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"What about our shareholders? Who's helping THEM? Huuunh?" - The online computery journal thingy of a turtle

Aug. 20th, 2009

11:51 am - "What about our shareholders? Who's helping THEM? Huuunh?"

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Remember Pixar's "The Incredibles"? Remember Insuricare, the insurance company Bob works for after he's forced to stop being Mr. Incredible? Remember the scene where his boss, Mr. Huph, calls him in and takes him to task for actually (gasp!) *helping* its customers?

I used to think the sheer evilness of that company was greatly exaggerated for comic effect. But after reading many things about the insurance industry, such as Froma Harrop's latest column, I guess not!

I wanna screen "The Incredibles" for a group of people. And when it gets to the scene where Bob snaps, grabs Mr. Huph by the neck, and tosses him through four office walls in a row and into a filing cabinet, I wanna hear people stand up and cheer!

Comments:

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From:nefaria
Date:August 20th, 2009 05:28 pm (UTC)
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Corporations are greedy because it's against the law for them to be otherwise. If they fail to act in the best interest of the shareholders, the shareholders can sue.

I think the insurance companies need a kick in the pants to fix their shortcomings, but I don't think they should be drawn and quartered like those on the far left want. A world without health insurance will be quite scary.

This is the standard conservative prediction of what will happen if Obama's public option becomes law:

1. The public option will be funded by a tax on health insurance, funneling money away from the insurance companies and into the government.

2. The public plan will have Medicare-style payment caps. To remain profitable, the hospitals will have to charge the insurance companies extra to make up for the losses from the public plan. More money taken away from the insurance companies and given to the government.

3. The insurance companies will rapidly lose their profit margins. The lesser ones will fold quickly, increasing the burden on the surviving companies. Eventually, all the insurance companies will fold because they can't survive against the government competition they've been heavily subsidizing.

4. The public option becomes single-payer health care, hooray! Small problem though: there are no longer any insurance companies to subsidize it, and the hospitals will now require the government to pay fair market value so they don't go bankrupt. Where will the money come from? A national sales tax? An enormous tax on the wealthy that crushes the economy like the mortgage crisis? More national debt? Or do we severely ration services like the UK does, so people can't get painkiller steroid shots, macular degeneration sufferers have to wait until they lose sight in one eye to get medical coverage, and you have to wait five months for a cancer screening?

5. Note that the current accounting deficit of Medicare is over $30 trillion. If we funnel the entire population into Medicare, it's going to go bankrupt much earlier than predicted. Eventually Medicare debt payments will collapse the U.S. economy; we'll have to raise taxes so high to pay for them that there will be no money left for anything else.

The status quo is rather stinky, but the alternative smells worse to me.

Edited at 2009-08-20 05:31 pm (UTC)
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From:wbwolf
Date:August 20th, 2009 06:38 pm (UTC)
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One of the big problems with this scenario is it is built on a series of assumptions that may or may not come true. The big leap of "faith" is the fact that insurance companies will fold. Currently, the insurance companies are getting billions of dollar of profit, mainly by raising premiums and restricting pay outs. And there is already the rationing of services, only it does by the whim of a company cog that only lots at how much money they can make rather than the care of the individual.

However, I would favor a public option similar to Japan, where everyone gets basic care (coupled with an emphasis on preventive care when the costs are lower), while additional services can be purchased if desired. It should be noted that one of the reasons why some companies are starting to come around to supporting a public option is because of continuing rising costs to provide health care for their employees. The non-profit co-ops is also a good idea, since it helps bring competition to an oligarchic market.

Frankly, I would rather there was honest bipartisan dialog on both sides, but it seems like the right doesn't want to have the talk. The only real proposal I've heard from anybody on the right has been the idea of allowing people to buy insurance across state lines (since, like cable TV, many states are dominated by one or two insurers) in order to foster more competition. And that's a good idea, but it should not be the end of the conversation.
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From:nefaria
Date:August 20th, 2009 07:33 pm (UTC)
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Going bankrupt and folding is usually an inevitable consequence of having to charge your customers more for the same quality of care as the competition. Perhaps the insurance companies would be able to provide better service to compensate for the increased expense, but all the economic and governmental pressures will be against them.

I like some of the alternatives being proposed, many are worth thinking about. Public basic care + private extra care might work, but I fear it would have the same bad effect on the poor as the current system, they couldn't afford the extra care. Another person suggested the car insurance model, where the customer pays for checkups and medicine and the insurance company only pays for catastrophic care; this is again harsh on the poor, but it does keep the costs down and reduces the insurance companies' influence. I don't see any downside to the co-ops, it's sort of like Geico for health insurance.-

I definitely agree that we need more rational debate on the subject and fewer shouting matches and threats to force plans through on a 51 vote. I actually think the current plan would pass with substantial bipartisan support if they'd drop the public option; I haven't read much conservative/moderate opposition to dropping the pre-existing condition loopholes or the other contents of the bill.

