I watched today’s Senate "Roundtable Discussion" (video link) on reforming health care delivery to learn from what the committee and invited speakers would propose. What made the biggest impression, though, had nothing to do with delivery of care. It was the bogus "reason" for most GOP members’ vote against Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, President Obama’s nominee to oversee health care.
The short episode reinforced what Consumer Watchdog said today in a letter to Sen. Ted Kennedy, urging him to resist insurance company "compromises," which are no more than sabotage covered with a smile.
Halfway through the meeting, the committee took a break to vote on the Sebelius nomination. The only objection to her was raised by Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona. He cited one thing: Sebelius had refused to pledge that federal research on the comparative effectiveness of medical treatments would never be used by Medicare or any other government plan to "deny" treatment. The final vote was 15-8.
The split vote, and Kyl’s reason for it, seemed to come from another planet. For instance, The lead-off speaker at the roundable was the president of Pennsylvania’s much-lauded Geisinger health care system. He had described in detail how Geisinger utilizes exactly what Kyl said was so abhorrent: a team focus on making the patient well, instead of piling up as many profitable treatments and procedures as possible.
The presenters at the meeting repeatedly called for getting rid of
incentives that encourage "more care, not better care," in the words of
committee chairman Max Baucus. That means choosing what works, based on research and science.
Anyhow, insurers deny treatments all the time. The difference between them and the Geisinger system is that they’re not doing it to make the patient well, they’re doing it to make more money. Kyl’s insistence that he just wanted to protect patients could not have been more fake, but it serves the purpose of insurance companies that want to kill any federal competition from a "public option" like opening Medicare to anyone. Instead, the insurers want government to require Americans to buy insurers’ overpriced policies and suffer their profit-based denials of care.
Only the brute force of public demand, not polite negotiation, can effectively counter corporate power in Congress.