Posts tagged ‘Corporate Greed’

Tell the Truth!

This week, Republican presidential candidates vie for their party’s nomination in Florida, where millions of residents rely on Medicare as a health and economic lifeline for themselves and their families. Unfortunately, some candidates are scaring seniors – making clearly incorrect and harmful statements about the effect of the Affordable Care Act on Medicare.

As the Center for Medicare Advocacy has reported since the passage of the landmark legislation, Health Care Reform does NOT hurt Medicare benefits. In fact, it expands and improves benefits for all people with Medicare while saving our nation and taxpayers billions of dollars over the next decade.

Most recently, former Senator Santorum made significant misstatements about Medicare. Contrary to his statements, people with Medicare are NOT losing their doctors and are NOT facing rationing because of Health Care Reform. In fact, the Medicare payment board he mentions does not even exist yet. When it does begin, it will be charged with keeping overall Medicare costs down and will be specifically prohibited from reducing benefits.

Additionally, Mr. Santorum’s desire to “fix” Medicare by privatizing it and giving taxpayer money to insurance companies makes you wonder who he really wants to help. Privatizing Medicare and repealing health reform, which he also recommends, won’t help Florida’s older people or their families, but it would provide a windfall to the insurance industry. The traditional community Medicare program has helped generations of Americans at far less cost than private insurance. And health care reform has already enhanced Medicare, adding preventive benefits with no cost-sharing and reducing costs for prescription drugs.

If the Senator is truly concerned for the care of Florida’s people who rely on Medicare and the program’s integrity, he should get the facts straight and speak the truth about Medicare and health care reform. To start, he can visit the Center’s “Solutions for Strengthening Medicare” for common-sense ways to improve and expand the program while saving billions of dollars.

January 23, 2012 at 10:04 pm Leave a comment

CMA in the New York Times: Don’t Privatize Medicare

December 18, 2011 at 3:37 am Leave a comment

Medicare “Reform” – Beware the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

This week, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) outlined yet another effort to privatize Medicare; a twist on Rep. Ryan’s voucher plan from earlier this year.

The new proposal would supposedly “preserve” the traditional Medicare program, but force it to compete with private plans. Similar to the earlier Ryan voucher plan, which the Congressional Budget Office estimated would cost Medicare beneficiaries twice as much as traditional Medicare, this one is based on the flawed assumption that private plans will save Medicare money through competition and innovation. The belief that privatization will drive down costs is not based in fact.

On the contrary, private plans have not saved Medicare money, and often cost more than traditional Medicare. In fact, traditional Medicare — not private plans — has been the leader in innovations to keep health costs down and increase quality.

Under the latest Ryan privatization plan, beneficiaries would have a voucher to purchase a health plan (including traditional Medicare), and there would be a cap on the overall amount of Medicare spending per beneficiary. If a plan (including traditional Medicare) cost more than the voucher amount, then the beneficiary would have to pay the difference between the actual price and the voucher.

If traditional Medicare is forced to compete with private, for-profit plans, as Ryan proposes, private plans will work to minimize their spending, and woo the least costly beneficiaries. If beneficiaries that are more expensive to treat remain in traditional Medicare, it will be at a built-in competitive disadvantage, and might well become unsustainable.

The math is pretty simple. If beneficiaries pay more for health care, the federal government will save money. That’s where these federal savings come from. But this approach won’t do anything to reduce overall health care spending, which is the real problem. Instead, it will likely lead to reduction in benefits and increase cost-sharing for Medicare beneficiaries. Don’t be fooled into thinking this proposal protects and preserves Medicare – it eliminates a unified program.

Traditional Medicare has changed dramatically since its inception in 1965. It has been a cost-effective health care insurance model leading to innovation, access to care and economic security. But Medicare has been complicated and made more expensive by adding layers of private options. Further, as Medicare becomes more and more fragmented and traditional Medicare loses enrollment, it loses its bargaining power over health care costs and its ability to create innovations in the broader health system.

Untethered from the overspending and complexities that have been foisted on Medicare by private plans and non-negotiable drug prices, it could once again be a model, for affordable health insurance. Traditional Medicare needs to be strengthened with fewer, not more private options.

December 16, 2011 at 8:42 pm Leave a comment

Class Warfare? Discuss.

To reduce the deficit, the President suggests we increase taxes for the 430,000 Americans who have incomes above $1 million. The Republican leadership (Boehner, Ryan, McConnell and Graham) say that’s class warfare.  They say it’s unfair to balance the budget at the expense of these few rich people (0.3% of the population).  Instead, they say, we should look to reduce spending – only.  In particular, we should cut Medicaid and Medicare.  

47  million older and disabled Americans are enrolled in Medicare.  58 million poor children, pregnant women, older and disabled people are enrolled in Medicaid. 

