It may be time for much greater changes than simply transforming health care. We may be looking at a political and social climate that requires a sea-change in our entire society.
The New York Times, one of the last several bastions of democratic free speech, honesty and truth has capitulated to the endless badgering of the Right Wing. They felt that it was important to enlist the help of William Kristol, who gave us the Iraq War as his solution to international diplomacy and now they give us Ross Douthat and of course, David Brooks, with his annoying flea-bites at the progressive agenda.
More importantly, however, they have gone from a truth-seeking newspaper to a more typical, early 21st Century, “he said, she said, he said” facsimile of the New York Times. For example, normally reliable Robert Pear criticized the President’s comment that the American Medical Association had signed on with the President’s plan. Pear and Peter Baker felt it important to mention that several state societies, we don’t know which–could have been Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina–are not on board. Notwithstanding the fact that getting the AMA on board is monumental, they did not mention that the nearly 300,000 members of AAFP, the family practice doctors, and all the osteopaths in the country are on board. As is the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic. And the American Nurses Association. And on and on. But Pear and Baker apparently appeased their critics, people like Eric Kantor, the little weasel who is trying to wring as much campaign money as he possibly can from America’s Health Insurance Plans before this bonanza has passed. Kantor wants to get his hands on more of that acknowledged $1.5 million per day being spent by the health insurance lobby to defeat access to health care for all Americans.
The Baker Pear said that the American Hospital Association is not supporting it. They told us that. We weren’t sure. And let’s hope that they let us know that North Korea won’t be sending flowers to Michelle on her birthday. We are not sure about many of the hospital chain CEOs apparently. But we know that one, Rick Scott, who ran a hospital chain that cheated the government out of so much money that his firm paid a $1.7 billion, with a B, fine (probably to stay out of jail) is again in the business of trying to cheat the public out of something. He is running television commercials and 30-minute advertorials trying to defeat the public’s access to health care and apparently, therefore, to his current scam, a chain of clinics. Yes, Mr. Pear and Mr. Baker, we were all breathlessly awaiting the endorsement of the American Hospital Association. (How long, I wonder, will we Liberals be endorsing a newspaper that really doesn’t give us accurate context? Hmmm…)
Pear and Baker “report” that “Hospitals say…” that this group of Medical experts that will guide more efficient procedures may induce cuts that would reduce coverage in rural areas and a some university medical facilities. Oh yes, “Hospitals say…” do they. Good reporting, boys. We understand. You hope that people have not actually read the bill which as a gesture to Senator Grassely and others–and because it is right to do so–will increase emphasis on availability of medical services to rural areas, in combination with greater access to on-line participation of worldwide consultation with specialists. Good thinking by the Baker-Pear boys. Maybe they were actually trying to protect us from the bad guys, in case they had not yet read the other part about the involvement of best practices (ah, probably from people like those on the advisory group) that would reward those university medical centers with good practices and force those with wasteful practices to change. It was nice “he said, she said” reporting though.
Thank God Mr. Pear and Mr. Baker were able, through skillful and deft manipulation of their subject, to wring from the press spokesperson from America’s Health Insurance Plans lobbying group, between handing out thousand dollar bills to Congressional aides, the “hard fact” that of every dollar a health insurance company takes in it only makes a penny. Something like that. Well, let’s see….Aetna’s bottom line might have looked a little better in 2007 had they not incurred one big hit. It cost them $23,045,834.00 for just one man, the CEO Ronald Williams. Now, to be fair, Ronald Williams, for some reason, is…this is a surprise…against a public option in health care. But of course, how would Mr. Pear and Mr. Baker have known that unless they could have done the math: 2 + 2 = 4!
Perhaps the profits at Cigna, too, might have improved in 2007 if they had not spent $25,839,777.00 on CEO H. Edward Hanway. Or, say, Coventry, Dale B. Wolf: $14,869,823; United Health Group, Stephen J. Hemsley: $13,164,529; Humana, Michael McCallister: $10,312,557; Wellpoint, Angela Braly: $9,094,271.
But what about 2008, or are these big numbers too confusing? In 2008, Mr. Williams of Aetna made $24,300,112.00. So, let’s see, over 2 years Mr. Williams earned $47,345,946.00.
Now, to be fair, 2008, as you can see from Mr. Williams pay was not as lucrative as 2007. Mr. Hanway’s pay fell by about thirteen million, but his company tanked. He tanked too, but only to about $12 million. Ms Braly’s income went up, but only by approximately $800,000. Anyway, good work by Mr. Pear and Mr. Baker giving us those devastating profit numbers of only about 1% for the health insurance industry that they read so carefully from the press release by AHIP.
So engrossed were Mr. Pear and Mr. Baker in their reading of the AHIP news releases, searching, searching for the truth, that they may have missed this little item from Health Care Finance News, a trade journal of neither the prestige nor potential for advertising revenue from health insurance companies as the New York Times:
“The total 2009 medical bill for a typical American family of four is $16,771, compared with the 2008 figure of $15,609. The $1,162 increase is the highest measured by the MMI since the 2006 increase of $1,168, when cost trends were at 9.6 percent.
The MMI found that employers are expected to pay $9,9947, or 5.4 percent more than in 2008, while employees are expected to contribute $4,004 toward their health costs, an increase of 14.7 percent, and pay $2,820 in out-of-pocket expenses, an increase of 5.4 percent.”
You know, the more we see of the Times these days, the more it seems they need to adopt the motto of my one-time employer: “All the News That Fits.” Fold, spindle, mutilate…just jam it in there somehow.