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Thread: Fucking Rahm Emmanuel! Healthcare insurers get upper hand, financial 'bonanza'

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    Elite Member Fluffy's Avatar
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    Angry Fucking Rahm Emmanuel! Healthcare insurers get upper hand, financial 'bonanza'

    Healthcare insurers get upper hand

    Obama's overhaul fight is being won by the industry, experts say. The end result may be a financial 'bonanza.'
    By Tom Hamburger and Kim Geiger
    August 24, 2009

    Reporting from Washington - Lashed by liberals and threatened with more government regulation, the insurance industry nevertheless rallied its lobbying and grass-roots resources so successfully in the early stages of the healthcare overhaul deliberations that it is poised to reap a financial windfall.

    The half-dozen leading overhaul proposals circulating in Congress would require all citizens to have health insurance, which would guarantee insurers tens of millions of new customers -- many of whom would get government subsidies to help pay the companies' premiums.

    "It's a bonanza," said Robert Laszewski, a health insurance executive for 20 years who now tracks reform legislation as president of the consulting firm Health Policy and Strategy Associates Inc.

    Some insurance company leaders continue to profess concern about the unpredictable course of President Obama's massive healthcare initiative, and they vigorously oppose elements of his agenda. But Laszewski said the industry's reaction to early negotiations boiled down to a single word: "Hallelujah!"

    The insurers' success so far can be explained in part by their lobbying efforts in the nation's capital and the districts of key lawmakers.

    The bills vary in the degree to which they would empower government to be a competitor and a regulator of private insurance. But analysts said that based on the way things stand now, insurers would come out ahead.

    "The insurers are going to do quite well," said Linda Blumberg, a health policy analyst at the nonpartisan Urban Institute, a Washington think tank. "They are going to have this very stable pool, they're going to have people getting subsidies to help them buy coverage and . . . they will be paid the full costs of the benefits that they provide -- plus their administrative costs."

    One of the Democratic proposals that most concerns insurers is the creation of a "public option" insurance plan. The industry launched a campaign on Capitol Hill against it, grounded in a study published by the Lewin Group, a health policy consulting firm that is owned by UnitedHealth Group. The lobbyists contended that a government-run plan, which would have favorable tax and regulatory treatment, would undermine private insurers.

    Opposition increased this month when boisterous critics mobilized at town hall meetings held by members of Congress home for the August recess.

    The attacks, supplemented by conservative critics on talk radio and other forums, drew national attention.

    Leading insurers, including UnitedHealth, urged their employees around the country to speak out. Company "advocacy hot line" operations and sample letters and statements were made available to an army of insurance industry employees in nearly every congressional district.

    Some insurers supplemented the effort with local advertising, often designed to put pressure on specific members of Congress. Late in the spring, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina -- the home state of several conservative Blue Dog Democrats -- prepared ads attacking the public option.

    Leading Democrats have fought back, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) last month calling the industry "immoral" for its past treatment of customers and suggesting insurers were "the villains" in the healthcare debate.

    Still, recent support for the public option has declined, and the stock prices of health insurance firms have been rising.

    Undermining support for the public option wasn't the only gain scored by insurance lobbyists.

    In May, the Senate Finance Committee discussed requiring that insurers reimburse at least 76% of policyholders' medical costs under their most affordable plans. Now the committee is considering setting that rate as low as 65%, meaning insurers would be required to cover just about two-thirds of patients' healthcare bills. According to a committee aide, the change was being considered so that companies could hold down premiums for the policies.

    Most group health plans cover 80% to 90% or more of a policyholder's medical bills, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service. Industry officials urged that the government set the floor lower so insurers could provide flexible, more affordable plans.

    "It is vital that individuals, families and small-business owners have the flexibility to choose an affordable coverage option that best meets their needs," said Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for America's Health Insurance Plans, the industry's Washington-based lobbying shop.

    Consumer advocates argue that a lower government minimum might quickly become the industry standard, placing a greater financial burden on patients and their families.

    "These are a bad deal for consumers," said J. Robert Hunter, a former Texas insurance commissioner who works with the Consumer Federation of America.

    Meanwhile, companies would probably see a benefit by providing less insurance "per premium dollar," Hunter said.

    "It would be quite a windfall," said Wendell Potter, a former executive at Cigna insurance company who has become an industry whistle-blower.

