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Say no to Joe – Reject the latest public option “compromise”

2:13 pm in Uncategorized by Jason Rosenbaum

Right now, ten Senators – five progressives and five conservative Democrats – are locked in a room looking for a deal on the health care bill. One Senator is standing in the way: Joe Lieberman.

Those Senators negotiating should not be held down by Joe Lieberman’s outrageous ideas about health care. Those Senators need to fight the insurance companies for what’s right.

The proposal on the table would be a win for the insurance companies. They said so themselves last night:

With the Senate shifting sharply away from a "pure public option," an insurance industry insider who has been deeply involved in the health care fight emails to declare victory.

"We WIN," the insider writes. "Administered by private insurance companies. No government funding. No government insurance competitor.”

The so-called compromise on the table, forced by Joe Lieberman, isn’t an acceptable substitute for the public health insurance option even if it expands Medicare (even though that’s a good idea). It wouldn’t control costs, it wouldn’t increase competition, and it would leave most of America at the mercy of private insurance. And it would be a boost to big insurance companies, allowing them to operate across the country without having to face competition from a public insurer.

As Senator Brown said a few days ago:

A large number of people in this country including many, many doctors wanted Medicare for all. That didn’t happen. Then we wanted a strong public option tied to Medicare rates. Then we wanted a public option building the Medicare network. That didn’t happen. Now we are saying public option coming out of the HELP Committee. And now we’re saying public option with the state opt-out. Where was the compromise coming from their side?

We must tell the Senate negotiators that America rejects this so-called compromise. Health Care for America Now put together a petition that we’re going to deliver tonight to the Senators in the negotiations.

Click here to sign and pass it along so we can speak with one voice.

(also posted at the NOW! blog)

I’m proud to work for Health Care for America Now

The latest public option “compromise” – won’t work, not a compromise

11:00 am in Uncategorized by Jason Rosenbaum

Just like the other public option "compromises" (co-ops and triggers come to mind), the latest public option "compromise" – offering the non-profit plans in the Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan (FEHBP) to the uninsured and small business – will neither control costs nor increase competition.

But don’t take it from me. Here’s Jacob Hacker, architect of the public health insurance option:

Another, even stranger idea is to offer the nonprofit plans available in the Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan (FEHBP) within the exchange. Since the FEHBP is itself a form of exchange, this amounts to offering a new set of private plans within a new set of private plans. How is that going to provide real pressure on private insurers in a consolidated insurance market in which nonprofit plans already have a large presence (and often act little differently from for-profit plans)?

Timothy Jost, an expert in health law, expands on this point:

But the FEHBP, although it provides reasonably good insurance coverage to our national civil servants at a cost pretty much comparable to the private market, is itself simply an exchange, and the Senate health reform bill already has exchanges. There is no value added in building a public option exchange on top of the exchanges already in the bill, as Jacob Hacker points out in his New Republic The Treatment post this morning.

The real problem with the proposal Politico reports is that it would be built, apparently, on existing nonprofit insurance plan. Nonprofit health plans are not part of the solution; they are part of the problem. The purpose of the public plan was to create an alternative to private insurance to allow Americans more choice and thus to bring down costs by reducing concentration in health insurance markets. But nonprofit plans are already the dominant insurers in much of the United States. Of the nations 138 health plans with more than 100,000 medical enrollees, 84 of them, or 64%, are nonprofit. Forty-eight percent of all medical enrollees in the United States are in nonprofit health plans. Nonprofit plans have 54% of the commercial risk market and 42% of the self-insured plan administrative services only market.

There is no expanded competition in this idea because no new players are being added to the marketplace.

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It’s official: The insurance industry’s credibility is shot.

9:00 am in Uncategorized by Jason Rosenbaum

Did you know the insurance companies released another biased "report" yesterday showing how much they’d increase premiums on us if they didn’t get their way in Congress? No? I didn’t either. But it’s true!

Like the last report from the insurance industry, Blue Cross Blue Shield paid a corporate consultant – Oliver Wyman this time, instead of PricewaterhouseCoopers, which the insurance companies used last time – to come up with the data they wanted to say what they wanted. Namely, that health reform will cause them to raise rates and thus cost you and me more money.

The problems with this report are similar to the problems with the insurance companies’ last report. If I may be so bold as to paraphrase the White House, who got their hands on an early copy of the report before it was released yesterday, it’s a pack of lies.

But that’s not the interesting part. The real interesting part is how little of a splash this report made. When the insurance companies released their first report of this kind in October, they got front page coverage in papers like the Washington Post. The Post even gave Karen Ignagni, AHIP’s top lobbyist, op-ed space to defend her lies.

By contrast, the report released yesterday barely made a sound. In fact, I didn’t even realize it had been released, and it’s my job to stay on top of stuff like this.

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CBO Confirms: Senate bill will lower costs

1:24 pm in Uncategorized by Jason Rosenbaum

The CBO confirmed [pdf] yesterday what Jonathan Gruber concluded: The Senate health care bill will lower health insurance premiums.

