White House, Pharma, Hospitals, Insurers take aim at patients

The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Washington Post all report today that negotiators for the hospital industry struck a deal with the White House, agreeing to some $155 billion dollars in cuts over the next 10 years. The cuts will come mostly through decreased Medicare and Medicaid payments to hospitals.  The Journal article also reports on a deal in the making with health insurance companies in which that industry agrees to at least $100 billion in cuts over 10 years.

These deals come in the wake of a similar pact between the pharmaceutical industry and the White House for $80 billion in cuts over that same 10-year time period. These supposed savings total to the more than $300 billion in “savings” that President Obama claims will pay for the proposed health care reform package.

These deals are shams. They are supposed acts of “good faith” on the part of the entities that reap profits from health care delivery, demonstrating their acceptance of “shared responsibility” in paying for whatever health care reform package gets cooked up by Obama and the Congress.

I say it’s a sham because they don’t wind up giving up anything! Only individual patients wind up paying. Here’s how this shell game works: Hospitals, drug companies, and the insurance industry agree to $300 billion in “cuts” over 10 years. However, they make it all back through the addition of 40 million newly insured patients. (One of the reasons for the phased-in cuts over 10 years is so that the addition of newly insured patients outstrips the “losses” in Medicare and Medicaid dollars.) The federal government agrees to help subsidize any individual who can’t afford to buy private insurance, and, for those who still can’t afford it, the government-sponsored insurance plan agrees to pay out at a higher rate than Medicare and Medicaid. Hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and insurance firms make out like bandits.

Patients…well, they don’t do so well. They wind up paying out of their own pockets directly to health care profiteers or indirectly, through taxation, their dollars end up in the coffers of the hospitals, pharmaceuticals, and insurers. The “shared responsibility” isn’t shared at all. The profit-makers in health care are guaranteed a profit, and patients are guaranteed to pay.

This burden will fall heaviest upon those who can least afford it — working people, racial and ethnic minorities, the unemployed, rural populations, and other disadvantaged communities. All the talk about how everyone is pitching in and making a sacrifice is a bunch of hooey aimed at keeping patients quiet when the government and the health care industry puts the screws to them.

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009 at 21:21