The Republican leader in the Senate is trying to rush through a secret health care proposal, bring it to the floor of the Senate without hearings with Democrats, without amendments…in other words….in virtual secrecy.
So why would the Senate leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, want to do that? The most likely explanation is that he does not want to publicly allow the publication or the broadcast of the details to reach the American public. You see, Senator McConnell does not work for the people of the United States or even the people of his home state, Kentucky. Mitch McConnell is the leader of the Senate Republicans because he is the big breadwinner in the Party He has always been the big money raiser from corporations and large Right Wing billionaire and multi-millionaire donors. And he spreads it around.
This time it is the health care industry. This bill, this bill he wants to keep secret from Americans, and the Senate Republicans want to keep secret, is written for the health care industry. We know some of the provisions. First, it will allow free rein to all health insurance companies to go crazy with rate increases again. One company has already said that under the Obamacare provisions, removed by Republicans, and its “corridor” underwriting (that is, government support of companies surprised by unusual risks that might occur because of unforeseen demographics) rates might go up about 8.8%. Under the Republican proposal, which is secret…but we know the outlines, and we know who benefits….the opposite number—30% increases—are likely.
So, McConnell doesn’t want us to know about that. Moreover, the Republican bill would send all high-risk cases to a special pool, which the government would subsidize. At least that is the initial plan. But we know that this would have failed miserably in the House because of the Tea Party Right Wingers. The same kinds of people, like Senator Mike Lee and others from the West and South are equally as ardent in their demands that the sick and the poor pay these bills themselves. These are the same people who make no apology for wanting to make individuals pay for these extraordinarily high medical bills, while giving millions in tax breaks to the top 1% –in the very same House American Health Care Act legislation.
We have to step back a little bit. As recently as 2010, before full enactment of Obamacare, a family where the man of the house was a small businessman, with good insurance, had a heart attack and then recovered but had a second heart attack and so was not denied further coverage because the first attack meant that he had a “previous condition.” And what did that mean? It meant he had to pay, first of all the hundreds of thousands of dollars for his second operation and therapy. He lost his business. They lost their home. They declared bankruptcy. And they moved in with their grown children until he, still not 65, not eligible for Medicare, could get another job somewhere (not easy for a man over 60 in 2010) and purchase some kind of unbelievably costly health care. Or trust to a Medicaid system that doesn’t want to cover anyone.
Then there was a little girl, an actual case, who received a cochlear implant in one ear but the health insurance would not, until threatened with widespread damaging publicity, pay for the other ear. Cochlear implants are not done in one ear to improve hearing. There was a woman with a brain tumor who was denied coverage because the tumor had been their prior to the time the woman initiated coverage. Even though she was unaware of it, the debate continued about when she knew and when the tumor started and how long it had been there…on and on…until her time ran out. The insurance company never had to pay…because she died of the brain tumor. A woman in the mid-point of her life.
If McConnell has his way, and if his supporters, like the ones who denied coverage to these real people, real victims of the pre-Obamacare conditions, have their way, these kinds of circumstances are only a few years away again. It is all about claiming that costs are too high for us to continue to support health care for those who need it most. As, Alan Grayson once said on the floor of the House, the Republican plan is simple. If you get very sick or have a very serious injury..just die.
Are we asking too much of our wealthy and of our giant health care corporations? The average health care CEO makes $14 million a year. Any good CEO has been in a top position for years, making at least a million a year between salary and stock options. That means that over a five year period, assuming at least two years in the job (most contracts are for more than one year) a health care CEO comes away with over $30 million, even if he or she were to quit and walk away after the second year of their contract. On that kind of income, they pay less than 25% net, or, in other words, would keep—at a minimum–$22.5 million. Not bad for five year’s work.
But are we taxing billionaires too much. If you are a billionaire like Donald Trump, you pay at least 20% of your income to the Treasury. So if you have a billion dollars in income, you pay the government at least (we’re being generous…some billionaires pay less than 10% taxes) $200 million. This leaves you only $800 million to live on, to find a place to buy or rent, to feed and clothe your family, to educate your children, to have an occasionally vacation, and to donate a percentage, say up to 5%, to the needy (that would be $40 million, by the way.) Now, to be safe and secure, you could spread that income out over a longer period of time, say 20 years at only $40 million a year, find a cheaper place to rent or own, buy clothes at Macy’s or Nordstroms, buy food at Trader Joes and Krogers, and perhaps only buy a new set of Mercedes every other year. These are dramatic changes in lifestyle, I know, but we all make sacrifices. Some of us have spent years in the military and felt we were the lucky ones, because we came home.
One last thing about life before Obamacare before we return to Mitch McConnell’s health industry bailout bill. There were preconditions, lots of them, that needed to be met, not only before you “earned the right” to have health care, but even after, as we have already stated. In fact, we looked it up. And there were an average of about 50 items on a page, 50 items that could exclude you from coverage, or knock you off your coverage even after you had it. And those 50 items per page went on for 37 pages.
When health care is a business, then profit, as in all businesses, is the goal…not health care. So we should not be surprised when claims adjusters were told to maximize profits but cutting costs (payments for claims) any way that they could, legally, under the insurance contract. If someone had a pre-condition, then it might not be moral to decline their claim for an operation, but it could be legal to deny it. By denying it someone could save the insurance company hundreds of thousands of dollars, perhaps earn thousands in a bonus, and earn a promotion. That isn’t conjecture. That happened, according to the testimony of hundreds of claims adjustors in the health insurance industry including many very repentant physicians, whose attitudes we know, because we have their videotaped testimony before Congress.
Why is it important that we know what is in the McConnell/health insurance industry bill? Because before Obamacare, in 2008, the industry denied some care or some procedure to one out of every seven people. According to Congressional reports, in 2010, over 650,000 people had been denied health care coverage, any coverage, by Aetna, Humana, United Healthcare and Wellpoint alone. In the three years prior to Obamacare, a total of 12.6 million people were denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions.
We still have tens of millions of people who fall through the cracks because of one circumstance or another. Do we want to return to a system where we can be denied coverage because we are sick? Are we denied the right to drive because we were caught speeding once or parked in the wrong spot? Does it make any sense that the very reason we need health care is the reason the health insurance industry…or Mitch McConnell and the Republicans…should be allowed to deny it? Have we all gone insane?