Specifically, for those Americans buying insurance in the new "exchange," after you factor in the tax-credits they will receive to afford health care they will end up saving almost 60% over what they’d pay without reform. Those in the small group market – small businesses, for the most part – will see declines of around 10%. And for those in the large group market – larger businesses and typically the most robust health care in our system today – there will be very little changes in price, if anything a reduction of a few percentage points.

But price is only part of the story. As Ezra Klein explains, while costs will go down, quality will shoot up:

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The Urban Institute’s Trigger – Can I have a pony with that?

8:32 am in Uncategorized by Jason Rosenbaum

The Urban Institute is out with a new report pushing for a triggered "robust" public option based on Medicare rates.

It’s easy to see how on first blush, this might be an attractive proposal. A public option based on Medicare rates would save billions of dollars and really hold down costs in an aggressive way. The problem is the trigger and the politics – or more accurately, the problem with this proposal is reality.

The policy arguments against the trigger are numerous, but boil down to this:

The logic at the heart of a trigger is that private insurance companies should be given one more chance to keep their monopoly on the system they’ve screwed up so badly.

A trigger says that some condition must be met in the future for a public health insurance option to be created in a state. That condition could be levels of competition or premium increases or affordability, but whatever it is, the situation on the ground in a state must measurably worsen before the trigger is pulled and a public option created. Why would we delay the public option and give private insurance yet one more chance?

People are going bankrupt and dying every day because they are uninsured or underinsured. Health insurance premiums are going through the roof. The private insurance companies already have a monopoly – with 94% of markets considered “highly concentrated” by Department of Justice standards.

As Senator Chuck Schumer said, "Any reasonable criteria for triggering a public plan has already been met."

But that’s if the trigger were actually designed to be pulled. It won’t be. That’s where we get into the politics.

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Reminder: Triggers are nothing but a plan to kill the public health insurance option

1:30 pm in Uncategorized by Jason Rosenbaum

As debate on health care moves forward in the Senate, it seems like a good time for a reminder: There is no such thing as a good trigger for the public health insurance option. In fact, triggers are nothing but a plan to kill the public option.

Why?

1. The status quo is unacceptable

The logic at the heart of a trigger is that the status quo is ok, as long as it doesn’t get worse.

A trigger says that some condition must be met in the future for a public health insurance option to be created in a state. That condition could be levels of competition or affordability, but whatever it is, the situation on the ground in a state must measurably worsen before the trigger is pulled and a public option created. That’s unacceptable.

People are going bankrupt and dying every day because they are uninsured or underinsured. The House and Senate bills don’t go into effect until 2013 or 2014, and triggers ask people in states to wait even longer to get relief from insurance company abuses.

As Senator Chuck Schumer said, "Any reasonable criteria for triggering a public plan has already been met."

And that’s assuming a trigger is written in such a way that it could actually be triggered.

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The Right Way to Pay for Health Reform: Surcharge on the Richest

10:30 am in Uncategorized by Jason Rosenbaum

Majority Leader Harry Reid seems to be moving away from taxing so-called "Cadillac" health care benefits as a means to pay for health reform, a tax that would eventually hit 40% of health care plans in the country. This is good news. As I’ve argued before:

Why tax the very people health care reform is supposed to help to pay for it?

The middle class doesn’t need another tax hike. Health reform should indeed be paid for, but it should be paid for by those in society who can most afford it.

And Reid may be thinking about doing just that, financing reform the way the House did, with a surtax on the richest members in society.

The case for the surtax is clear: It will help millions, and it would only affect the very richest among us. The bill passed by the House would tax only individuals earning more than half a million dollars per year, 0.3% of the taxpaying population, or 422,510 households in America. In return, by 2013, 29,210,600 more uninsured people would gain coverage, rising to 36 million by 2019.

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House vote on health care TOMORROW – call your Representative TODAY

12:30 pm in Uncategorized by Jason Rosenbaum

The House will likely vote on their health reform bill tomorrow evening. This will be the first time in our country’s history that a full House of Congress has considered and passed a comprehensive health care bill.

To refresh your memory, the bill being considered in the House:

  • Creates an Exchange where individuals and small businesses can purchase health care
  • Gives tax credits to those in the Exchange to help them afford coverage
  • Includes a national public health insurance option in the Exchange to keep the insurance industry honest and lower prices
  • Strengthens employer-based coverage and asks employers to provide good coverage for their employees
  • Regulates all insurance plans to outlaw denials for pre-existing conditions, charging more if you’re a woman, and a host of other bad practices
  • Strengthens Medicare and fully closes the Medicare Part D donut hole over time
  • Provides access to coverage for those uninsured in the interim before the entire program is up and running

For more information, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has an interactive map that will show you how this bill will affect you.

Actors Martin Sheen and Stockard Channing, who have a bit of "experience" with politics, have a message for health reform supporters today:

Click here to call your Representative and urge them to vote YES on this historic occasion.