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May. 15 2009 - 12:03 pm | 17 views | 0 recommendations | 4 comments

Dear Insurance Giants: Please don’t screw us again

healthcareWASHINGTON — Hospitals and insurance companies said Thursday that President Obama had substantially overstated their promise earlier this week to reduce the growth of health spending.

Mr. Obama invited health industry leaders to the White House on Monday to trumpet their cost-control commitments. But three days later, confusion swirled in Washington as the companies’ trade associations raced to tamp down angst among members around the country.

After meeting with six major health care organizations, Mr. Obama hailed their cost-cutting promise as historic.

“These groups are voluntarily coming together to make an unprecedented commitment,” Mr. Obama said. “Over the next 10 years, from 2010 to 2019, they are pledging to cut the rate of growth of national health care spending by 1.5 percentage points each year — an amount that’s equal to over $2 trillion.”

Health care leaders who attended the meeting have a different interpretation. They say they agreed to slow health spending in a more gradual way and did not pledge specific year-by-year cuts.

via Health Care Leaders Say Obama Overstated Their Promise to Control Costs – NYTimes.com.

Is anyone really surprised by this? This is the only case I can think of where the government is essentially asking an industry to regulate itself. When the auto industry first got into trouble, the government raked its CEOs over the coals and demanded changes (albeit usually from the unions.) Restructuring the health care system inherently means antiquating the insurance industry, so why is Obama inviting their input at all? Of course, insurance lobbyists are going to desperately try to gut whatever nationalized health care program graces Obama’s desk.

When pharmaceutical fanboy Senator Max Baucus is on the Finance Committee relegated to “fixing” health care, and not a single representative for single payer health care is even invited to the discussion table, then the diversity of solutions becomes quite limited. Inviting the very entities responsible for the woeful state of the health care industry into a discussion about the healthcare industry itself alters the framing of the discussion from “how do we fix this?” to “how do we save the insurance industry?”

And the American people — as usual — will pay the price.


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    Disconcertingly, this kind of strategy is reminiscent of Bush’s stimulus package. You know, where he just gave Wall St. tons of cash and let them spend it on swimming pools and god knows what else.

    The only incentive the insurance companies have to cut costs is that if they don’t, perhaps Obama will consider a single-payer system (though given his remarks as of late, I doubt he will). But other than that, they are going to be as “cooperative” as they deem necessary to stay in business. This is just another tactic of theirs to see how far they can push the administration, and, apparently, they have yet to hit the breaking point.

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    deleted account

    I read that article just before I read an article about derivatives in the New York Times and SEC’s involvement in trying put regulations in place that would avert another recession, it made everything they said in the NYT piece seem so hollow and ridiculous.

    BTW, I liked your interview with Chomsky. I was trying to comment on it, but there was some bug that disallowed me, so I hope you dont mind if I comment here. What I was going to say is that at the end of the interview Chomsky said that the reason Pakistan wasn’t attacking the Taliban and/or tribes was because there is widespread public support for them in the area. However, there was just recently an announcement by Pakistan that they are going to start military operations against the Taliban/tribes. What do you think has changed in order for Pakistan to risk an attack?

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      Hey Peter — Thanks for the kinds words, and sorry about the comment glitches. When I interviewed Pakistan historian Tariq Ali about this Taliban issue, he stressed that Pakistan does whatever the United States tells it to. For a very long time, the US has funneled money and arms into the region, and has also supported every single military dictatorship in the country’s history. So when the US says “Jump,” Pakistan jumps.

      To answer your question: I think Pakistan is now beginning to half-heartedly fight the Taliban because the US has asked them to. Before our request, Pakistan had an uneasy truce with the Taliban.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    About Me

    I co-host Citizen Radio, the alternative political radio show. I am a contributing reporter to Huffington Post, Alternet.org, and The Nation.

    My essay "Youth Surviving Subprime" appears in The Nation's new book, Meltdown: How Greed and Corruption Shattered Our Financial System and How We Can Recover beside esssays by Ralph Nader, Joseph Stiglitz, Barbara Ehrenreich, and Naomi Klein, who I'm told are all important people.

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