Monday, July 23, 2007

Democrats Press House to Expand Health Care Bill

After a rare bipartisan agreement in the Senate to expand insurance coverage for low-income children, House Democrats have drafted an even broader plan that also calls for major changes in Medicare and promises to intensify the battle with the White House over health care.
President Bush has threatened to veto what he sees as a huge expansion of the children’s health care program, which he describes as a step “down the path to government-run health care for every American.” The House measure calls for changes that the administration will probably find even more distasteful, including cuts in Medicare payments to private health plans.
One of the questions I always have regarding health care is why we talk about what it would cost to insure all citizens while we never question the cost of war. The bill would limit private plans which are costing the government more than traditional medicare. You only need to know who is earning that extra money to see who will strongly oppose any legislation to curb those costs. The answer is the insurance industry which continues to make record profits in health care.
Proponents of the private plans, offered by companies like UnitedHealth and Humana, say they provide more benefits than traditional Medicare.

But the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the government paid the private plans, on average, 12 percent more than it would have cost to care for the same people in traditional Medicare. Moreover, it said, payments to the fastest-growing type of plan, known as private fee-for-service plans, are 19 percent higher than the cost of traditional Medicare.

The House bill would gradually reduce these payments so that Medicare would pay the same amount, regardless of whether a beneficiary was in a private plan or in traditional Medicare.

AARP, which represents nearly 39 million older Americans, and the American Medical Association said they would begin running television advertisements on Monday to secure passage of the House bill.
The barrage of advertisements paid for by insurance company lobbyists will surely join the advertisements paid for by the AARP and the AMA. Will the media cover both sides of this issue or will they only show the advertisements paid for by the insurance industry lobbyists? The pharmaceutical industry is a huge advertiser and will undoubtedly pressure the media to withhold the competing advertisements. Will they fold to the pressure or will they finally act in the public interest?

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