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Deals with the Devil

October 20, 2010

There’s a joke that’s been circulating in Canada for a few years now. A Canadian student is asked during a geography lesson if he’d like to live in the US. The child says no. Asked why, the child replies, “Because I’d be shot sitting on my front porch, and I wouldn’t be able to afford to go to the hospital.”

Maybe the Canadians find this joke hilarious because the United States health care “system” has made us a laughingstock in the global community. A recent report from BBC news recapped the fact that our “unregulated fee-for-service,” for-profit health care has increased in cost at twice the rate of health care in other countries, and at the same time is causing our lowered life expectancies.

When President Obama was campaigning for office, he claimed he was going to break the backs of the big insurance companies and create universal coverage in the United States. After a year-long political theater production, health care “reform” turned out to be this: Every American would be compelled by law to buy health care—apparently whether it was affordable or not. Abracadabra, universal coverage!

We can’t be surprised that Obama’s final twist was to offer massive concessions to the capitalists; after all, many of them fueled his campaign. And now, empowered by their behind-closed-doors bailout, everyone is working to find ways around the few tattered regulations that have gone into place. For example, 30 large employers were just given waivers from the law that required them, because of their size, to provide employee insurance. One of the exempted companies is McDonald’s.

So we can’t be surprised by the news published in the Grand Rapids Press on October 19:  A number of Michigan hospitals allegedly made deals with Blue Cross Blue Shield in a price-fixing scam to eliminate competitors.

The Press article chose to give the story that local spin that Editor Paul Keep seems to feel is so vital. This made the text almost incomprehensible by burying the real lead to promote the Grand Rapids story angle. I had to access the Detroit Free Press in order read an article that clearly laid out the specifics of the deal.

“Millions of Michigan consumers have paid higher health insurance premiums over the last three years because Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan forced at least 70 hospitals statewide to charge its competitors more, according to a lawsuit filed Monday…” the Free Press stated.

Veteran reporter Patricia Anstett went on to explain that BCBS appeared to be crushing its competition with a price-fixing scheme. The Blues even offered to temporarily pay more for services if a hospital agreed to charge other insurance companies even higher rates. Even so, everything worked out for the Blues. One hospital in Royal Oak charged Blue Cross’s competitors about 25 percent more than it charged BCBS.

BCBS continually claims that since it’s the only insurer in the state that must accept all applicants—something that is supposed to change under the new Obama regulations—it is compelled to level the playing field in order to make ends meet. But the investigation showed that the company has raked in huge benefits.

Did the Blues then pass on its newfound wealth to patients? Of course not. The company added to its “reserve fund,” now standing at $3 billion. It contributed to political campaigns. It gave big raises to its top executives. Because that’s how the capitalists roll.

Meanwhile, the Free Press reported that one customer in Southfield, Michigan, has endured 25 percent worth of increases over the past five years for what he calls a “bare bones policy” that doesn’t really cover his needs.

As other industrialized countries in the world provide their citizens with health care that far exceeds ours and costs a great deal less, it looks like we’ll be enduring this continuing road show of corruption and greed for some time to come.

When even the President of the United States bows down to the Goliath health care industry, it’s clear the only hope is for working people to unite and break the death grip that the capitalist regime has on this country. Nothing less will allow us to enjoy the same care that other citizens of the world have as their right, not as a privilege of the rich. And Canadian humor aside, that’s no joke.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 21, 2010 9:46 am

    Mc Donalds contributes to the healthcare crisis, but gets exempted?wtf

    Kaiser foundation offers some info on the new healthcare bill.There are some good things in the bill. If your employer doesn’t provide health insurance you can get it pretty cheap.

    The new healthcare plan for someone working 40 hours a week earning minimum wage costs less than 10 bucks a week. This is subsidized and much cheaper than what employers offer. However if your employer does offer insurance you have to get on it. If it is more than 8% of your income you can purchase it in the pool.

    If you work for minimum wage and don’t get 40 hours a week you do not have to purchase healthcare and can receive medicaid.In addition new free annual check up for medicaid.

    The new healthcare bill will allow a family of 4 making less than 29,000 to receive medicaid.(expands medicaid up 133% of poverty level).Right now 43 states allow children coverage at a rate of 200% above the poverty level.

  2. Kate Wheeler permalink
    October 21, 2010 3:01 pm

    Unfortunately, the bill was designed so that most of the important reforms you mention don’t kick in until 2012 or later. Call me jaded, but I feel certain that they will never go into effect.

    Right now, insurance costs are going up, not down, and they’re going up faster than they have been, which is saying quite a lot. I have one friend, a single mother, who’s paying $1,100 a month for herself and her two children. She’s a freelancer and has to buy her own insurance, and the cost is staggering.

    Meanwhile, as the Blue Cross issue suggests, insurance corporations are working overtime to find loopholes, pile up profits, and jockey for top slots in competitive sales, in order to face the future with even more money than they had before the “reform” was voted on.

    I guess we’ll have to wait and see how the whole thing plays out.

  3. November 1, 2010 4:18 am

    health plans should be given priority because it is very important ~

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