Edited at 2009-08-20 07:38 pm (UTC)
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From:wbwolf
Date:August 26th, 2009 08:45 pm (UTC)
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I would recommend checking out this Washington Post article about 5 myths of health care abroad. A lot of the costs to the current American system (up to 20%) is simply from the patchwork of system and associated bureaucratic overhead. The real upshot of the article is if we can pick one system, be it the Canadian, English, or German systems and stick with it, everyone would do a lot better.

Honestly, Americans really should stop being so damned headstrong and listen others for a change (metric system, anyone?)
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From:xakko
Date:August 20th, 2009 10:19 pm (UTC)
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OK. Full disclosure - I work for a health insurance company. Albeit, a non-profit one, but there are still enough requirements on us (such as the amount of reserves needed on hand) that would make it nearly impossible to compete against a public plan that cannot fail.

of course, we've been given postcards to send to our Senators and Representatives.

That said, I think healthcare should be a right. For all the nightmare anecdotes about National Health Care, most of them seem to have better outcomes than we do.

Please, let us have the conversation. Maybe there's a way to fix the current system. Maybe there isn't. We need to find out. Maybe we can do Britain's NHS right (ok, probably not, it's still the goverment)

But spread fear mongering? hate? accusations of Death Panels, of state funded abortions, of mandatory sex changes? The Godwin's Law overkill? Seriously? At a certain point, you really should lose your seat at the table.



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From:vermillionfox
Date:August 20th, 2009 11:18 pm (UTC)
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I've worked a fair bit in insurance and am a big fan of national healthcare (though against forcing it on people, taxing 2% of your income for being too poor to have insurance currently, or forcing small businesses to provide it).

The thing is though, people don't understand that if insurance paid out every last one of these claims and covered absolutely every sick person, they'd all go bankrupt in a day. Sure it sucks that extremely ill people can be denied coverage (if I told the truth on my forms Id be 100% uninsurable), but the companies need money to function and employ American citizens. They need money to take care of as many as possible, not just two or three a day who are the most ill.

Truckers are to the auto/business insurance what cancer patients are to healthcare insurers. Try driving one and getting covered for a reasonable amount, much less collecting on a claim. Most all of GainsCo went under because they were dumb enough to offer truckers reasonability and be fair. When trucks were in accidents, people were rarely just nicked, and then you had the business goods which often became damaged. So every truck crash was a $100K+ liability they couldn't afford to pay and stay afloat.

To be honest, insurance really would like to pay as it means they can. Buuuuut healthcare industry is being crippled in costs from lawyers and technology. Computer geeks are actually the cause for a crapload of the high cost of health. Every time new technology comes out, hospitals are forced to buy it at exhorbitant rates. Hell, one clinical lab I was at was charged $25,000.00 for a 'cold plate'. A cold plate is nothing but a refrigerator core on a dry erase board. Seriously. $25 maybe in parts, and that kind of markup.

Then you have to buy chemicals, hire people trained to work them, buy million dollar PET scans which last 1-2 years before you have to get a new one, sanitization, paying for offsite transport of materials between hospitals when patients go for second opinions, malpractice insurance, one use items in many facilities, etc. You have to offer the best healthcare and equipment, otherwise you can expect a lawyer to sue the crap out of you in a giant class action suit for giving 'substandard care' with barely used tech. Blame the techs and engineers working on a 1% better resolution ultrasound, not the insurance who deny your claim.

Also as far as golden parachutes... that has little to do with how the company runs down the chain. Those things are exhorbitant and nearly criminal, but it is the shareholders who agree to let the CEO get them as incentive to not have a hostile takeover. Sure it can be abused, but that is the fault of the people with stock, not the person getting it.
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From:nefaria
Date:August 21st, 2009 11:40 am (UTC)
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> That said, I think healthcare should be a right.
Necessities aren't rights and should not be rights. The Constitution does not guarantee us food, clothing, shelter, or any other necessity, only the freedom to work for these things if we choose to do so. Providing everyone the necessities of life for free encourages laziness and stupidity, as well as discouraging hard work, because the hard workers have huge portions of their income siphoned away to pay for the lazybones.

> But spread fear mongering?
Warning of possible impending doom before it's too late is a good thing, not a bad thing. Climate change, anyone?

> hate?
Granted, no good thing comes from spreading hate.

> accusations of Death Panels
A surgeon general in favor of physician-assisted suicide who wrote books advocating that health care for the very young and very old should be curtailed to provide more health care for the middle-aged, that is enough to get my spider sense tingling.

> of state funded abortions
The compromise legislation going through states that the public plan will pay for abortions if the customer desires a plan that does so. There's already so much U.S. funding of abortion here and overseas going on that this is more of a camel's tail than a camel's nose.

> of mandatory sex changes?
I don't know what idiot came up with that one. Maybe he extrapolated from the law in San Francisco that requires health care plans to pay for sex change operations.

