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Health Care Tough Sell At Town Hall

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, August 04, 2009 1:20 AM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Big Insurance, Health Care Reform, Health Insurance

Reforming health coverage for all Americans is proving to be a tough road for the president.

Town Hall Booed


©iStockphoto/ health insurance/ author: DNY59

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Senator Arlen Specter got a preview Sunday of the tough sell facing lawmakers over passage of health care reforms.

During a town hall meeting in Philadelphia some audience members booed and jeered them, especially over the question as to whether the federal government should take over health care choices.

One woman was applauded when she said that Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security are broken. “You want us to believe that a government that can’t even run cash for clunkers program is going to run one-seventh of our U.S. economy? No sir, no,” she said.

With the audience booing Sebelius reminded the crowd that Senate bill isn’t written yet.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee narrowly passed its version of a reform bill late Friday before going on its August recess. The plan is one of five in Congress.

Ad Aimed at Obama

Among members of Congress, some believe the public option will give the government unwarranted power and Nancy Pelosi predicts the insurance industry will launch a “shock and awe” campaign to kill the public option in September.

Not missing an opportunity, Republicans in Congress have issued a new ad now playing on

YouTube that tries to undermine President Obama’s top priority of health care reform.

"Like the old joke goes, President Obama isn't a doctor, but he plays one on TV," said House Minority Leader John Boehner to Fox News, calling the ad lighthearted.

"Americans want lower health care costs -- not a trillion-dollar government takeover of health care that increases costs and lets Washington bureaucrats make decisions that should be made by doctors and patients” the ad says.

Summer Reading

The August recess deadline President Obama wanted to pass health care reform wasn’t reached by Congress, as most members still have not read the more than 1,000 page bill agreed to last week. Congress will be back at the effort in September.

For now, H.R. 3200 can be found on a government website, www.thomas.loc.gov.

Dr. Bernadine Healy reporting for US News says the bill reforms Big Insurance so that coverage cannot be canceled or denied for a preexisting condition and will be widely available in a public option resembling Medicare.

Among the changes proposed is the creation of the Health Choices Administration – a new federal agency headed by a commissioner who would create standards for insurance that 285 million Americans would be required to have. The HCA would oversee private and new government-established public insurance.

Those who did not seek out an insurance plan would automatically be assigned a plan and those without insurance would be fined 2.5 percent of their income for a time.

Insurance Weighs In

The health insurance industry is revving up its lobbying efforts against sweeping reforms. Republicans decry as "socialist" a proposed government-run health plan, and Democrats are divided over how to pay for it all.

Expect more pressure against the private option from the insurance industry, despite the fact that in the last 15 years, the industry has imposed additional administrative costs on doctors, hospitals and employers introducing complexity into the system, and requiring doctors to ask the insurance provider for approval for procedures, reports the Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik.

Whistleblower Wendell Potter told a Senate committee in June that the industry promised to work to end denials of coverage then aggressively moved to kill any reform.

The same promises are being made now, says Potter, but as a huge cartel of corporations, the lobby is stronger than ever and will fight a perceived competitor in the form of a public option.

"The industry is bigger, richer and stronger, and it has a much tighter grip on our healthcare system," he said to the Los Angeles Times. He is referring to the merger of two of the largest insurers, WellPoint and UnitedHealth Group, which each acquired 11 other insurers since 2000.

That gives companies even more control in 76 percent of the country, where the American Medical Association found in a 2007 survey that one insurer had a share of half of the insurance market.

Democrats Promise Change

On Monday, Democrats in Congress vowed health care reform will go through the Senate with or without Republican support.

"No matter what happens we are going to enact healthcare reform by the end of the year," said Senator Charles Schumer to Reuters. He is one of the Democrats who has been working with Republicans to craft a bipartisan plan in that chamber.

Obama has made overhaul of the $2.5 trillion healthcare system this year his top domestic priority.

Obama has called Senate Democrats to a White House meeting on Tuesday to discuss health care. So far, not a single Republican has supported the bills. #

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