As you may know, I'm going through one of those periods in which political realities (given their implications) and I have a falling out. I choose not to acknowledge their existence. It's an avoidance tactic; doesn't make distasteful things go away, but it can at least postpone facing them for awhile. (There's a saying 'ignorance is bliss' for a reason...)
Well, the thing that compels me to face politics and specifically, the health care reform issue at this juncture, is absolutely revolting and therefore, not surprisingly, involves math.
Watching this petite, pert, professional, seemingly perfectly pleasant and competent woman, Angela Braly, CEO of large health insurance company, Wellpoint, matter-of-factly testify before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, with an intent to justify ,the company's intention to raise premiums on average 25% in one year was shocking. Wellpoint owns Anthem Blue Cross in California.
"Anthem covers more than 8 million Californians, including about 800,000 who buy their policies directly. It is on those individually covered people that Anthem has proposed rate increases of up to 39 percent, though the company says the average increase is 25 percent -- which the company says is in line with competitors.
Braly said the company lost $10 million on individually insured Californians last year." From the LA Times
She recognized the Congressmen and women's attempts to shame her or malign Wellpoint's profiteering while so many suffer so much with and without health care. She was having none of it. I think she might have even literally said "Yes, but-" at some point. She was not the least bit apologetic that though the company "lost $10 million on individually insured" last year(likely the contractors, consultants, small business owners or underemployed among us who don't have a group plan to subscribe to--or can't afford to subscribe to) DESPITE that loss, Ms. Braly, and 39 other executives at Wellpoint, made over 1 million dollars --in salary alone, in 2009! Ms. Braly herself glibly acknowledged her "own salary of $1.1 million and stock compensation valued at $8.5 million last year."
So, in order to at least, ahem, preserve the insurance execs' standard of living, given the losses incurred as a result of lesser revenues due to fewer premiums collected due to historic unemployment levels, they have to increase rates and reduce coverage! Duh. They've got to make up the difference somehow--cute pool boys don't come cheap. So, why not pass the cost on to those individually insured consumers by the rock? Move 'em just a wee bit closer to the hard place.
You can watch February 24, 2010 hearing in its entirety at Cspan.
It always stuns me when evil is so benignly cloaked.
Then, there's the numbers in this testimony from Natoma Canfield, in her letter to President Obama. In one year, she paid over $6500 in premiums to her insurer--not including copays and prescriptions, and her insurer paid less than $1,000 to her medical providers. AND, she was just notified that her premium for next year, will increase by 40%! You do the math.
Then multiply by the bajillion other people around the country whose premiums have gone up and coverage gone down.
Read Natoma Canfield's letter at First Door on the Left .
President Obama's been stumping around talking tough in front of crowds. Whatever.
This health care cost debacle is only going to get worse obviously. Unemployment and investment losses increase the numbers of those needing financial assistance, while also depleting the coffers of those nonprofit organizations and state budgets that typically provide such assistance. Every single person of every hue, gender, gender-identity, religion, political ideology-every human being has a recurring need for health care and will incur health care costs all of their lives. Surely even Ms. Braly and the healthcare industry lobbyists have some poor relations who could benefit from easier access to less expensive health care! We are all the trickled down upon beneficiaries of these mega profiteers!
The ONLY way, ultimately, to maintain any semblance of respect for life (let alone liberty and the pursuit of happiness!) as a nation will be for the government to provide medical coverage for everybody--at some level. Period.
Now. The odds of that happening? (Did I mention I hate math?) Pretty much nil--for now, and perhaps for ever. But guess what? Voting for this bill--and winning--is the closest we're gonna get in the near term.
And further, in in the interest of progress, unless you want the idea of health care reform to diminish or improvements gained to disappear, I'm thinking there's two steps to take:
1. Rise above feelings of betrayal, anger, disillusionment, disappointment or just apathetic same ole, same ole', about politics in Washington; and
2. Make sure your midterm election choices are blue.
(One would think, that would help; then again...)
Can you imagine how infuriating it would be to *really* lose the majority just halfway into the Obama Administration, when so little was achieved when the majority was solid?!
I know I'd rather not.
Wendell Potter is a former health insurance executive at Cigna, who had kind of a road to Damscus experience: after seeing hundreds of people line up outside in the rain, after having driven hours, in America, to receive medical care, in animal stalls; his perspective changed. He left Cigna and has been an advocate for health care reform since. Watch the video or read the transcript of his discussion with Bill Moyers here..
Bill Moyers Journal is another treasure that is going away, btw--value it.