New York, NY – On Tuesday, President Obama signed the health reform bill into law. This bill closely resembles the legislation written by Liz Fowler, former Vice President of Public Policy for Well Point, one of the nation’s largest health insurance companies.
Healthcare-NOW!, a national organization supporting expanded and improved Medicare for all, points out that this bill tweaks the same failing non-system of health care in the United States and further entrenches the for-profit private health insurance, drug, and hospital industries diverting to them the resources needed to achieve high quality, universal, comprehensive health care.
“It is troubling to watch this bill touted as an equal in political significance and social implications to Social Security or Medicare. As advocates of an improved and expanded Medicare for all system, we must educate more and more people about the difference between transformative healthcare policy that is yet to be achieved and this bill that will leave so many people without access to the basic human right of healthcare. We must redouble our efforts,” states Donna Smith, Healthcare-Now steering committee, National Nurses United/California Nurses Association.
Healthcare-NOW! is most aggrieved about the following aspects of the bill:
- About 23 million people will remain uninsured nine years out resulting in an estimated 23,000 unnecessary deaths annually. One-third of these will be undocumented immigrants who will be excluded from purchasing private insurance.
- Millions of people who are not eligible for public health insurance programs Medicaid and Medicare will be pressured to buy commercial health insurance policies costing up to 9.5 percent of their income but covering an average of only 70 percent of their medical expenses, potentially leaving them vulnerable to financial ruin if they become seriously ill. Many will find such policies too expensive to afford or, if they do buy them, too expensive to use because of the high co-pays and deductibles.
- Those remaining uninsured will be fined up to 2.5% of their income.
- Insurance firms will be handed at least $447 billion in taxpayer money to subsidize the purchase of their shoddy products. This money will enhance their financial and political power, and with it their ability to block future reform.
- The bill will drain about $40 billion from Medicare payments to safety-net hospitals, threatening the care of the tens of millions who will remain uninsured.
- People with employer-based coverage will be locked into their plan’s limited network of providers, face ever-rising costs and erosion of their health benefits. As the cost of insurance grows, they will be taxed on their benefits.
- Health care costs will continue to skyrocket, as the experience with the Massachusetts plan (after which this bill is patterned) amply demonstrates. The industry lobbying group, American Health Insurance Plans, came just short of announcing the industry’s next rate increase in its brief statement in response to the bill: “The access expansions are a significant step forward, but this legislation will exacerbate the health care costs crisis facing many working families and small businesses.”
- The much-vaunted insurance regulations – e.g. ending denials on the basis of pre-existing conditions – are riddled with loopholes, thanks to the central role that insurers played in crafting the legislation. Older people can be charged up to three times more than their younger counterparts, and large companies with a predominantly female workforce can be charged higher gender-based rates at least until 2017.
- It allows insurers to expand so-called wellness programs that let insurers penalize subscribers by hundreds—and even thousands—of dollars for not meeting certain ‘wellness targets,’ such as a particular cholesterol number, blood sugar measurement or body-weight target.
- Women’s reproductive rights will be further eroded, due to segregation of insurance funds for abortion from all other medical services.
“We now have insurance reform based on a market model, but that model has failed to work up to now. This bill puts corporate interests before the American people. What people need is health care, not health insurance,” states Katie Robbins, National Organizer of Healthcare-NOW!
Ray Stever President of the New Jersey One Plan One Nation Coalition states, “Thousands of men and woman have been laid off and are struggling to buy food or pay the rent or mortgage. Now they are being forced under a mandate to buy health insurance or be financially penalized.”
“This bill does nothing to provide relief to state and local governments that face crippling fiscal crises, caused both by the recession and uncontrolled increases in the cost of health benefits for government employees,” comments Tom Knoche of Healthcare-NOW!. “Expanding Medicare to cover everyone would have saved state and local governments literally hundreds of billions of dollars nationwide.”
“The attacks on employment-based health benefits continue under this bill. In fact, it will incentivize employers to shift more and more of the costs of healthcare onto the backs of workers. Now is the time for the entire labor movement to unite around the movement to achieve Medicare for All,” Mark Dudzic, National Coordinator, Labor Campaign for Single Payer.
Healthcare-NOW! is committed to continuing to educate and advocate on the solution to our health care crisis: a single-payer system or improved Medicare system covering everyone is the only way to create a universal, high quality system at less cost than we currently pay for health care as a nation.
Healthcare-NOW!, a national organization of 50,000 supporters for expanded and improved Medicare for All, has opposed the current model of health reform since its annual meeting in the fall of 2009 and remains committed to building the movement to achieve the right to health in the United States. For more information, visit www.healthcare-now.org.