Query:  Why is it class warfare to tax a little more the few of us who are lucky enough to be millionaires, but it’s not class warfare to cut health care coverage for the vast number of us who are enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid?   Discuss.

September 18, 2011 at 11:56 pm Leave a comment

Health Care Reform: Standing Up To Insurance Companies and Standing Up For People

OPINION –  Wall Street Journal, SEPTEMBER 28, 2010

Health Insurers Finally Get Some Oversight

By KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, Secretary of Health and Human Services         

In the last two weeks, my department has been accused  of “thuggery” (this editorial page) and “Soviet tyranny” (Newt Gingrich). What prompted these accusations? The fact that we told health-insurance companies that, as required by law, we will review large premium increases and identify those that are unreasonable. 

There’s a long history of special interests using similar attacks to oppose change. In the mid-1960s, for example, some claimed Medicare would put our country on the path to socialism. 

But what is really objectionable about these comments is not who they’re attacking, but what they’re defending. These critics seem to believe that any oversight of the insurance industry is too much, and that consumers would be better off in a system where they have few rights or protections. 

Over the past decade, Americans have seen what happens when insurance companies have free rein. The cost of health insurance has more than doubled, while millions of hard-working Americans lost their coverage or drained their savings to keep up with premiums. Employers, big and small, have struggled mightily to absorb these cost increases and have been losing the fight.

As insurance commissioner and governor of Kansas, I saw firsthand how these rate hikes burdened people. I spoke with families who watched their insurance go up 20%, 30%, even 40% a year without explanation. I met with small business owners who had stopped offering health insurance to their employees because they couldn’t afford the annual double-digit premium increases.

 A woman who wrote to me recently summed up the frustration that many feel. “As a self-employed, hard-working person,” she wrote, “I have no good options for health coverage.” 

Yet even as our insurance markets have failed Americans time and time again, special interests successfully blocked reform. That’s changing with enactment of the new health insurance law. Under the Affordable Care Act, 46 states have already received grants to beef up their premium-review and oversight capabilities. And additional funding is on the way.

The law also gives clear instructions to the new state-based health insurance marketplaces called exchanges that will be created in 2014. As the exchanges decide what plans to include, they must incorporate recommendations from states about whether particular health insurance issuers should be excluded based on a pattern of excessive or unjustified premium increases.

 We are already seeing this new level of accountability pay off. Last week, North Carolina’s largest insurer announced a “one-time refund that will return $155.8 million to more than 215,000 individual Blue Cross Blue Shield customers as a result of the Affordable Care Act.” This rebate will put an average of $720 back into the pockets of each of those policyholders. In addition, thanks to diligent work by North Carolina’s insurance commissioner, they’ll see their premiums rise by less than 6% in 2011, thesmallest rate increase in four years.

 A day after Blue Cross Blue Shield’s announcement, seniors with private Medicare plans got some news that most Americans haven’t heard in years: Their premiums will actually go down 1% next year, even as many of them enjoy better benefits.  

The Affordable Care Act is bringing some basic fairness to our health insurance market. So when I learned that a handful of insurers around the country are blaming their significant rate increases on the new law, even though the facts show that the impact of the law on premiums is small, just 1% to 2% declining over time‹I let them know that we’d be closely reviewing their rate hikes.

It’s understandable that some insurance companies and their allies don’t welcome this change. They’ve made large profits from the status quo. And it’s not surprising, though still disappointing, that House Republicans have recently pledged to repeal the Affordable Care Act and get rid of these new consumer protections.

If critics really want to go back to the days when insurance companies ran wild with no accountability, they should have the courage to say so openly instead of hiding behind distracting attacks. In the meantime, we’re going to keep standing up for American families and small business owners who deserve a system that works for them.

Ms. Sebelius is the U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services.

September 29, 2010 at 3:46 pm Leave a comment

Further to Senators Who Live in Glass Houses …

As Center for Medicare Advocacy executive director Judith Stein writes in today’s Washington Post, consideration of the current health reform bills calls for some perspective, and some knowledge of very recent history.

Read the letter, here.

December 28, 2009 at 4:37 pm Leave a comment

Senators Who Live In Glass Houses …

Reporting about health reform agreements among Senators ought to include a look into some recent history, which few know about, acknowledge, or care to remember.  Hint:  look at the “process”  and deals involved in the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003.

December 23, 2009 at 4:13 pm Leave a comment

Yes, We Still Support Health Care Reform

We’ve decided, we can’t  afford to let the perfect interfere with the possibility of good health reform. There are millions of Americans waiting for insurance coverage and an economy waiting  for businesses to be relieved of health care’s extraordinary costs.  At best the Senate is likely to pass a bill that disappoints but, as of today, we support it.

