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special interests spinning healthcare reform coverage

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A healthcare reform news story appears to be about benefitting consumers, but peeking beneath the surface reveals it pushes wealthy special interest agendas.


An NPR story on mental health insurance mandates [npr1] is yet another
instance of special interest manipulation of the public. It cites two
organizations while neglecting to note these facts about them:

National Alliance on Mental Illness refuses to reveal the identities of
its top 7 donors in its tax filing [nami1], but has been funded by at
least 11 pharmaceutical companies [srcw1]. It calls itself a grassroots
organization, but only 1.6% of its revenue is from membership dues
[nami1]. The mystery top donor alone contributed $2.8 million, which is
22 times more than the total of all membership dues [nami1]. Actually,
the drug industry provided 3/4 of its revenue [ahrp1], so there's a
significant amount of astro-turfing going on here.

Center for Health Transformation says its "membership is comprised of
corporations and organizations that all have a vested interest in
transforming health and healthcare" [cht1]. Major members include
insurers, drug companies, and medical providers [srcw2]. Thus NPR's
description of the spokesman as "a mental health advocate" is deceptive.

The kinds of insurance mandates that are endorsed by the story give a
free ride to one small group while taking away the ability of everybody
else to choose what kind of coverage suits their needs, and taking away
their ability to have control over costs. It also sets up a system that
encourages waste and spiralling costs, since after all if insurance pays
for it why not take advantage of it?

This is why health care costs have been mushrooming, making them unaffordable
to ever more people. This is why we have a crisis in the first place.

As is usual in coverage of this issue, nothing is said of causes and true
prevention. Depression results from stress and lack of control over one's
life [sapo1]. Thus we can predict that mandates which take away choice and
control, and the associated higher insurance costs which increase economic
stress, will result in increasing incidence of depression in the general
public that's not already depressed, so the mental health industry can laugh
all the way to the bank profitting from an ever-growing number of customers,
which will increase costs further, thus fueling a vicious circle.

When Massachusetts passed a reform mandating purchase of insurance,
the result was double the rate of cost increases elsewhere, and
government health care costs increased 42% [mass].

In contrast, when people were put in more control of their healthcare, the
opposite of forcing them to be under the control of insurance bureaucrats,
costs were reduced 10% to 30% with no deleterious effect on health [gorm1].

Insurance is the problem, and insurance mandates add fuel to the fire
of spiralling costs. To accept the idea that insurance mandates must
be the only solution is to adopt the gameplan of the insurance industry.
The Obama/Congress reform would exacerbate the vicious circle on a
grander scale, providing the special interests that contributed
$213 million to Washington politicians for 2008 [crp1] a windfall of
trillions of dollars if it remains in place for decades [uprem].

By only giving the one side of the story that benefits special interests
while omitting the damage done to the public as a whole, this story is a
perfect example of the pervasive way that major media have become agents
of pushing industry agendas.

How can we but wonder what percentage of all the other coverage of
healthcare reform is like this - two personal stories put a veneer of a
human face giving a false impression of being on the consumer's side, while
the actual content promotes policies benefitting wealthy medical interests?


[ahrp1] Alliance for Human Research Protection: NAMI Constituency Betrayed,
27 October 2009,

[cbo3] An Analysis of Health Insurance Premiums Under the Patient Protection
and Affordable Care Act, 30 Nov 2009,
click here

[cht1] Center for Health Transformation: Membership Levels,
click here

[crp1] Center for Responsive Politics:
Health: Long-Term Contribution Trends,
Insurance: Long-Term Contribution Trends,

[gorm1] The History of Health Care Costs and Health Insurance A Wisconsin Primer,
Linda Gorman, Wisconsin Policy Research Institute Report October 2006,

[kff1] Kaiser Family Foundation Employee Health Benefits 2008 Annual Survey,
Exhibit 1.9,

[mass] healthcare reform costs

[nami1] National Alliance on Mental Illness: IRS Form 990 2008,
click here

[npr1] Health Insurance Change Prohibits Pre-Set Limits by Joanne Silberner,
NPR Morning Edition 24 December 2009,

[oneil] Who are the Uninsured? An Analysis of America's Uninsured Population,
Their Characteristics and Their Health, June O'Neill, Dave O'Neill,
Baruch College, City University of New York, June 2009,

[sapo1] Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers by Robert Sapolsky 2004 p290, p297, p215, p355

[srcw1] SourceWatch: National Alliance on Mental Illness

[srcw2] SourceWatch: Center for Health Transformation

[uprem] Not counting the increases in premiums for those who already have
insurance due to mandates on coverage (no pre-existing conditions, denying
citizens the choice of saving costs by getting policies with caps or exclusion
of substance abuse or maternity, etc) a mandate forcing all uninsured to buy
insurance by itself comes to $1.95 trillion over 10 years. Per year it's
$195 billion = nu x ( spercent x spremium + fpercent x fpremium )
nu = 47 million uninsured
x = multiplied by
spercent = 63.3% uninsured without children [oneil Table 7]
fpercent = 36.7% uninsured with children [oneil Table 7]
spremium = $4,704 single premium [kff1]
fpremium = $12,680 family premium / 4 = $3,170/person [kff1]
Note these numbers are conservative; for example, CBO estimates the costs
in the non-group market, where many uninsured would be required to get their
insurance, to be $7,100 for single and $19,100 for family [cbo3].


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I'm a techie who has no connection to the medical or insurance industries other than sometimes paying practitioners or lab tests, but does have a long-standing interest in alternatives in healing.
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