    Consumer and labor advocates acknowledged the industry's lobbying success.

    In the first half of 2009, the health service and HMO sector spent nearly $35 million lobbying Congress, the White House and federal healthcare offices, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

    With more than 900 lobbyists, that sector -- whose top spenders are insurance giants UnitedHealth, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Aetna -- was poised to spend more than in 2008, a record lobbying year.

    UnitedHealth spent the most, $2.5 million in the first half of 2009, and hired some of Washington's most prominent political players, including Tom Daschle, the former Senate majority leader who served as an informal health policy advisor to Obama.

    "They have beaten us six ways to Sunday," said Gerald Shea of the AFL-CIO. "Any time we want to make a small change to provide cost relief, they find a way to make it more profitable."

    Healthcare insurers get upper hand -- latimes.com

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    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    I cannot stand Emmanuel. The second he was picked by Obama, it confirmed all my worst suspicions about how this administration would just be business as usual.

    "It's a bonanza," said Robert Laszewski, a health insurance executive for 20 years who now tracks reform legislation as president of the consulting firm Health Policy and Strategy Associates Inc.

    But Laszewski said the industry's reaction to early negotiations boiled down to a single word: "Hallelujah!"
    and these quotes tell us all we need to know about the type of healthcare reform we will be getting
    Last edited by witchcurlgirl; August 24th, 2009 at 08:52 AM.
    It's no longer a dog whistle, it's a fucking trombone


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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    Oh wtf ever, it's not Rahm, it's Obama. Obama picked him. Obama listens to him. THE BUCK STOPS WITH THE MAN WHO HIRED HIM.
    I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.

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    Elite Member kingcap72's Avatar
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    And any real healthcare reform is out the window. Nice.

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    Elite Member Cali's Avatar
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    Maybe I haven't had enough coffee yet but I don't see how Rahm Emmanuel ties into this at all?

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    Elite Member Fluffy's Avatar
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    Rahm has been the primary strategist/negotiator in the White House behind all this. Allowing health care companies bargain first if they promise not to give Republicans any financial support in the 2010 elections. That's why the corporations are getting what they want while the rest of us are getting screwed.

    Fear Grows Like A Weed In the Middle of Rahm Emanuel’s Message Void

    By: Jane Hamsher Friday August 21, 2009 9:04 am

    Gene Lyons wonders how it is that the people running the health care battle seemed to have learned nothing from the experience of 1994:
    [T]he Obama White House got caught napping as the paranoid train left the station once again. Presidential aides told reporters that the barrage of falsehoods and insane comparisons to Nazi Germany "had caught them off guard and forced them to begin an August counteroffensive."

    So where were these geniuses back when Clinton was being called a drug smuggler and mass murderer? When militiamen spotted U.N. "black helicopters" over Western skies? When thousands hoarded canned food and bottled water in advance of the imaginary Y2K catastrophe?
    Good question. But being "caught off guard" seems to have been the order of the day. Here's Richard Kirsch, head of HCAN, on August 13:
    "We are absolutely surprised at the way that the right focused so much on this as soon as August began," said Richard Kirsch, campaign manager for HCAN.
    How is that possible? How is the guy entrusted with $45 million for the sole purpose of spreading the President's message on health care caught so totally unprepared, when members of Congress were warning from the floor of the House that the Republicans were going to sweep down on them like locusts in the August recess? And why does he still have a job?

    While I can't speak to the general level of unpreparedness, in terms of messaging HCAN had their hands tied. Because the #1 goal of the guy calling the shots (Rahm Emanuel) was to keep all the stakeholders (AHIP, PhRMA, AMA etc.) at the table and their checkbooks out of Republican coffers, the unbreakable compact of the Baucus Caucus was: you don't advertise against us, we don't advertise against you. So where there should have been a big bogeyman in the form of guys like Stephen Helmsley, the CEO of UnitedHealthcare who owns $744,232,068 in unexercised stock options, you got "bending the cost curve."

