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Today's New York Times reports that the health insurance industry is actively involved in discussions about the future of health coverage in the United States.  

Since last fall, many of the leading figures in the nation’s long-running health care debate have been meeting secretly in a Senate hearing room. Now, with the blessing of the Senate’s leading proponent of universal health insurance, Edward M. Kennedy, they appear to be inching toward a consensus that could reshape the debate.

Many of the parties, from big insurance companies to lobbyists for consumers, doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies, are embracing the idea that comprehensive health care legislation should include a requirement that every American carry insurance.

It's wonderful news that Senator Kennedy has convened this "workhorse group" that includes major stakeholders.  But I can't tell from the story who's involved, and this bothers me.  More below.

The NYT article lists a number of the lobbyists involved:

The 20 people who regularly attend the meetings on Capitol Hill include lobbyists for AARP, Aetna, the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the American Cancer Society, the American Medical Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans, the Business Roundtable, Easter Seals, the National Federation of Independent Business, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, and the United States Chamber of Commerce.

I'm not sure who the "consumer groups" are, but but it's disheartening that only one of the stakeholders mentioned in the article (the AFL/CIO) can be considered an advocate for single-payer health coverage. Groups like the AARP (another stakeholder at the table), who earn revenue from selling insurance to members, are not neutral arbitors. The AMA plan is likewise industry-friendly. And the insurance lobbyists...well, obviously.  

I guess it's progress that a consensus is emerging around the notion of universal coverage:

While not all industry groups are in complete agreement, there is enough of a consensus, according to people who have attended the meetings, that they have begun to tackle the next steps: how to enforce the requirement for everyone to have health insurance; how to make insurance affordable to the uninsured; and whether to require employers to help buy coverage for their employees.

But this consensus feels so, well, 1993.  And it ignores what is likely the most affordable way to cover everyone.  

I'm willing to debate the point.  Single-payer may not be the best solution to the health care crisis in America, but how will we be able to judge if it doesn't get equal time at the table?  And by equal time, I mean a robust presence, beyond the usual lonely union advocate.  Only then will the group honestly look comparatively at the options in terms of cost, flexibility and coverage.  

With the economy in crisis, and companies hemorraging jobs, unemployment rising and real wages declining, is this really a good time to be eliminating what might be the best way to provide universal coverage before the debate even begins?  Let's have an open, honest and fact-based debate before it's too late.

UPDATE:  Who do I think should be at the table?  How about nurses?  Socially responsible physicians.   Political organizations. Consumers groups and organizations.  And this is just a start.  

Originally posted to political junquie on Fri Feb 20, 2009 at 03:12 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  In my opinion the best way to obtain an equitible (8+ / 0-)

    economic universal health care system is through single payer. As long as private insurance companies are involved the motive is money and not health care. As a physician of thirty years I have seen many changes brought on by the insurance companies. Patients are not better off and health care professionals are not happy with what has happened, only the shareholders and CEOs have benefited. Time for a single payer system.

    "Those that know, don't say, those that say, don't know"... Tao te ching... Then why am I posting a comment?

    by zenmasterjack on Fri Feb 20, 2009 at 03:53:17 AM PST

  •  It's been a sticking point (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pompatus, political junquie, Rachel Q

    in my mind ever since the health care debate became newsworthy, how do you get around the fact that there are so many people invested in the current system? Money is being made, big money.

    That piece of the puzzle needs to fit somewhere into the single payer debate. It seems you have that one big piece leftover if we don't address it and any advancement is difficult if not impossible without doing so.

    •  Well said. (0+ / 0-)

      how do you get around the fact that there are so many people invested in the current system? Money is being made, big money.

      And experience tells us that those who are used to making money don't like to stop doing so.

      Perhaps when unemployment hits the health insurance industry there will be a more open assessment of what works and what doesn't.

      •  I've pondered before how to get masses of people (0+ / 0-)

        to voluntarily drop their health insurance all at the same time so that our voices would be heard in an undeniable way. I hate that unemployment might be the thing that accomplishes that goal but I agree, it would make an opening in the negotiations.

  •  I went to the doctor this week (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    political junquie

    for a med check.  The nurse practitioner has recommended that all her patients see the psychologist in the office, so I did.  As I sat down, I told her that I would not  be as cooperative as I might otherwise be.  I can't afford to have anything else in my medical record that might cause me to be rejected if (when) my company changes insurance providers.  I tried to explain that I wasn't being hostile, just trying to protect myself.  She was OK with that but it was a waste of her time and my money.  (I did find out that I used to teach her nieces and nephew.  Small world, eh?)

    -7.62, -7.28 "We told the truth. We obeyed the law. We kept the peace." - Walter Mondale

    by luckylizard on Fri Feb 20, 2009 at 04:41:17 AM PST

  •  Healthcare insurers need to be non-profit or not (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    at all.  As long as profit is the motive in healthcare, people are not.  We have seen what unbridled profits provided over the last eight years, the worst economic environment since the 1930s.  It is time we put people first and corporate profits second.

    Have you forgotten about jesus? Don't you think it's time that you did?

    by uc booker on Fri Feb 20, 2009 at 05:10:44 AM PST

  •  Like I keep saying, old broken record me! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pompatus, loftT

    First corporate personhood must be eliminated by repairing the 14th Amendment. This negates corporation's first Amendment rights, thus limiting their ability to lobby Congress.

    Were that to be done, oceans of lobbyists would be swept aside, leaving us to deal with NPOs and professional orgs.

    Then we'd have a MUCH better chance of getting single payer enacted, as well as a lot of other social problems repaired that we are unable to do currently.

    Mandating and requiring insurance would then be meaningless with the enactment of single payer.

    It's past time to put the corporations, all corporations back into strict confines, as our Founding Fathers envisioned and was in fact the norm up to about 1860. To not do so violates those basic precepts.

    Yes, a change is certainly needed, not merely a change of party but a change of system -Eugene V. Debs

    by nativist on Fri Feb 20, 2009 at 05:57:44 AM PST

  •  Insisting on single payer (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    is making the pefect the enemy of the good.

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