Buh-Bye, Sebelius

April 11, 2014

By Karen

Sometimes wishes do come true. Kathleen Sebelius, who personified ineptness in implementing the Affordable Care Act, is out. Obama actually had the nerve to lament that he’ll miss her “advice.”

And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called Sebelius a “forceful, effective, and essential” secretary.

Have they both been in a coma?

It’s regrettable that Sebelius was allowed to resign rather than get the boot to the backside she so richly deserved. But Obama seems eager to forget that on her watch, Healthcare.gov not only ran over budget by hundreds of millions of dollars, but the result was such a pathetic mess that it almost sank the whole initiative, it brought disgrace on the White House, and gave Republicans reason to dance with delight.

But, whatever. Good riddance. She’s gone.

Then Obama immediately taps Sylvia Burwell, his budget person, to replace Sebelius, calling her a “proven manager,” whatever the hell that means.

Burwell’s background shows no indication she’ll have any more ability than Sebelius to deal with what’s looming next for Obamacare — that people are going to find out they’re paying for insurance AND a lot of the medical bills they thought it would cover, and that it’s probably going to cost them a lot more next year.

According to the AP, when she wasn’t a budget bureaucrat, Burwell “served as president of Wal-Mart’s charitable arm and led the global development program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.”

She may know something about nonprofits and worldwide health issues, but that doesn’t sound like squat when it comes to outsmarting greedy American insurance companies, which is what the administration has so far failed to do, except for eliminating lifetime caps and pre-existing condition exclusions.

I’d be willing to bet Burwell won’t have a good grasp on how the IT infrastructure that supports Healthcare.gov is supposed to work, either.

Like most CEOs, Obama’s probably thinks the agency’s head honcho doesn’t need to know the nitty-gritty. Like Sebelius, she’ll rely on “people” to handle the details.

Because that worked so well before.

Obama seems to be hanging his hat on the fact Burwell’s unanimous Senate approval for her current job now qualifies her to take on ANY position he cares to toss her in to.

And once again, he shows us he STILL doesn’t get the seriousness of this situation and the lives it has the power to ruin — financially and medically.

The hasty appointing of Burwell to steer us through the looming insurance quagmire Obama’s created reminds me of his feckless selection of big campaign donors to be ambassadors to countries they’ve never visited and know nothing about.

The insurance companies must be thrilled with this development.


Obama’s “Mission Accomplished” Moment

April 2, 2014

By Karen

After how it haunted George W. Bush, you’d think President Obama would be wary of claiming a premature victory, but no. Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

In spite of myriad obstacles his breathtakingly incompetent administration created (WHY, after the website debacle, does Kathleen Sebelius still have a job?), 7.1 million Americans managed to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

If nothing else, their patience speaks volumes about the dire state of medical care in this country.

And Obama and Biden are gloating. Watch them, if you haven’t just eaten.

Anecdotal evidence is that, in some states, people are getting much-needed medical care with government-subsidized health insurance, and that’s fantastic. But for those of us in states where Republicans worked overtime to sink this law, and who earn just enough to qualify as middle class, there’s no joy in Mudville.

My premiums have gone up, my deductible is still high, and my coverage is no better, except I think the lifetime cap may be gone. But who cares? If I ever get sick enough to test that, I’ll be half-dead anyway.

It’s a matter of time before the horror stories start — and some already have — from people who discover they’ve been duped. They can’t keep their doctor because their policy’s super-narrow network excludes him.

They can’t get medications they need because the policy excludes them.

And they can’t get leading-edge treatments at the facility that offers them because it’s out of network.

Obama gave insurers 4 years to exploit every loophole to their advantage, and they did.

And it’s only a matter of time before we start reading that insurer profits are breaking all previous records. They’ve just been handed 7.1 million more victims customers and a steady stream of government subsidies.

Watching Obama crow about insurance is stomach-turning. He’s thrown us all under the bus to enrich insurers who were already raking in billions in profit that doesn’t buy a penny’s worth of medical care, and he’s delighted.

I can’t tell you how much I hate siding with Republicans on this, but Obama’s “mission” on healthcare is hardly “accomplished,” and he’s going to find out soon enough — unfortunately, at our, and probably the Democrats’, expense.

Universal healthcare, with its economies of scale, is the ONLY way to ensure that the max of what we invest in healthcare actually buys medical care. The system (it’s called Medicare) is already in place. Just expand it to let the rest of us in. If all the premiums we’re squandering on sustaining insurance companies were channeled into it, it would thrive. Exclusions and network constraints would disappear. Employers could end the expense and hassle of insuring workers. Workers wouldn’t be stuck in jobs they hate because of health insurance.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders agrees that access to medical care should be a right of all Americans, and he’s introduced the American Health Security Act of 2013 to get us there, which the Affordable Care Act never will.

It deserves a serious look.


ACA Probably Not Affordable – But Who Knows?

October 24, 2013

By Karen

I’ve been writing about the ongoing agony of being individually insured by Anthem for years now, so I should follow up with my 2 cents on the debacle called the Affordable Care Act.

I’m not surprised that we couldn’t get a working website after 4 years. Government bureaucrats are good at discussing problems, never solving them.

Virginia’s Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, is among those who turned his back on any responsibility to help citizens get health insurance in favor of the federal exchange.

