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The Death Panels That Aren't

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When Obama Care first hit the headlines, Republicans and their Tea Party partners rushed to the forefront to condemn socialized medicine in a rampant desire to discredit our first black President and any of his initiatives. The drama-filled performances displayed by the right-controlled media talking heads would have had all Americans believing that the Democrats, operating under the Marxist regime of Barack Obama, created a plan to kill Grandma and strove to rob us of our Liberties. Today, we stand confronted with a Republican plan to privatize Medicare and Medicaid, which would leave grandma's care to insurance companies who consistently deny care based on pre-existing conditions. So the question is:  Who is creating the death panels, now?

In the 2009 flurry of right-wing backed attacks on H.R. 3590 -- Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, dubbed Obama Care -- Sarah Palin had claimed the plan included Death Panels and Heath Care rationing where Grandma would be killed if the Czars under Obama deemed it so. They outlined such a hideous conspiracy by our Alinsky inspired Marxist President that anyone listening to the politically aligned rhetoric with any disposition for hatred toward Obama took the bait -- hook, line and sinker.

Today, three years after the media frenzy surrounding Obama Care diminished, the Republicans have boarded the bandwagon hitched up to Paul Ryan's budget plan. This plan is described by Republicans as taking bold steps, including the privatization of Medicare, a move which is inspired by the desire to quell our growing deficit and most in the Party were to afraid to make. In principle, this Health Care part of the plan makes good, fiscal sense. It represents less government involvement in Health Care which, according to Ryan, will equate to lower economic burden to the tax payer and by proxy, a decreased impact on our national deficit.

The Wall Street Journal explains that the plan which the Republicans call "The Path to Prosperity," cuts $6.2 trillion in spending from the president's budget over the next 10 years, reduces the debt as a percentage of the economy, and puts the nation on a path to actually pay off our national debt. The article, written by Paul Ryan, states the following;

"A study just released by the Heritage Center for Data Analysis projects that The Path to Prosperity will help create nearly one million new private-sector jobs next year, bring the unemployment rate down to 4% by 2015, and result in 2.5 million additional private-sector jobs in the last year of the decade. It spurs economic growth, with $1.5 trillion in additional real GDP over the decade. According to Heritage's analysis, it would result in $1.1 trillion in higher wages and an average of $1,000 in additional family income each year."

Ryan goes on to explain;

"Starting in 2022, new Medicare beneficiaries will be enrolled in the same kind of health-care program that members of Congress enjoy. Future Medicare recipients will be able to choose a plan that works best for them from a list of guaranteed coverage options. This is not a voucher program but rather a premium-support model. A Medicare premium-support payment would be paid, by Medicare, to the plan chosen by the beneficiary, subsidizing its cost.

"In addition, Medicare will provide increased assistance for lower-income beneficiaries and those with greater health risks. Reform that empowers individuals -- with more help for the poor and the sick -- will guarantee that Medicare can fulfill the promise of health security for America's seniors."

The plan sounds fantastic. In fact, just reading Ryan's explanation of its benefits to our Republic should send every voter in America clamoring to the polls to demand its unconditional implementation. After all, how could Americans possibly resist such a bold attempt to control our spending, lead to such a fruitful outcome as this plan? What is stopping our Congress from initiating such a brilliant endeavor?

Time for a reality check

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The reality of the Ryan Plan is that it represents the condemnation of our elders to the abyss of the corporate insurance system where more claims are denied than paid. It will also cost Americans more money at the end of the day. Rick Unger, in an article for Forbes, reported the following facts which came from the Congressional Budgetary Office:

"The GOP proposal, which would begin in 2022, involves providing a 'voucher' -- or as Ryan likes to call it, 'premium support' -- to seniors to help pay for their health insurance. The average American would receive a check for $8,000, representing roughly what the CBO estimates Medicare would have to fork out for the average beneficiary in 2022. In addition to the government's costs, the CBO estimates that seniors, in 2022, would lay out about $6,150.00 in out-of-pocket costs in the Medicare system. That totals an average cost of health care for participating seniors, in 2022, to be $14,770. 

"Under the GOP privatization plan, the cost to purchase the health insurance policy would cost about $20,520 per year -- leaving the seniors out of pocket in the amount of $12,510 or more than twice what they would pay in 2022 should the Medicare system we currently have continue."

That shouldn't be so bad if seniors are some of the few who made it through the Great Recession with their retirement still in tact but the other 75% have much to concern themselves with. A 2010 study from the University of Michigan Law School, found that those 65 and older were the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population seeking bankruptcy protection. Maybe the Ryan Plan, targeting 2022 as the start date, is acting in a clairvoyant capacity for the economic security of future seniors and they haven't anything to worry about. Maybe insurance companies will have changed their policies before that time and put care over profit. And maybe pigs will be able to fly in 2022 as well.

The real issue though is how Republican Jesters like Palin, the half term Governor from Alaska, can support the Ryan Plan while riding the waves of Death Panel Rhetoric to further her Party's confused stance.  

What it all means for grandma

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There is the overwhelming evidence that insurance companies tend to filter and determine whether policies should be payable upon based on the claimant's condition and expense of the procedures involved. Any American who has recently tried to acquire Health Insurance, which should be many of us considering how many companies cut benefits to meet the bottom line during our recession, knows the difficulty in getting a good deal and adequate coverage when healthy. Just imagine how easy a 75-year-old woman suffering from C.O.P.D. would get affordable coverage. The truth is; they wouldn't, even with a government voucher.

The insurance industry has nothing more than profit as their sole raison d'Ãtre. One of the most profitable of these companies, Allstate Insurance, has quite a track record for claim denial. According to All American Public Adjusters...

"There is no greater poster child for insurance industry greed than Allstate. According to CEO Thomas Wilson, Allstate's mission is clear: 'our obligation is to earn a return for our shareholders.' Unfortunately, that dedication to shareholders has come at a price. According to investigations and documents Allstate was forced to make public, the company systematically placed profits over its own policyholders. The company that publicly touts its 'good hands' approach privately instructs agents to employ a hardball 'boxing gloves' strategy against its own policyholders.

"The company essentially uses a combination of lowball offers and hardball litigation. When policyholders file a claim, they are often offered an unjustifiably low payment for their injuries, generated by Allstate using secretive claim-evaluation software called Colossus. Those that accept the lowballed settlements are treated with 'good hands' but may be left with less money than they need to cover medical bills and lost wages. Those that do not settle frequently get the 'boxing gloves' -- an aggressive litigation strategy that aims to deny the claim at any cost. Former Allstate employees call it the 'three Ds' -- deny, delay, and defend. One particular power point slide McKinsey prepared for Allstate featured an alligator and the caption 'sit and wait," emphasizing that delaying claims will increase the likelihood that the claimant gives up."

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Steven Forrest is a Project Architect living in St. Petersburg, Florida. Currently, he is working to implement Green Building initiatives in several communities across Florida. Given the current situation in America and the continued (more...)

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