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Letters to the Editor

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September 17, 2012

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To the editor:

I experienced an interesting and painful coincidence this summer that illustrates the control wielded over us middle classers by a powerful insurance industry and a conservative state government.

First, I received a letter from my long-term health care insurance carrier notifying me that the premium for my present level of coverage was increasing 72 percent! Not 20 or 30, but 72 percent! The explanation was that their analysts had not anticipated the fact that people are living longer and medical costs are increasing. So because of their commitment and obligation to me, the insured, this increase was necessary. So they were actually doing me a favor! (I’m paraphrasing, but this was the tone.) Since I have 15 years’ worth of premiums invested in this insurance, what could I do?

Just a few weeks later, I read that Gov. Brownback’s tax overhaul will no longer allow the expense of long-term health care insurance premiums as a deduction for state income tax purposes. As one of those fixed-income seniors, this double whammy to my pocketbook means a realignment of my budget, eliminating one or two charities that I choose to regularly support.

This is one good example of how doing the right thing by trying to provide for myself as I age has absolutely no significance to an insurance company or a state’s conservative agenda. The wealthy get richer, and the middle class and poor bite the bullet.

Comments

Richard Heckler 2 years, 3 months ago

As Grover Norquist argues, “We are not auditioning for fearless leader…. We just need a president to sign this stuff.”

The “stuff” they would pass—already endorsed by Romney—includes repeal of the modest reforms enacted to police corporations after the Enron scandal and banks after the financial collapse.

Then repeal of healthcare reform, stripping some 30 million people of coverage.

Then budget cuts that would gut almost all domestic functions of the government from education to child nutrition to safeguarding clean air and water.

Then an end to Medicare and Medicaid as we know them.

These draconian measures would be used to pay for increases in military spending and tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.

Under the Romney plan, those making over $1 million a year would receive an average tax break of $250,000.

A Romney victory would buoy a Republican right eager to roll back social progress, constrict voting rights and exacerbate racial divides in an era of middle-class decline.

The offensive against labor and workers’ rights would escalate.

And Romney’s bellicose foreign policy would make George W. Bush look dovish.

If Romney wins, we will spend four years fighting to limit the damage he will inflict on the nation.

http://www.thenation.com/article/168264/politics-99-percent[/

Richard Heckler 2 years, 3 months ago

Single-payer national health insurance is a system in which a single public or quasi-public agency organizes health financing, but delivery of care remains largely private.

Currently, the U.S. health care system is outrageously expensive, yet inadequate. Despite spending more than twice as much as the rest of the industrialized nations ($8,160 per capita), the United States performs poorly in comparison on major health indicators such as life expectancy, infant mortality and immunization rates. http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2008/0508harrison.html

Moreover, the other advanced nations provide comprehensive coverage to their entire populations, while the U.S. leaves 51 million completely uninsured and millions more inadequately covered.

The reason we spend more and get less than the rest of the world is because we have a patchwork system of for-profit payers.

Private insurers necessarily waste health dollars on things that have nothing to do with care: overhead, underwriting, billing, sales and marketing departments as well as huge profits and exorbitant executive pay.

Plus spend on special interest political campaigns. Today there are 8 expensive lobbyists per elected official.

Doctors and hospitals must maintain costly administrative staffs to deal with the bureaucracy. Combined, this needless administration consumes one-third (31 percent) of Americans’ health dollars.

Single-payer financing is the only way to recapture this wasted money. The potential savings on paperwork, more than $400 billion per year, are enough to provide comprehensive coverage to everyone without paying any more than we already do.

Under a single-payer system, all Americans would be covered for all medically necessary services, including: doctor, hospital, preventive, long-term care, mental health, reproductive health care, dental, vision, prescription drug and medical supply costs. Patients would regain free choice of doctor and hospital, and doctors would regain autonomy over patient care.

http://www.pnhp.org/facts/single-payer-resources Physicians for a National Health Program

http://www.healthcare-now.org/

Richard Heckler 2 years, 3 months ago

Health insurers have forced consumers to pay billions of dollars in medical bills that the insurers themselves should have paid, according to a report released by the staff of the Senate Commerce Committee.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/24/AR2009062401636.html

Did you receive YOUR refund or has anyone received notice of a class action lawsuit? I have yet to talk with anyone that has received either.

Getaroom 2 years, 3 months ago

Perfect example Betsy Evans. This sure is a great advertisement for Privatization and letting the Free Market take care of everything isn't it? Look where they have gotten us to this point with all that competition based Insurance and lower costs, absolutely no where but poorer.
If Romney/Ryan and the GOP, backed by Corporate America, have their way we will all be buying everything from the company store and on the road to Serfdom. Their answer: let those who can't afford insurance go thru the Emergency room system, or vouchers. What a very bright spot it is in Proud American history, when only profits rule in the well being and care of it's people. Insurance companies have your pocketbook in their best interests - not your health. And just think, Insurance companies are only the middle men and provide no actual care and they make this kind of profit. What a sweet deal they have, now wonder they don't want to give up anything and in fact want more for share holders! It's all about the competition and lowering costs is it - right? No, it isn't. Good job Merrill, keep it up and soon Snappy will be at your heels nipping away like a Chiwawa.

