May 11, 2009

My reaction to this news was, so what? So the for-profit health insurance industry, which spends untold millions to lobby Congress every year, announces they will shave future increases in the cost of health care and everyone's jumping for joy. I just don't understand the heavy media play on this, nor the administration's excitement. It just sounds like a desperate ploy to cut off the public plan option. Will the administration drop any real reform plans because of this?

I mean, is there anyone of you who doesn't get that these alleged savings are far too likely to come out of our hides? Call me a cynic, but I'm not jumping on the bandwagon just yet:

Volunteering to "do our part" to tackle runaway health costs, leading groups in the health-care industry have offered to squeeze $2 trillion in savings from projected increases over the next decade, White House officials said yesterday.

The pledge comes amid a debate over how, or whether, to overhaul the nation's health-care system, and Obama administration officials predicted that it will significantly increase momentum for passing such changes this year.

The groups aim to achieve the proposed savings by using new efficiencies to trim the rise in health-care costs by 1.5 percent a year, the officials said. That would carry huge implications for the national economy and the federal budget, both of which are significantly affected by health-care expenses.

New "efficiencies." Hmm. Gee, I wonder exactly who those new efficiencies will affect? For instance, do you suppose they'll be cutting the rate of increases in executive salaries? Of course not! Why do I suspect this means that the claims-denial system is about to kick into even higher gear? Whee!

Representatives from half a dozen health industry trade groups are scheduled to make a formal offer today in a White House meeting with President Obama.

"I don't think there can be a more significant step to help struggling families and the federal budget," a senior administration official said in a conference call with reporters. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the offer remains tentative.

So this morning I wrote a friend who's working in D.C. on health reform, and here's her reply:

Actually, what they are talking about is eliminating administrative costs. Like, you wouldn't need a referral for an MRI. If your doctor says you need it, then you just go get it. We don't need 5 forms and 10 employees to put up barriers there. However, the industry is just trying to cooperate so that they can stop the momentum of the public health insurance plan. The good news is that the WH is saying, "That's nice, but we still want the public health insurance plan, too because the only way that you are going to keep your promise to do this stuff is if there is a government plan that is doing it, and people can choose it over you if screw up."

So, it's always scary when industry has access to power. But another way to look at it is that usually these deals are made behind closed doors, and they are being forced to keep it public because frankly, nobody in DC likes them very much right now. Their access is not as good as it used to be.

That makes sense, and I feel a lot better now.

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