As Aetna, the nation’s third largest HMO, announced a 41% percent profit increase today a pop-culture campaign is urging Americans to “sink the health insurance pirates” and building support for a universal health care program that would be funded by eliminating health insurance companies.
A music video, “Pirates of the Health Care-ibbean” featuring a new song by the Austin Lounge Lizards, “Go Ahead & Die,” is available at: http://www.Cal-Medicare.org.
“HMOs and health insurers have plundered health care and held patients ransom for far too long,” said Jerry Flanagan, Health Care Policy Director for FTCR. “The disastrous handling of the new privatized Medicare drug benefit by health insurers is just the latest example of their indifference and greed imperiling the disabled and seniors. Every dollar spent on overhead and profit makes health care more unaffordable for Americans.’
In the biggest change ever to the 41-year-old Medicare program, the Bush Administration put the nation’s largest HMOs in charge of the so-called prescription drug “benefit.”
“So far, it’s the insurance companies that are benefiting,” said Flanagan. “Seniors are left desperate for their medications and taxpayers are picking up the tab.”
UnitedHealth, the nation’s second largest health insurer, announced an 18% profit increase in the 4th quarter of 2005. WellPont, the largest insurer, said that its profit tripled.
HMO profits have jumped as sales increased for President Bush-backed junk policies that don’t actually protect patients when they are sick and need the insurance most: health savings accounts and association health plans. For more information go to: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/healthcare/BushCare/
“We think the song’s pirate theme aptly describes the situation,” said Hank Card, rhythm guitarist for the Austin Lounge Lizards. “I particularly like the lines, ‘Because your basic coverage will cost an arm and leg/We’ll happily replace them with a hook and peg.’ ”
As part of a “Pod-Power” health care series, FTCR released the Pirates of the Health Care-ibbean as a video podcast. To subscribe to FTCR podcasts go to: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/podcasting/
HMOs, PPOs, and other health insurers waste billions of dollars each year that could be used to provide care and keep expenses down. Insurers spend 20% of our premiums on overhead including profit and administration compared to public programs like Medicare that spend just 2%.
According to Harvard Medical School study, in 2005 medical bills were responsible for half of all bankruptcies. Of the approximately one million Americans who file for bankruptcy each year as a result of illness, most have college degrees, work full-time, and own their homes. Three-quarters already have insurance.
A September 2005 Public Policy Institute of California poll found that 59% percent of Californians would trade the current system for “a universal health insurance program, in which everyone is covered under a program like Medicare that is run by the government and financed by taxpayers.” A 2003 ABC News/Washington Post poll found similar support across the nation (62% for universal health insurance, 32% for the current system).
Key elements of a new “California Medicare” program include provisions that all Californians would be insured and that universal coverage would be paid for by eliminating health insurance companies. The California Medicare program would take advantage of bulk purchasing and focuses on preventing disease. A recent Lewin Group study found that Californians could save $8 billion each year under such a program.
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The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is the nation’s leading non-profit and non-partisan consumer advocacy group. For more information, please visit us on-line at: http://www.ConsumerWatchdog.org