Health Care Reform 2.0

In an emotional town hall in suburban Annandale, VA today, President Obama spoke with Americans who shared their nightmarish experiences with the existing health insurance industry.

In pledging his commitment to health care reform, Obama spoke favorably of the so-called public option, a government-sponsored health care plan that would operate in competition with private insurance.  Recent polls show an overwhelming number of Americans favor the public option when considering health care reform.

Public forums like the one the president held today have given Americans a high-profile way to air their troubles – and have distinguished Obama as a great “Listener In Chief.”
But at the risk of overplaying the dreaded empathy card, Obama is doing even more to highlight Americans’ agonizingly real problems with the cost, availability and quality of their health care.

The folks at Organizing for America, Obama’s grassroots political organizing arm,  have compiled an archive of personal stories from regular Americans who share their health care horrors.  Organized by city (there are a number of Albuquerque ones),  the archive chronicles real problems from real people, in their own voices. It’s a great outlet for people who want to talk about why our health care system is screaming for reform –  and a handy resource for those who still need convincing.

Check it out.

Not Really Insuring Anything

gimmemoneyFor a long time, tobacco companies denied the fact that smoking actually increased the chances one could develop cancer, emphysema, lung disease and other sorts of upper respiratory afflictions.  Tobacco companies also spent the better part of two decades trying their best to convince the public and Congress that nicotine was not addictive.

Their public relations campaigns actually worked pretty well on Capitol Hill.

But, the truth about tobacco and its effects on the human body eventually reached a critical level of understanding and acceptance.  The consensus about tobacco is now so broad that Congress voted last week to bring tobacco under the auspices of federal regulation.  The truth was eventually undeniable.

Today’s health insurance companies are kind of where the tobacco companies were 15-20 years ago.  They’re becoming increasingly unpopular because of their profit model – a model that maximizes the collection of premiums and minimizes (sometimes through very dubious means) actual coverage of claims made by their customers.  Like the tobacco industry denials before them, the insurance industry has refused to cop to an open secret about their treatment of consumers.

That is, until now.

This morning’s LA Times describes in stark detail how three of the largest health insurance companies have been systematically denying coverage to patients that develop cancer or lymphoma.  They even deny coverage to women who get pregnant.  The three insurance companies (they’re the only three that have admitted to this practice) routinely pull the rug out from under their own customers when they are most vulnerable.

From the Times…

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Live From Rio Rancho….

Health care costs are on everyone’s mind, including some of the 2,300 or so New Mexicans who crowded into the Rio Rancho High School gym yesterday for President Barack Obama’s townhall meeting on credit card company abuse.

The first query right off the bat was about healthcare, and Obama ably converted the townhall into a forum about why he believes significant health care reform must be achieved by Labor Day.

“Medicaid and Medicare costs are the single biggest driver to deficits and national debt, as well as Social Security, defense and interest on the national debt,” he told the Rio Rancho crowd. “These are the lion’s share of the national budget. Most of what’s driving us into debt is health care.”

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Obama’s Office of Budget and Management director Peter Orszag writes more about why Obama believes health care reform is key to American’s fiscal future – and why it needs to be done now.

Go and read it. You’ll be glad you did.

Obama and New Mexico’s Health Care Authority

It is clear Obama is going to move aggressively on health care reform, including it as a cornerstone of his economic recovery package. Kevin Sack, in his op-ed entitled, “Necessary Medicine?” in this Sunday’s New York Times, cites Obama himself:

To broaden support for his plan — whatever it ends up being — he [Obama] insisted last week that systematic improvements in health care would be essential to any lasting economic recovery.

“It’s not something that we can sort of put off because we’re in an emergency,” he said. “This is part of the emergency.”

Mr. Obama said his health plan would be “intimately woven into” his administration’s economic blueprint. And he directly confronted those who might ask how the country could afford a major expansion of health coverage in times of shrinking revenues and burgeoning deficits. “I ask a different question,” Mr. Obama said. “I ask how can we afford not to?”

The state of health care in New Mexico is, to paraphrase Civil Rights organizer Bob Moses, like a boat in the ocean with a hole in it. You have to stay afloat to fix the boat, and fix the boat to stay afloat. Continue reading

All About the Health Care

Ezra nails it.

U.S. budget deficits over the next 50 years, assuming no change in current policy, will absolutely explode. Not because of Social Security, not be cause of Medicare – because of health care. If there is not a concerted effort to address the booming cost of health care, then we can pretty much bet the country will go bankrupt.

Really, this isn’t an alarmist rant. It’s a fact.

Health Care Crisis: Pricing Out Small Business

As executive director of the Albuquerque Independent Business Alliance, Rebecca Dakota communicates regularly with the owners of about 175 small businesses in the city.

Dakota’s members tell her they know that keeping their employees healthy is good for their businesses as well as for each employee and their family.

“The bottom line is that when employees are healthy, they do a better job, they are more productive and they show up at work more often. So it’s a good thing for the employer,” says Dakota.

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McCain: Banking system model for health care reform

Paul Krugman reports on Senator McCain’s views on health care reform.

Here’s what McCain said this month in the magazine of the American Academy of Actuaries:

“Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.”

(Krugman link)

One would hope that provocative ideas like this will be thoroughly aired in the upcoming debates.