When debating is all we can hope for

The Senate voted this week to begin debate on repealing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). The vote ran 51-50, with Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voting against, giving Vice President Mike Pence the tie-breaking vote. Later that same day, the Senate voted against comprehensive repeal of the Act in a 43-57 vote.

There was major discussion of partisan politics, including John McCain here, decrying partisan fighting after having to return to vote following his brain cancer diagnosis and biopsy.

“I don’t think any of us feels very proud of our incapacity. Merely preventing your political opponents from doing what they want isn’t the most inspiring work.”

Wednesday saw another rejection of repeal, and discussions moved to a more modest “skinny repeal” of Obamacare, even though House Republicans warn that such policy will be “dead on arrival”. Even still, this tactic fell upon unsympathetic GOP Senators, and all attempts made this week were squelched.

The problem isn’t with a bill, or a desire to repeal. It’s an inability to communicate with one another. Americans are used to policies falling short at both local and national levels. But Americans deserve to know that our politicians are at least trying to talk to each other about how to make a better nation, and a better world.

As we watch the political drama unfold, week in, week out, it is apparent that the current environment is untenable. Something is going to give, and likely give soon.

 

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We’re all a little sick sometimes

Healthcare. What a broken system. Same with education. Same with criminal justice. As a matter of fact, any system that should be in place to provide services and care to a country’s population, once it moves to the private sector, becomes a cash cow, pumping returns into wealthy investors’ pockets and political coffers to keep sympathetic lawmakers in power.

Want to fix healthcare? Stop letting the insurance companies run the industry.

We’ve been watching premiums rise, yes, since the advent of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), but even before then. There have been grumbling among insurers that costs are just to great under the new political policies to keep premiums at the same level.

However, consider this:

According to an November, 2016 article on Consumer Affairs, Amy Martyn reports that, “UnitedHealth announced record-breaking profits in 2015, followed by an even better year this year. In July 2016, UnitedHealth celebrated revenues that quarter totalling $46.5 billion, an increase of $10 billion since the same time last year.  And company filings show that UnitedHealth’s CEO Stephen J. Hemsley made over $20 million in 2015. To be fair, that is a pay cut. The previous year, in 2014, Hemsley took home $66 million in compensation.”

Okay. Obviously an isolated incident.

However, Ms. Martyn continues on to say: “Aetna, whose CEO Mark Bertolini reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission a $27.9 million compensation in 2015, has similarly celebrated sky-high profits. “In 2015, we reported annual operating revenue of over $60.3 billion, a record for the Company,” Aetna recently told investors.

Yet in this article from an issue last week of the Waco Tribune-Herald, written by guest columnist Merrill Matthews, there’s a little discrepancy regarding Aetna: “Also in May, Aetna said it would pull out of several other states. According to CNN, “The company said it expects to lose more than $200 million in its individual business line this year, on top of nearly $700 million in losses between 2014 and 2016. Aetna withdrew from 11 of its 15 markets for 2017.”

A simple Google search gives me CNBC’s report on quarterly profits for Aetna from January of  this year:

“Aetna’s net profit fell to $139 million, or 39 cents per share, in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, from $321 million, or 91 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, Aetna earned $1.63 per share, handily beating analysts’ average estimate of $1.44 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.”

Well, man, this is confusing. Either they’re making money, or they’re losing money, but whatever it is it’s in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Okay. Let’s read on in this CNBC report:

“Aetna said its total health care medical benefit ratio — the percent of premiums spent on claims — rose to 82.1 percent from 81.9 percent, a year earlier, mainly due to higher medical costs in its individual commercial products.”

Which means they get to keep 20% of what they bring in, hundreds of millions of dollars. Just for taking money, than turning around and paying to medical professionals.

Yes, they’re moving money from healthy people to sick people. That’s the nature of insurance. But their business model is taking as much in as they can, and pay out as little as they can. That’s profit.

If you want to fix healthcare, get rid of insurance for profit’s sake. Otherwise, it’s one person’s best interest against a corporation driven by profits and shareholders’ best interests.