September 16, 2009

Keith talked to Rep. Anthony Weiner about whether he'll vote for the horrid Baucus bill that's coming out of the Senate Finance Committee. As Keith notes, what looks like is coming out of the that committee is particularly bad for women and as Anthony Weiner adds, may just be a giveaway to the insurance industry and something that can hardly be called reform.

I'd like to know when Rep. Weiner is going to run for President. He has been one of the honest brokers out there with some straight talk on health care reform and how the insurance industry is taking us all for a ride, and it's refreshing as hell to hear instead of political double talk. If this Baucus bill is as bad as what I've been reading, the progressives in the Congress need to be saying "hell no" and Max Baucus needs to be hearing from all of us.

I'll revert back to what I've said before about agreeing with Howard Dean. If they're not going to get a bill through that at minimum has a public option, then don't put the money into the system, and just regulate the insurance industry and make them change their ways.

OLBERMANN: Rescission… what just might be the most pernicious practice in an industry teeming with it. Insurance companies actively seeking out so-called pre-existing conditions to cancel your health insurance policy after you get sick, even though you have been paying your premiums on time and in full for years. They also seek them to reject new insurance applicants.

Our fourth story on the Countdown, the latest Senate Finance Committee compromise bill would reportedly allow insurance companies to charge most employers more to insure women employees - this while the current system that Republicans are defending includes rescission which itself allows for pre-existing conditions to include being beaten by your spouse or being pregnant.

Every woman in this country supporting the Republicans and the status quo is directly or indirectly also supporting canceling or precluding insurance for battered women or pregnant women.


At a health care forum in Washington, Wendell Potter, the former communications director for CIGNA, as well as a frequent guest on this news hour, testifying to lawmakers yesterday - he told reporters that the finance committee bill is an absolute gift to health care insurance companies. Today he suggested that any legislation which does not include a public option should be given a new name.

POTTER: If Congress goes along to the so-called solutions the insurance industry says it is bringing to the table, and acquiesces to the demands it is making of lawmakers, and if it fails to create a public insurance option to compete with private insurers, the bill it sends to the President might as well be called The Insurance Industry Profit Protection and Enhancement Act.

OLBERMANN: In 2006, Democrats in the Senate, having tried to end the insurance practice, now legal in eight states and the District of Columbia, of discriminating against people who are being beaten by their spouses, an amendment introduced by Sen. Patty Murray of Washington was defeated then in the HELP Committee in a tie vote, 10-10. All of the 'no' votes were Republicans, among them, Sen. Enzi, the same Mike Enzi now drafting and complaining about the bill about to come out of the Finance Committee.

Let's turn now to Congressman Anthony Weiner, Democrat of New York, member of the Energy and Commerce Committee - great thanks for your time tonight Congressman.

When insurance companies are not rescinding one woman's coverage because she once had acne, they're rescinding another woman's coverage because she's a victim of domestic violence, a culture of, insurance-wise, blaming the victim. Does that pretty much sum up the American health insurance industry at the moment?

WEINER: Well, you know, it's frequently been said, and I've said as much on your show, I don't think people in insurance companies are evil, but it's clear what they want to do is take in as much money as they can and pay as little as possible out as benefits. That's the way they function and that's the way they make profits. And if you remember what the President said, there are three things we need to accomplish in health care. One - cover about 40 million additional Americans. That's good for health insurance companies. Two other things are going to be tougher, and that is making sure health insurance companies don't do things like deny coverage. And third is hold down costs, meaning they have to take less profits to have lower overhead.

What seems to be coming out of the Senate bill is, we're going to say okay everyone has to go out and get coverage, which is good for health insurance companies, but basically everything the insurance industry wants, they're going to be able to keep doing in the rest of the bill and that's the problem. This is why you need some element of competition, so that they're held honest, but right now what's coming out of the Senate bill is so watered down, it can hardly be called reform at this point.

OLBERMANN: So to the point of Mr. Potter's terminology here, the insurance terminology here, "The Insurance Industry Profit Protection and Enhancement Act," if it's like that, wouldn't you have to vote against it?

WEINER: Well, it sure has to have more than what the Senate is putting in. You know, I keep hearing people say that the public option is just one element of the bill, but it is an extraordinarily important one and your viewer's need to understand why. If we leave the insurance companies to their own devices, they have shown no instinct at all for saving money for the taxpayers or their customers. That's not what they do. They save money if they can get any, by cutting services, and then keeping money for their shareholders or for bonuses for their executives.

So, unless there is some, some element of these bills that says we’re going to contain that, then, frankly, we're going to be right back to the drawing board a couple of years later with exploding costs and the same thing. Remember, we didn't have the term 'pre-existing condition' until we out-sourced so much of the job of health care to private health care companies.

OLBERMANN: One thread through many of these stories of rescission, of rejection, of applications for insurance would seem to be this issue of gender that obviously the overwhelming majority of battered spouses are women, pregnant women who try to buy insurance on the individual market get turned down because pregnancy is considered a pre-existing condition. Have the reformers made a strong enough case to women, never mind political orientation, just the 51% of the people in this country who are women about what reform really means to them?

WEINER: You know we have this kind of two course argument going on in Washington where people say “hey I like my insurance company, why do you want to change it?” Yeah, they like it if they’re in certain categories. One category of people that like’s it are people that never have to get their health insurance. They’re healthy. They never have to dial the 800 number or wrestle with any of those forms. Another who is far less happy are women because they have different health care costs and they have health care costs that are much more likely to be targeted by health insurance companies for denial.

Many states in the country now have laws protecting women when they come in when they’re having children. They only have those laws because there were so many abuses among insurance companies trying to deny coverage to pregnant women. This is one of the reasons why we need reform in this country but more than just reform. We need competition for insurance companies. You can have all the reform legislation that you want and what seems to be happening in the Senate is they’re even watering down that language. So look, I’m glad that the cooling softer of democracy in the Senate is finally moving something along so we can get back to the path of doing what the President articulated, which is protect consumers from these abuses.

OLBERMANN: So ultimately Congressman are we back on the path to a good bill or not?

WEINER: Well not if we go, well look, the Senate bill might be a starting point for something, but right now they have taken the basic elements of health care that the President said he wants, that the American people need, containing costs through competition, and guaranteeing that we don't have abuses of people who have private insurance, and they've watered them down to the point where they're virtually meaningless. So if you just say this is only going to be about insuring more people, giving more customers to the insurance companies without any of those protections, we're basically worse off then when we started.

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