The Bugle has neglected coverage of the Health Care Reform issue due to the fact that it is being well covered by other Montana folks like jhwygirl over at 4&20 Blackbirds, Pogie at Intelligent Discontent. Their coverage has been much better than we could ever expect to do. The time has come however, to shit or get off the pot. This past week has convinced me that the issue has reached a tipping point.
The health care and insurance industries have spent hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying members of congress and the public to defeat any meaningful type of reform. The House of Representatives has passed a so-so single bill out of the Energy & Commerce committee. The Senate continues to dawdle under chief dawdler Max Baucus. The Senate “group of six” is set to remove the public insurance option and instead set up meaningless co-ops. The bill would also remove the requirement that employers provide access to insurance. Removing these key provisions means that the Senate bill would have absolutely no incentive for insurance companies to reduce costs or premiums and maybe end in failure.
As Congress prepares for their August recess, the health care lobby is ramping up plans for an advertising blitzkrieg against health care reform. Politicians are already referring to the effort as “Insurance Reform” rather than health care reform, since it is becoming increasingly clear that there is no real intention of reforming the way we do health care. Republicans only want to see the administration fail. They are not interested in “bipartisan” anything. For the next month, you can expect to hear a plethora of distortions and outright lies. The House bill has already been decried as a “euthanasia” bill because of provisions to help seniors voluntarily set up living wills. You will hear cries of “Government run health care” even though there is no such provision. You will hear that the government will come between you and your doctor. Right now, you have Wall Street between you and your doctor. The lobby says that most people are happy with their health care. Sure most people like their personal doctor, but when was the last time you spent some quality time on the phone with your insurance company? Surveys show that satisfaction with Medicare (read government-run health care) is much higher than satisfaction with private insurance plans. Since the last time we went through this process in 1993-1994, insurance companies have gone from paying out 95% of their income for health care to now spending only 80%. The other 20% goes to Wall Street to keep investors happy and profits high. Medicare spends about 97% of income on patient care. An employee on the newly increased minimum wage will make just over $15,000 before taxes. The cost of the average health insurance plan for a family of four is now $13,000. That leaves around $2,000 per year for rent, food, gas, heat, lights….
Our folks in Congress need to hear from you now and often. This effort is going to take the voices of millions of people letting our senators and reprentatives know that health care reform is important and we want to see it happen now. Max has received nearly $4 million from the health care lobby in the last two years. Two of his former chiefs of staff now lobby for the industry, “David Castagnetti, whose clients include PhRMA and America’s Health Insurance Plans, and Jeffrey A. Forbes, who represents PhRMA, Amgen, Genentech, Merck and others“. The health care lobby will spend millions on the coming few weeks. The lobby for Uninsured Montanans is broke because all their money goes to pay doctor bills.
Max will be holding a “Wellness and Prevention” forum in Bozeman on August 9, show up and be vocal. Congressman Rehberg will hold nine “Listening Sessions” in Montana this month. Plan to attend if you can and voice your opinion. If you can’t do it in person, write, email, fax or call your congressmen. Pay attention and get involved!