I first tried to log on to healthcare.gov Oct. 4 and couldn’t get in. I tried again Oct. 23 and it seemed to work better. I didn’t have to create an account to browse the plans — for all the good that did.

Apparently, the quoted premiums are garbage unless you’re exactly 20 or 50, so I accomplished nothing but to upset myself.

Currently, my Anthem policy has an 80/20 split, a $2,500 annual deductible, and includes dental. I pay $392 a month.

Anthem has been cheerily reminding me that I’m “grandfathered” in and can keep this plan. Since it’s outside the exchange, I suspect that means Anthem can continue to stick it to me good with rate hikes, so they don’t want me defecting to the exchange.

I learned that my 80/20 plan is considered “gold” on the exchange. A silver 70/30 plan without dental runs a 50-year-old roughly what I pay now. So, at 59, I assume my coverage will be considerably higher.

I suspect I’m royally screwed no matter what, but I’ll get my insurance agent to confirm that later in November. Hopefully, by then there will be accurate pricing available SOMEWHERE.

It’s exactly as I’ve predicted. With insurance company profits still a factor, and Republicans offering NO alternative but to go backward, it’s going to take more employers dropping health insurance as a benefit, and more Americans going broke trying to pay for insurance before we get serious about single-payer.

Amazing, I find myself agreeing with Ken “Cuckoo” Cuccinelli, our Republican attorney general who wants McDonnell’s job as governor this year. We both think Kathleen Sebelius needs to go.

Her utter inability on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Oct. 7 to make a clear, compelling case for the ACA, or to give the slightest reassurance it’s going to get better, was shocking.

Lady, you’ve had FOUR YEARS!!

Where was she while the cost of that catastrophic mess of a website TRIPLED and went into the pockets of Canadian software developers? How many hundreds of millions must be squandered to get it right now?

Obama should kick asses and hand out pink slips. Everyone responsible for this disaster deserves to lose their cushy government healthcare and end up on the exchange they couldn’t set up.


Healthcare: Let the Quibbling Begin

March 31, 2010

By Yul

The health insurance industry went very quiet when Obama signed the new reform bill — because they were busy looking for loopholes. Not surprisingly, they immediately found one.

To end the heinous practice of denying children coverage for “pre-existing” conditions such as being chubby babies, Congress thought their bill required insurers to accept, beginning on September 23, all children for coverage under their parents’ plan.

The insurers took that to mean they could deny whole families coverage if they have a child with medical conditions. Or, if they do cover the family, they could THEN deny claims for anything related to the child’s conditions.

See where this is going, folks? And this is just the beginning. That bill is 2,400 pages long.

Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sent a letter to that lobbyist snake, Karen Ignani, head of America’s Health Insurance Plans, basically telling insurers to cut the crap. I think it’s the beginning of a long correspondence as insurers leave no page of the bill unturned, seeking ways to bilk consumers and make Congress look even more inept.

Ironically, the Richmond Times-Dispatch placed right beside this news item an advertisement by Anthem (WellPoint), inviting people with a history of health problems who can’t get insurance anywhere else to apply for theirs through an “open enrollment program.”

The next sentence says, “Waiting periods for past or present health conditions may apply.”

Yeah, right. They’ll wait until you die before they pay a penny for whatever care you need health insurance to cover.

And Obama and Congress are giving the insurers until 2014 to keep this up.

On another front, the city of Houston has a budget shortfall, so the mayor decided to raise health insurance premiums on city retirees who are under age 65 by about 50% on May 1. It puts a new spin on Obama’s assurance that “you can keep the insurance you have,” doesn’t it?

Without a public option, he’s left these people no choice. They’re screwed.


Obama, First You Gotta Kill the Rats

March 11, 2010

By Yul

Obama’s finally getting fired up in the last 2 minutes of the healthcare reform game, delivering rousing speeches, railing against self-serving politicians and a couple of heinous insurance practices.

Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi’s making backroom deals for votes and Kathleen Sebelius is futilely trying to get insurers to cooperate, while they tell her point-blank premiums are going even sky-higher if Obama’s bill passes.

So let’s recap…

Obama wants to give private insurers 30 million more customers, and he’s leaving them some big loopholes like the birthday rate hike so they can still stick it to people.

Obama wants federal funds (i.e., your taxes) to help pay ransom-grade insurance premiums. If you can’t afford health insurance, he’ll throw in a chunk of your taxes to make up the difference.

And the stupid Republicans are calling this a GOVERNMENT takeover of healthcare?

Sounds to me like the government is making itself and every American a hostage of the private insurance industry.

And not one WORD of this is about anybody actually seeing a doctor. It’s all about insurance premiums — and the built-in profit nobody but Sebelius dares to mention.

Obama needs to face facts. Private insurers cannot be legislated into honesty. Their business model’s survival depends on cold-hearted greed.

Let me put it in simple cat terms…

Say a town has a voracious pack of rats eating all the grain in the community silo. People are dying of starvation. So the town council decides the fix is to increase the amount of grain in the silo, mandating that every farmer pour his whole harvest into that silo.

What does the town end up with? More dead people and fatter rats.

It’s the same with healthcare reform. Obama wants everybody to feed the rats when he should be killing them.


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