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Monday, July 27, 2009

Health Fair



NPR did a story today about the annual Wise Health Fair at the Wise County Fairgrounds in Fairfax Virginia. Last weekend, volunteer doctors, dentists, nurses, and technicians from the Remote Area Medical Foundation’s Remote America Program treated 2,700 patients, some of whom showed up days in advance to wait in line. (http://www.ramusa.org/) This less than 20 miles from Washington D.C, where healthcare industry lobbyists are spending two billion dollars this year on their friends in Congress.

Two weeks ago, Bill Moyers introduced us to Wendell Potter, former public relations head for Cigna HealthCare. Potter told how he had a ‘road to Damascus’ moment a few years ago when he left the rarified air of the Washington boardrooms and visited his father in flyover country. He happened to visit a health fair near his father’s home in Tennessee that offered free medical treatment to uninsured people, some of whom travelled hundreds of miles to wait in long lines to have medical and dental procedures performed under sun shades in an open parking lot. This was an eye opener for him, because in his life as a healthcare executive, he had no contact with people who lacked health coverage. He has since become an advocate of healthcare reform.

He spoke of the shrinking “medical loss ratio,” how in 1990 the insurance companies paid out 95 cents out of every healthcare dollar on care. That number is now down to eighty cents. The rest goes to shareholders, who like it that way; when the M.L.R. rises, the share price falls.

Potter spoke of the big players, Americas Health Insurance Plans, or A.H.I.P, the American Medical Association, and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America,(PhRMA) being on a charm offensive that is bound to end, because “the status quo works for them.” They do support an individual mandate for health insurance, because it will mean more customers for them, but they will fight to protect their revenue stream, spending two billion dollars this year to lobby congress.

Phillips made a good point for Medicare for all when he pointed out that Medicare customers are happier with their coverage than customers of private health insurance companies.

Last week Bill Moyers had Dr. Marcia Angell on his show. She is a former editor-in-chief of The New England Journal of Medicine and now is a Senior Lecturer at Harvard Medical School. She says that we make a grave mistake in the way we treat healthcare as a commodity, that market ideology is what makes our system so dreadful. She was pessimistic about the measures being considered in congress, but had a good idea for getting us to a single payer system.

“Make Medicare nonprofit, you could do it decade by decade, but extend it down to age 55, and age 45, and age 35. It would give the private insurance industry a chance to go into hurricanes, earthquakes, or something. To get out of the business.”

Amen to that.

1 Comments:

At 11:43 PM , Blogger Juile said...

Healthcare costs can be astronomical, especially for those of retirement age. And upon retiring, you’ll face not having employer-provided health coverage and suddenly be relying on Medicare, which doesn’t cover everything.

Many Americans must navigate COBRA benefit rules and regulations following job losses or retirement. COBRA benefits allow former employer-based group health insurance coverage to be retained for several months following job separation. But the benefits are expensive as the employer no longer pays any portion of the premium, and it can also be very difficult to keep.

Maryland Lawsuit

 

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