As economist Paul Krugman says in today’s New York Times, “Pass the Bill, the current health care bill falls a long way short of ideal, but it is better than anything that seemed possible just a few years ago.”

So – today the Center for Medicare Advocacy sent the following letter to Senate health reform leaders:

Dear Senators Reid, Durbin, Dodd, and Baucus:

 The Center for Medicare Advocacy, Inc. is a national, non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of older people and people with disabilities to ensure access to health care.  We thank you for your efforts to enact health insurance reform. 

 The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will provide access to health insurance for millions of Americans, provide subsidies to those with limited incomes and resources, improve access to preventive services, and limit discrimination in the offering of health insurance.  Additionally, the bill protects the integrity of the Medicare program by reducing overpayments to Medicare Advantage plans and by promoting delivery system reforms to encourage high quality, coordinated health care.  The bill further assists people with limited means by extending eligibility for Medicaid for the under 65 population.

Overall, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will move this country towards the goal of achieving universal access to health care.  We are pleased to support this legislation. 

Center for Medicare Advocacy, Inc.

December 18, 2009 at 4:17 pm 1 comment

Private Medicare Plans Are Taking You to the Cleaners. Cut the Subsidies Now! And Don’t Repeat This Windfall in Health Care Reform.

New Report Highlights Medicare Advantage Insurers’ Higher Administrative Spending
Wednesday, 09 December 2009 11:51
Today Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Bart Stupak released a new report which found that 34 Medicare Advantage insurers expend significant sums on profits, marketing, and other corporate expenses.   Last year, the insurers spent an average of $1,450 per beneficiary on profits, marketing, and other corporate expenses, nearly ten times as much as traditional Medicare spent on administrative expenses per beneficiary.On average, Medicare Advantage insurers spent over 15% of premium revenue on profits, marketing, and other corporate expenses.  Two-thirds of the Medicare Advantage insurers surveyed by the Committee had a “medical loss ratio” – the percentage of premium revenues used to pay medical claims – below 85% during at least one of the four years examined.  In contrast, traditional Medicare spends 98% of its money on medical care.  If all Medicare Advantage plans had spent at least 85% of their premium dollars on medical care from 2005 to 2008, they would have spent an additional $3 billion on medical care for seniors.”Medicare plays a critically important role in insuring that millions of Americans receive the health care they need,” said Rep. Waxman.  “But as this report shows, Medicare Advantage insurers are squandering billions of dollars on overhead costs – in fact, they spend ten times the amount per beneficiary as traditional Medicare.  Our health care bill includes much needed reforms to the Medicare Advantage payment system.  There is no reason for Medicare to pay private insurers more than traditional Medicare pays in any community in the country.  That will insure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely.””Medicare Advantage was never intended to be a program for insurance companies to pad their corporate expense accounts,” said Rep. Stupak.  “Seniors pay Medicare Advantage premiums with the expectation that the money will be used to provide critical medical care – not pay for marketing campaigns and executive bonuses.  The disparity between the percentage of premiums used to pay medical claims in traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage is unacceptable; our seniors deserve better.  This report is just the latest example of private insurance companies exploiting the Medicare Advantage system for their own gain.”At the request of Chairman Waxman and Subcommittee Chairman Stupak, the majority Committee staff analyzed premium revenues, medical claim payments, marketing costs, profits, and other data from 34 major Medicare Advantage insurers.

The report found:

  • From 2005 through 2008, the average Medicare Advantage insurer spent over 15% of premium revenue on profits, marketing, and other corporate expenses. Two-thirds of the Medicare Advantage insurers surveyed by the Committee had a medical loss ratio below 85% during at least one of the four years examined. Six of the insurers had medical loss ratios below 75% in one or more years. In comparison, traditional Medicare spends less than 1.5% on administrative expenses and over 98% on health care. In the aggregate, the Medicare Advantage insurers spent $1,450 per beneficiary in 2008 on profits, marketing, and other corporate expenses, nearly ten times as much as traditional Medicare spent on administrative expenses per beneficiary.
  • Requiring all Medicare Advantage insurers to have a medical loss ratio of 85% would provide billions of dollars in additional medical services to seniors. The total amount spent on profits, marketing, and other expenses by Medicare Advantage insurers over the last four years was $27 billion. The House health care reform bill requires Medicare Advantage plans to spend at least 85% of their total premium revenues on medical claims. If this threshold had been in effect from 2005 through 2008, the Medicare Advantage insurers would have spent an additional $3 billion on their beneficiaries’ medical care, enough to eliminate all copays for preventive care for all Medicare beneficiaries for ten years.
  • In 2007 and 2008, Medicare Advantage insurers with medical loss ratios lower than 85% paid their executives over $1.2 billion. In 2007, a company that had a medical loss ratio of 79% paid an executive over $35 million. The same company paid 16 more executives salaries and bonuses worth $1 million or more. Another company with a medical loss ratio of 79% paid more than $210 million in compensation to 260 executives.
  • Medicare Advantage insurers have spent millions on expensive retreats. In 2007, one company with a medical loss ratio of 83% spent $3.1 million for two events in Hawaii. In 2007, a company with a medical loss ratio of 84% spent $2.5 million on employees and agents at a retreat in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico and $1.4 million on an event in Rome, Italy. In 2008, a company with a medical loss ratio of 82% spent $1.5 million on a meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland and $1.8 million on a trip to Cancun, Mexico.

