Thursday, September 16, 2004

Just what the HMOs ordered

President Bush is traveling through Minnesota today talking about health care and national security. According to AP, at a stop in St. Cloud, MN, Bush criticized Kerry's health care plan as big-government. Bush's health care, however, is just what the doctors ... and the insurance companies and HMOs ($5.2 million), and the pharmaceutical corporations ($1.4 million), and the other assorted health care lobbyists... ordered.

Just take one Minnesota executive, UnitedHealth Group CEO William McGuire. He raised at least $100,000 for President Bush's campaign. UnitedHealth won out big time in the Medicare plan Bush pushed through. They purchased -- with $500,000,000 cash on the table -- Golden Rule Insurance company just days before the Medicare bill came out of conference committee last November. A provision to expand health savings accounts -- a staple of Golden Rule -- was resurrected in negotiations. That provision is worth $6.4 billion in tax-free accounts.

Then UnitedHealth got one of those confusing Medicare "discount prescription card" contracts... cards that don't guarantee discounts.

Think Bush is mentioning McGuire or UnitedHealth today in his comments on health care?

I'd actually argue that the Medicare bill hurt doctors as much as it helps HMOs. After all, doctors are still going to be submitted to the same level of direct advertising from drug companies that have proved in drug trials only that their pill works better than a sugar pill. The cost of malpractice insurance will keep going up as insurance companies jack up the prices for more profit. It's been shown in studies that the increase in malpractice insurance costs has nothing to do with rising malpractice settlements (the overall insurance payouts have gone down over the last decade). The truth is, this bill is as bad for doctors as it is for the elderly and disabled.
It should be a criminal offense for our government to prohibit competitive bids, as Bush Incorporated has done with the prescription drug program. That is obscene.
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