> The Godwin's Law overkill?
It happens on both sides, remember this? http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&source=hp&q=%22Hitler+Bush%22&gbv=2&aq=f&oq=&aqi=

> At a certain point, you really should lose your seat at the table.
No, no, NO. No matter how many loud-mouthed, obnoxious conservatives there are out there making pests of themselves, the conservatives still have the right to participate in the debate. Any health care reform bill that passes with only liberal Democratic support is going to be a total disaster, I guarantee it.


Edited at 2009-08-21 01:36 pm (UTC)
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:August 21st, 2009 07:25 pm (UTC)
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"It happens on both sides" is tu quoque. It doesn't excuse anything.
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From:nefaria
Date:August 22nd, 2009 02:28 am (UTC)
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Tu quoque is only a logical fallacy if one uses the hypocrisy/inconsistency of the speaker to infer the negation of his/her conclusion. I made no such claim, my point was more to point out that the speaker is inconsistent, which is a valid use of it.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tu_quoque

I did make the possibly-false assumption that he thought the Hitler Bush propaganda was appropriate; if I was wrong on this, I apologize. I'll also point out that Godwin's Law is itself a logical fallacy (If someone invokes the Nazis to support X, then X is false), so the waters are pretty muddy here.

My personal view is that neither Bush nor Obama are Nazis and those who claim they are went way over the top and don't have credibility with me.

Edited at 2009-08-22 03:05 am (UTC)
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From:xakko
Date:August 22nd, 2009 05:17 am (UTC)
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i think Godwin's Law - unless applied to real Nazis (I suppose the idiots who do idolize them may also apply tangentially) - pretty much invalidates the opinion of the person who invokes it, good or ill. Be it Rush Limbaugh or Keith Olbermann, an antiwar protester or a astroturfed town hall crier. Regardless of the strength of their other arguments, regardless of whether they might be empirically "right", I will have no more to do with them.

And, the times I succumbed to the temptation in my youth, I know I was talking out my ass and should have been ignored as well.

do you have the source on Regina Benjamin's advocacy of those positions? nothing's coming up in a cursory scan of the series of tubes.

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From:kinkyturtle
Date:August 22nd, 2009 05:46 am (UTC)
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It's different, really.

What did Bush get compared to Hitler for? Let's see. Starting a war of aggression by invading a foreign country (Iraq/Poland), attempting to curtail civil liberties (the PATRIOT Act, etc./censoring free speech, banning gays, Jews and other "degenerates", etc.), fearmongering against an exaggerated enemy (terrorists/Jews etc.).
Is the comparison valid? Arguably so.

What is Obama getting compared to Hitler for? Trying to pass a health care bill.
Is the comparison valid? No. Right-wing mouthpieces are lying to their audiences about what the bill will actually do.
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From:xakko
Date:August 22nd, 2009 04:28 pm (UTC)
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see, a lot of rulers have invaded countries, curtailed liberties, engaged in fearmongering.

Hitler - and the Nazis- at least to me, invoke not just an attempt at conquering, but the Holocaust.

That's why the conversation ends, and why comparisons should be used in none but the rarest of cases. There are similarities between many people and aspects of Adolph Hitler's life, but unless we're talking about genocide, it isn't - and shouldn't - be a viable addition to a conversation. (I like Colbert's comment from the other night on the Obama/Hitler comparison - "Their mothers were both white".
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:August 22nd, 2009 05:30 pm (UTC)
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Okay, you have a point.

Thing is, Bush has been one of our most horrible presidents ever, and I get tired of hearing people shut down debate about that point by saying, "Bush protesters are idiots who compare him to Hitler! Ha! They have Nothing To Say."

The difference here is that the people calling Obama a Nazi really do have Nothing To Say... which was your original point, I believe. :}

Edited at 2009-08-23 12:40 am (UTC)
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:August 22nd, 2009 05:57 am (UTC)
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Actually, Godwin's Law doesn't say that. It says, in any internet debate, the probability of someone being compared to Hitler or the Nazis eventually approaches 1 (that is, 100%).

The corollary is that when this happens, the argument is over. Which is true, in the sense that the discussion has devolved into name-calling.

The thing is, comparisons to Hitler are not always invalid. Bush may not be an actual Nazi, but he arguably acted like he wanted to be (see my response to xakko in this thread). And he certainly joked about it.

Ordinarily I'd agree with you, that anyone comparing the President to Hitler is being an idiot. But the crap Bush and his people pulled while in office has created a rare exception to that.
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From:tilt_longtail
Date:August 21st, 2009 01:21 am (UTC)
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I did not see The Incredibles.
Fat guy in spandex?
I can see that at any furry con
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From:gedrean
Date:August 21st, 2009 05:09 pm (UTC)
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You seriously didn't know? The insurance industry has been like that for 35+ years. That's why I want them all to burn.
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:August 21st, 2009 07:22 pm (UTC)
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I've always been kind of an airhead. Insurance, omg, that's like boring or some juuunk...
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