Alyosha 2 years, 3 months ago

This comment is wholly without merit, in that nowhere in the writer's Letter to the Editor was any mention made of other people's labor and production.

And yet Solomon believes and asserts that the letter writer thinks they are entitled to someone else's labor and production.

In other words, this comment fails to engage ethically and morally with the topic of the letter, and instead asserts a non sequitur that reasonable people will see as nothing more than a knee-jerk response, wholly lacking in any kind of rational thought.

A nonsense comment that adds nothing to the serious discussion of insurance industry corruption and their lack of ethical and moral behavior. Too bad Solomon (a wholly ironic name since there is zero wisdom in his comment) is uninterested in anything but kneejerk misperceptions and irrational bloviating that does not help solve any problems.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 3 months ago

I see many comments that go off topic, yet rarely see you chastise them as you've chosen to do here. Might I inquire why you've chosen this comment and this commentator while choosing not to chastise all those others who go off topic?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 3 months ago

"Just how much of other people's labor and production do you folks think you're entitled to?"

The 1% (of the Republican variety, anyway) clearly believe they're entitled to pretty much all of it.

George Lippencott 2 years, 3 months ago

Bozo, how many ways are we going to spend that money?? Paying for LTHC for any significant number of people will use all of the 85B the Presidents proposes to take.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 3 months ago

This country flushes many $billions down the toilet every year. Pick which of these you want to divert to something useful, and make yourself useful while you're at it.

George Lippencott 2 years, 3 months ago

Bozo

If we could only agree. My lists probably would not overlap your list. Since I am useless (???) I guess your list stands - not

Dan Eyler 2 years, 3 months ago

I find it interesting how few have any idea of what is going on in hospitals and clinic across the nation. We are scaling back big time. 20% operational reduction for every hospital in the nation. Clinics are operating at huge losses. There are no clinics in Lawrence or KC operating in the black. Medicare payments to hospitals and clinics dropping like a rock. I can't argue that there is virtue in making insurance available for everyone. But one thing is clear, it won't take too much longer before everyone realizes access to healthcare will be worse than any time prior. Access to doctors will quickly be replaced by practitioners and physician assistants and most patients frustrated with poor services and lack of answers from their clinics will continue to flock to the emergency rooms. That is until the government prohibits you from doing so. If you're frustrated now because of cost, I can't wait for the letter to the editor when your costs don't decrease and and access does.

deec 2 years, 3 months ago

The move to secondary staff instead of doctors has been going on for decades. It's nothing new.

Carol Bowen 2 years, 3 months ago

The last time I checked, not only do you pay huge premiums, but if you get seriously ill and are not working, you still have to pay the premiums or your long term care is not covered. The alternative is to spend down your assets to pay the medical bills. Once the assets are gone, you can apply for Medicaid. There has to be a better way.

bad_dog 2 years, 3 months ago

The alternative is to purchase a policy with a waiver of premium feature, either incorporated in the policy or as a rider. If you are truly disabled, i.e. unable to work, you would be eligible for the premium waiver. In fact, if you have an LTC policy and are "disabled" you are most likely eligible for benefits under the terms of the policy itself.

Most LTC policies are triggered by the inability to perform 2 or more activities of daily living (eating, bathing, toileting, dressing, transferring, ambulation, etc. due to physical or cognitive issues) or the insured is certified as chronically ill by their physician. There are also other differences by virtue of whether your policy is a "Tax Qualified" policy under the IRS code. If it is a "TQ" policy, the benefits you receive are tax-free.

As for rate increases generally, prospector is correct in his comment above. The pricing actuaries missed the call. Policies are staying in force rather than lapsing and increased costs of care, longer claim durations and lost investment income due to the market are killing insurance company bottom lines. And by "killing" I don't mean small profit margins; rather they are losing sufficient money such that many insurers have left this market. Premiums for guaranteed renewable policies are subject to rate increases by law, if the insurer can prove the need to state regulators. That is not the case with non-cancellable policies, but I don't believe any insurer markets these any longer. Many regulators won't approve increases or only only do so incrementally or delay approval for extremely long periods (years...). Keep in mind the primary two purposes for an insurance regulator are to ensure the solvency of financial services companies and consumer protection. While the two can go hand in hand at times, they can also be two different and difficult masters to serve.

Carol Bowen 2 years, 3 months ago

Good to know. Still, there has to be a better way. LTC is costing the insurers and the insured a lot of money. It's not affordable.

George Lippencott 2 years, 3 months ago

You know Obama care originally had a LTHC element but in a bi-partisian move it was stripped for being too expensive

oldbaldguy 2 years, 3 months ago

don't get sick or old. if you do die quickly.

Carol Bowen 2 years, 3 months ago

In the case of LTC premiums increasing, the cause seems to be an actuarial fluke. There may be some inflation, but it would small compared to this premium adjustment.

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