Yesterday, at the 2nd stop of America's Health Insurance Plans' "listening tour" - the stop that was announced the same day and took place at an undisclosed location - the insurance industry again said it was "listening," this time to six uninsured women invited by the industry for a press conference:
Readus, Gorecki and Goolsby were three of six women who met at Second Ebenezer Church in Detroit at the request of the health insurance industry group AHIP, America's Health Insurance Plans. They talked to Chief Executive Karen Ignagni about their health care and insurance issues. This was AHIP's second meeting on health care reform in its Campaign for an American Solution.
The women's message: We need better and affordable health care and coverage. We need to be treated equally, regardless of our insurance status. We need universal health care.
AHIP's response: We need more federal funding to shore up the safety net of public programs such as Medicaid, Medicare and MIChild.
We need better subsidies. We need to cap health care expenses. We need tax credits for working individuals who earn up to $80,000 to use toward health care.
Topics that were not discussed were lowering health insurance rates, premiums, co-pays and deductibles, so the women could afford to insure themselves and their families.
Ignagni said that until health care providers such as doctors and hospitals contain their costs, the insurance industry cannot change how it calculates prices.
One million people in Michigan have no insurance, said John Freeman, state director of Health Care for America Now-Michigan. The AHIP meetings are a smoke screen, he said.
First, it's important to point out that the public was not invited to this event. Though AHIP's "Campaign for an American Solution" purports to be a grassroots, transparent effort, the participants in this "listening tour" stop were either paid or invited by the insurance industry. The audience was members of the press. AHIP is lying when it says, "The Campaign for An American Solution held an open to the press, public forum on Wednesday, August 13th in Detroit, Michigan." No advance notice was given, and no location was made public. The only people that knew about this event were the people the insurance industry wanted to know about it.
Second, it's telling that the focus of the meeting was on the uninsured. As I've argued previously, focusing on the uninsured is a insurance industry smokescreen, made to distract attention from the real problem - a failing private insurance system:
The insurance industry would love you to think the only problem with America’s health care system is we have too many uninsured. In fact, they would probably love to have a government plan for only the uninsured to opt in to, allowing them to keep cashing health people’s checks and kicking them onto government rolls when they get sick and/or old. Focusing on the uninsured takes focus off the real problem: Insurance industry malpractice.
As this report points out, the many of the uninsured are people that used to be insured. Because the insurance industry puts their profits before people, they got kicked out of the private system. We need a fix for the entire system, not just for the uninsured.
The insurance industry is travelling around the country, "listening" to specially invited guests in front of members of the press, and begging the government to take the sick off their hands. That way, they can charge the healthy sky-high premiums, and avoid paying out when those healthy people get old and/or sick. Like so much else in corporate America, the insurance industry is looking to reap all of the profits without any of the risk.
If you want a look at the insurance industry's vision for America, look no further than Texas.
Texas has the highest rate of uninsured in the nation [pdf], with 45.7% of Texans lacking health insurance for all or part of the year. Meanwhile, the insurance industry is busy "slashing hospitals' reimbursement rates, often leading the hospitals to reduce unprofitable services such as emergency rooms."
With caps on damage awards against doctors, forfeiting $900 million in federal aid for children's health care, and a threshold of just $4,800 per year for families to get on government health plans, Texas is a model for what the insurance industry would like to see nationally: A system of limited risk, with the sick and poor patients getting care on the public's dime.
All this leads conservative Senators like Texas's John Cornyn to announce, "I want to make Washington, D.C., and the rest of our country more like Texas (because), frankly, we know the [health care] policies that actually work."
Today, in The Houston Chronicle, Lisa Falkenberg urges John Cornyn (and others advocating for the insurance industry vision for American) to really listen to the uninsured:
Even those who have insurance say access isn't guaranteed.
"I have it, and it's a rip-off," said 50-year-old Bailey Isham of the East Texas town of Gary as he and his family had lunch while visiting his father-in-law, a diabetic who suffered a heart attack.
Isham's mother-in-law, Sue Creamer, 60, said even though her husband has Medicare, they won't be able to afford his medications, which total up to $900 a month, much longer. She struggles to pay for her own insurance coverage, which she said costs $449 a month and carries a whopping $3,000 deductible for each medical occurrence.
"It's ridiculous, is what it is," she says. "If you break your leg, and next week you break a toe, you have to pay two different deductibles."
The faces of the health care crisis are on every corner of the largest medical center in the world. For the most part, the uninsured are on the outside looking in.
If Texas is a model, the crisis in this country is deeper than any of us realize.
We don't need more focus on the uninsured, we need to focus on the entire system. The bottom line is Americans who pay for health insurance aren't getting their money's worth. They are getting ripped off by the insurance industry left and right.
The concept behind insurance is simple - you pay a little bit now so you are covered in case of a disaster. If someone pays for health insurance, therefore, they should be covered when they get sick. Instead, the insurance industry has made huge profits denying people care whenever they can. The system in Texas exemplifies the trend with the highest rate of uninsured in the nation.
It's a broken system, not a model for the country, and it needs to be fixed.