DC Dispatch: The week in review

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I finally met Wendell Potter on Wednesday, the
whistle-blowing former communications director for health insurance giant Cigna
who quit the biz and turned reformer rather than continue working for an
industry that turns a profit by denying customers health care.

He appeared as part of a two-day series of hearings on "the Bureacracy of Private Health Insurance" in Rep.
Kucinich’s subcommittee of the Oversight and Gov’t Reform panel.

Wendell was joined by a long-time friend of Consumer
Watchdog, another whistleblower, Dr. Linda Peeno, whose testimony about denying
benefits as a medical reviewer for a major HMO is just as relevant today as it
was when she exposed the practice to Congress more than 20 years ago.

In addition to Dr. Peeno and Mr. Potter, the hearings
contained what too many congressional panels lack – testimony from real
. And on Day Two, Kucinich dragged in health insurance execs to answer
some tough questions.

Unfortunately, the hearings didn’t get the attention they
deserved, falling the same day that Sen. Baucus released his long-awaited
health care proposal. This “chairman’s mark” (not a bill, but a 223-page paper
explaining what the bill might say) is a paean to the health insurance
industry, which is guaranteed customers (everyone has to buy insurance), can
charge those customers whatever it wants (no oversight of costs) and does not
have to compete with a more efficient public alternative to the private market.
Since employers got off easy too – their share of the deal comes out to just a
few hundred dollars per employee – the costs of the plan fall squarely on

Even after giving all that up, Baucus didn’t get a single
Republican to commit to the bill. Somehow I don’t remember the “Make
Concessions and Get Nothing In Return” strategy from Negotiations 101.

Before everyone’s cards were on the table, a lot of
pundits and politicians were happy to be calling the horse race instead of
paying attention to the policy details. Now those details start sinking in.
What does it really mean for a family of four making $78,000 a year to spend
almost 20% of their income on health care? I don’t see how that can be called affordable,
no matter how badly we want to pass something
called health reform.

Consumer Watchdog
Consumer Watchdoghttps://consumerwatchdog.org
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