    Ever see HCAN -- or anyone in the White House -- kick the insurance industry in the teeth like Brave New Films did in Sick for Profit? Of course you didn't:
    [youtube]vKI9be55N00[/youtube]
    HCAN was funded to the tune of $40 million by Atlantic Philanthropies, George Soros and members of the steering committee, who each committed half a million dollars to the effort:
    ACORN, AFL-CIO, AFSCME, AFT, Americans United for Change, Campaign for America’s Future, Center for American Progress Action Fund, Campaign for Community Change, Children’s Defense Fund Action Council, Communications Workers of America, MoveOn.org, NAACP, National Council of La Raza, National Education Association, National Women’s Law Center, SEIU, UFCW, USAction, Women's Voices, Women's Vote and Working America.
    Soros just kicked in another $5 million. HCAN was told that they should focus on attacking Republicans, because the thing that would make Democrats feel more "comfortable" voting for a public plan would be advertisements against Republicans. Despite the fact that it is the ConservaDems who are now "blocking" the President's health care agenda, this HCAN's latest ad:
    [youtube]Ma8nLBoHiXs[/youtube]
    Everyone was left either tilting at windmills (as if the Republicans in Congress had any power that wasn't given to them -- the Democrats could easily pass health care on their own) or trying to whip up enthusiasm for "bending the cost curve."

    Obama had to stay vague in his message because most of the things he promised during the campaign were dealt away to keep money out of Republican coffers. If he insisted on a public plan and it didn't make its way into the final bill, it would be touted as a defeat. So expressing "support" while saying that Congress was writing its own bill (as if) left him in a position to sell the deals made with the stakeholders as "the best we could do" with that "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good" finger wagging at the end of the process.

    Nature abhors a vacuum, and into that messaging void stepped Betsy McCaughey and her "death panels."

    Lyons:
    For a generation now, the well-organized and lavishly funded right-wing noise machine has dominated American political debate with poisonous nonsense like McCaughey's, with little effective pushback.

    To the extent Democrats resist, it's mainly on Web sites like the invaluable Media Matters for America. What's needed, however, is a strong counter-narrative informing voters that they're being had: conned, tricked and manipulated by, yes, New York, Washington and Hollywood "media elites" who lie for money. Vulgar? You bet. It's called "populism," and it once dominated the very states where talk-radio bombast now holds sway.
    "Fact-checking" right wing lies is important, but it's reactive and intellectual. The message of Betsy McCaughey was emotional and tapped into people's deep fears. She succeeded because the political conditions that controlled the negotiations of the Baucus Caucus hamstrung the development of that "strong counter-narrative" to drive the campaign in the first place. By the time the teabaggers showed up in August, the battleground had been ceded and there was considerable uneasiness in the public mind created by the mixed messaging around the entire campaign.

    As Paul Krugman writes today in an article entitled "Obama's Trust Problem":
    On the issue of health care itself, the inspiring figure progressives thought they had elected comes across, far too often, as a dry technocrat who talks of “bending the curve” but has only recently begun to make the moral case for reform. Mr. Obama’s explanations of his plan have gotten clearer, but he still seems unable to settle on a simple, pithy formula; his speeches and op-eds still read as if they were written by a committee.
    The goals of the Baucus Caucus -- which represent the true objectives of the White House -- were so at odds with the public face of the health care debate that the dissonance, the mixed messaging, created tremendous public anxiety. There were so many vague expressions of "support" for this or that, without any firm commitment to anything, and the idea that the Republicans were responsible for what was happening just never made any intuitive sense.

    You can't implement the biggest economic change program since the New Deal without public trust. The White House tried to sell trust in a man -- Obama -- at a time when that trust was breaking down in the wake of the banking debacle, which as Krugman says created tremendous populist discontent across the board. Remember that this was where the teabaggers got their start, where their messaging took root, and it was the result of the same Rahm Emanuel calculus: buy off big business with taxpayer dollars and keep them from funding the Republicans.

    It's an unbelievably cynical message that underscores everything coming out of the White House and it's at complete odds with what Obama stood for in the election. It fundamentally violates what people think they voted for. And those internal contradictions teed up Betsy McCaughey perfectly.

    One more time, with feeling: Thanks, Rahm.
    Campaign Silo Fear Grows Like A Weed In the Middle of Rahm Emanuel’s Message Void

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    Elite Member kingcap72's Avatar
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    I like Rahm, but it's time to change strategy.

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    Elite Member RevellingInSane's Avatar
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    Illinois politics at its finest. The participants changed venues, but the style has remained true. Money talks and screw the citizens.



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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    Can I bust out my "Failbama" meme yet?
    I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.

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