December 10, 2009 at 11:55 pm Leave a comment

From the Desk of Judith Stein

A True Public Plan: The Only Affordable Way to Provide Health
Care Reform

Have you read Paul Krugman in today’s NY Times? As he asks, what is health care reform for, people or insurance companies? We were already bamboozled into giving Medicare to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries in 2003. To the tune of about $15 billion a year! Are we really going to be scared into doing that again? Write your Congress people. Write the President. Tell them to support a TRUE public health plan option. And tell your friends to tell their congresspeople and president too!
June 22, 2009
Health Care Showdown
America’s political scene has changed immensely since the last time a Democratic president tried to reform health care. So has the health care picture: with costs soaring and insurance dwindling, nobody can now say with a straight face that the U.S. health care system is O.K. And if surveys like the New York Times/CBS News poll released last weekend are any indication, voters are ready for major change.
The question now is whether we will nonetheless fail to get that change, because a handful of Democratic senators are still determined to party like it’s 1993.
And yes, I mean Democratic senators. The Republicans, with a few possible exceptions, have decided to do all they can to make the Obama administration a failure. Their role in the health care debate is purely that of spoilers who keep shouting the old slogans — Government-run health care! Socialism! Europe! — hoping that someone still cares.
The polls suggest that hardly anyone does. Voters, it seems, strongly favor a universal guarantee of coverage, and they mostly accept the idea that higher taxes may be needed to achieve that guarantee. What’s more, they overwhelmingly favor precisely the feature of Democratic plans that Republicans denounce most fiercely as “socialized medicine” — the creation of a public health insurance option that competes with private insurers.
Or to put it another way, in effect voters support the health care plan jointly released by three House committees last week, which relies on a combination of subsidies and regulation to achieve universal coverage, and introduces a public plan to compete with insurers and hold down costs.
Yet it remains all too possible that health care reform will fail, as it has so many times before.
I’m not that worried about the issue of costs. Yes, the Congressional Budget Office’s preliminary cost estimates for Senate plans were higher than expected, and caused considerable consternation last week. But the fundamental fact is that we can afford universal health insurance — even those high estimates were less than the $1.8 trillion cost of the Bush tax cuts. Furthermore, Democratic leaders know that they have to pass a health care bill for the sake of their own survival. One way or another, the numbers will be brought in line.
The real risk is that health care reform will be undermined by “centrist” Democratic senators who either prevent the passage of a bill or insist on watering down key elements of reform. I use scare quotes around “centrist,” by the way, because if the center means the position held by most Americans, the self-proclaimed centrists are in fact way out in right field.
What the balking Democrats seem most determined to do is to kill the public option, either by eliminating it or by carrying out a bait-and-switch, replacing a true public option with something meaningless. For the record, neither regional health cooperatives nor state-level public plans, both of which have been proposed as alternatives, would have the financial stability and bargaining power needed to bring down health care costs.
Whatever may be motivating these Democrats, they don’t seem able to explain their reasons in public.
Thus Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska initially declared that the public option — which, remember, has overwhelming popular support — was a “deal-breaker.” Why? Because he didn’t think private insurers could compete: “At the end of the day, the public plan wins the day.” Um, isn’t the purpose of health care reform to protect American citizens, not insurance companies?
Mr. Nelson softened his stand after reform advocates began a public campaign targeting him for his position on the public option.
And Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota offers a perfectly circular argument: we can’t have the public option, because if we do, health care reform won’t get the votes of senators like him. “In a 60-vote environment,” he says (implicitly rejecting the idea, embraced by President Obama, of bypassing the filibuster if necessary), “you’ve got to attract some Republicans as well as holding virtually all the Democrats together, and that, I don’t believe, is possible with a pure public option.”
Honestly, I don’t know what these Democrats are trying to achieve. Yes, some of the balking senators receive large campaign contributions from the medical-industrial complex — but who in politics doesn’t? If I had to guess, I’d say that what’s really going on is that relatively conservative Democrats still cling to the old dream of becoming kingmakers, of recreating the bipartisan center that used to run America.
But this fantasy can’t be allowed to stand in the way of giving America the health care reform it needs. This time, the alleged center must not hold.

June 22, 2009 at 2:08 pm Leave a comment

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