The Obama Administration will be making some important decisions over the coming weeks that will determine to a large extent whether consumers or health insurers will be the biggest beneficiaries of health care reform.
Every October's push for "breast cancer awareness" brings another example of egregious pinkwashing, and this year was no exception. As if pink toasters, pink beer pong tables and even a pink Smith and Wesson handgun weren't enough, October, 2011 brought us pink, breast cancer awareness 12-gauge shotgun ammo, courtesy of Federal Ammunition.
A little more than a year ago, on the day after the GOP regained control of the House of Representatives, Speaker-to-be John Boehner said one of the first orders of business after he took charge would be the repeal of health care reform.
One of the reasons why Congress has been largely unable to make the American health care system more efficient and equitable is because of the stranglehold lobbyists for special interests have on the institution.
Whenever lawmakers consider any kind of meaningful reform, the proposed remedies inevitably create winners and losers. Physicians' incomes most likely will be affected in some way, as will the profits of all the other major players: the hospitals, the drug companies, the medical device manufacturers, and the insurers, just to name a few. The list is long, and the platoons of highly paid and well-connected lobbyists who represent their interests comprise a large private army that conquered Capitol Hill years ago.
As efforts to gather enough signatures to recall Wisconsin's Governor Scott Walker got underway, the Walker administration appears to be changing its tune on some issues. Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, who is also a target of the recall efforts, released an ad this week on her campaign YouTube channel, "RebeccaForReal," where she discourages viewers from signing a recall petition so that the state can avoid the cost of a special election. The Lt. Governor argues that the money ($7.7 million is her estimate) should be spent on "what matters most," like school books for kids, health care for the poor, and raises for teachers.
Opponents of the Affordable Care Act who believe the Supreme Court will declare the law unconstitutional are going to be disappointed next year when a majority of the nine justices vote to uphold it. It will likely be a 5-4 decision, but moderate conservative Anthony Kennedy will, I'm confident, recognize that without the law, the free-market system of health insurance, so highly valued by conservatives, will implode, sooner rather than later.
The high court announced earlier this week that it will hear oral arguments on the constitutionality of the law next March. A decision is expected in June, just a few weeks before the parties hold their conventions. Regardless of which way the justices go, the decision will ensure that health care reform will be as contentious a campaign issue as it was in 2008.
The special interests seeking to gut those portions of the health reform law that would be of greatest benefit to consumers clearly believe there is no such thing as historical memory in Washington.
Why else would they bring one of their old front groups out of the storage locker, with just a single new word added to its name? A front group designed to persuade Americans that what they might have thought was in their best interests really isn't after all.
If you have no idea what you're paying good money for when you enroll in a health insurance plan, there's a good reason for that: insurers profit from your ignorance. And they're waging an intense, behind-the-scenes campaign to keep you in the dark.
In my first appearance before Congress after leaving the insurance industry, I told members of the Senate Commerce Committee that insurers intentionally make it all but impossible for consumers to find out in advance of buying a policy exactly what is covered and what isn't, and how much they'll be on the hook for if they get sick or injured. Insurers are quite willing to provide you with slick marketing materials about their policies, but those materials are notoriously skimpy when it comes to useful information. And the documents they provide after you enroll are so dense that few of us can understand them.
Members of Congress and the Obama administration have assured us that on January 1, 2014, junk health insurance plans -- which offer only the illusion of adequate coverage to the millions of Americans enrolled in them -- will become a thing of the past.
Among those who clearly don't believe those plans are headed for extinction are the insurance companies that market these highly profitable plans, and the employers that buy them -- primarily restaurant chains and retailers with high employee turnover.
If I were President Obama, I would send one of my aides to the Chicago suburbs later this week to see first-hand just how determined these companies are to continue selling these plans -- which are euphemistically called "mini-med" and "limited-benefit policies" -- long past 2014.