committee at Wisconsin finally found a new Phd, I moved to the Netherlands to participate in a one-year program at Utrecht University. To live there, I was required by law to have health insurance. So, in 2006, I purchased a Dutch plan for an annual premium of 445 Euro, the equivalent of $567. No questions were asked about pre-existing conditions or prior care.

Five months after arriving in the Netherlands, I had a second heart attack in Dec. 2006. The Dutch care was different, in that it was better. Unlike Wisconsin, where I laid there for what seemed to be an eternity, before permission from the insurance carrier was obtained to keep me alive, the Dutch doctors went right to work, as they knew everyone in their country was covered. They didn’t have to waste any time asking about coverage.

A cardiologist inserted two stents in my heart, and opened up my arteries, including one that had been 100% blocked, but written off in Wisconsin, because the American doctors thought it was too hard to get to. I was copied in on the Dutch ambulance, hospital and doctor bills, and they totaled 7,024 Euro, which translated to $8,920.00. My care in Holland was only one-fifth the cost of the identical care in Wisconsin, but in some ways much better. I was very fortunate to have had my second heart attack on their soil.

I learned several lessons from having virtually identical heart procedures in Wisconsin in Dec. 2004, and in Holland in Dec. 2006: 1) Dutch health insurance premiums are significantly lower and affordable; 2) Dutch insurance asked no questions about pre-existing conditions or care; 3) Dutch doctors got to work immediately, without wasting any time trying to find out if I was covered, since everyone is covered; 4) Dutch charges for the identical treatment of inserting two stents in my heart was only one-fifth the U.S. costs; 5) Dutch follow-up care was superb, as I never waited very long at all to see a doctor; 6) Dutch care, all things considered, was better than what I received in the U.S.

Politically, the lessons are: 1) Don’t listen to right-wing nut jobs, who try to convince Americans that European health care is somehow sub-standard, since it is not; 2) If the Dutch can cover everyone with pre-existing conditions, then so can we. 3) If the Dutch can run their health insurance companies, while charging much lower premiums, so can we; 4) If the Dutch can operate their hospitals on one-fifth the billings and costs, then so can we. We in the U.S. should consider the Dutch health care model.

04/27/2011

U.S. Heath Ins. Must Be Affordable

Like most people, I was healthy enough in my early years to have no major health insurance needs. My employer’s group health insurance covered the torn Achilles tendon I had while playing basketball, and through 1990, I had no insurance problems.

Shortly afterward, however, my employer passed away, and I went self-employed. No longer under a group plan, I purchased an individual family policy. Things then changed four months later, when an insurance company nurse tested my blood, and told me I was a diabetic. Within days, my health insurance was cancelled.

Once I was diagnosed a diabetic in 1991, the premiums for any private health insurance plan became cost-prohibitive.

I tried Wisconsin’s state-run high-risk pool for people unable to obtain private insurance, but the premiums for that also increased with each payment, at galloping rates, and I had to drop it, as it became unaffordable.

I maintained a policy for my children only, but as a diabetic, I had to go without. For the past 20 years, with the exception of two years, when I was teaching enough courses at a university to qualify for their health plan, and another year, when I was in Holland, under their health care law, I have been uninsured.

I watched with great interest the national health care debate. I understand President Obama does not write the laws, and the bill the Congress sent him was written by the insurance lobby. I have little confidence in it, because it mandates insurance, but does not regulate premiums. Under such a scheme, individuals like me, or the government, or both, are going to get ripped off.

A single payer plan would have been better, but I don’t blame Obama. I reserve my angst for the right-wingers who use the term “Obama-care” in a disparaging way. What is their solution? Their answer is to leave everything to the private sector, the same profit-taking carriers who abandoned me 20 years ago, and pushed me out of their system, with their astronomical premiums.

Although Obama and the Democrats made progress with the health care law, the issue remains: What is affordable health insurance? To this day, no one has even attempted to answer that question. My fear is the definition of affordable used by the wealthy health insurance executives is vastly different than mine.

So, I still don’t have health insurance, because it is not affordable for older people like me, who have had a history of health care issues. The overall health care system will never work properly, until the question of cost is addressed, and a truly affordable premium is locked in through a tough regulatory scheme.